Do cats lose their baby teeth?

Like us humans, cats are born without teeth. Cats grow two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The first set is the baby teeth. Also called milk teeth or deciduous teeth, this first set of teeth will be replaced with permanent teeth. Eruption of the permanent teeth varies between individuals as it is influenced by the breed of the cat, by the environment, hormone production and by the nutrition the cat receives. Generally, cats lose their baby teeth starting from the age of 4 months. At 6 months, it is expected that all the baby teeth have fallen out and that all the permanent teeth have erupted.

Kittens are born with no teeth. Teeth would start to erupt when the kitten is about 21 days old. This set of teeth is called baby teeth, milk teeth of deciduous teeth. Cats have 26 baby teeth. The incisors are first to erupt. At 2 to 3 weeks the 6 incisors on the upper jaw and 6 on the lower jaw will erupt. The four canines or fangs will come in when the kitten is 3 to 4 weeks in age. At 5 to 6 weeks the 10 premolars will come in.

Cats have very versatile teeth. Teeth are important hunting tools of cats in the wild. The teeth are specifically structured to easily kill the prey and to efficiently tear the flesh apart. The teeth and the claws are used to fight predators. Domestic cats may have no need to hunt and to fight predators. The teeth though are important eating and grooming tools. Nature has endowed cats with needle sharp strong teeth. As mentioned cats have two types of teeth. The baby teeth are sharp but not as strong as the permanent teeth. Baby teeth are not strong enough to chew and eat solid food. Before weaning time, kittens have no need to hunt and to eat prey. The kinds of teeth these very young cats have are specifically designed to latch onto the queen’s nipple when nursing. Baby teeth are small and rather translucent but sharp. The needle-sharp teeth can irritate the mother cat when the kittens are nursing.

Baby teeth are also called deciduous teeth because just like the leaves of deciduous trees, the cat’s baby teeth will fall off at maturity. Odontoclasts are special cells that reabsorb the baby teeth. The absorption will begin at the root and progress up to the crown. Absorption of the root will cause the teeth to loosen and to eventually fall out. The transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth differs in each individual but generally, cats would lose their baby teeth starting at three months in age. This period called teething is characterized by excessive chewing. Anything that the cat can get into the mouth will be chewed. Chewing is the cats’ effort to ease the soreness of the gums. The baby tooth that has fallen off would be seen stuck on the toy or on the carpet the cat has been chewing. It is also possible for the cat to swallow the baby teeth.

At the age of six months, it is expected that all the baby teeth had fallen off. The permanent teeth would be bigger, stronger and denser. Instead of being translucent, the new set of teeth would be bright white in color. Some cats though would have retained baby tooth. Baby tooth that has not fallen off will cause the abnormal positioning of the permanent teeth. A cat with retained baby teeth would have a bad bite. A tooth that is not in the correct position can consistently rub against the gums or against the roof of the mouth. Cats with this kind of condition must be taken to the vet’s as the retained teeth would need to be extracted to prevent the possible development of dental concerns.