Young kittens reach growth milestones remarkably fast — blink, and you might miss one! Fluffy takes her first wobbly steps by week three, transitions away from nursing by two months, and is ready to settle down in a new home by the 10-week mark. Unless you inspect her mouth, you might not even notice that she’s missing a few fangs, so when do cats lose baby teeth?
Cats lose baby teeth (deciduous) starting around 12-16 weeks, with adult teeth replacing them by 6-9 months. A cat will spout four extra teeth with this set, going from 26 to 30 teeth with the addition of molars. Some cats never lose their baby teeth, a condition called persistent deciduous teeth.
It’s sad to watch that gummy smile turn into mini fangs and later mildly intimidating full-grown canines. But in the wild, cats need these permanent adult teeth to shear their prey and deliver a successful fatal blow to mice and vole. To learn about when cats lose baby teeth, read on!
How Many Teeth Do Cats Have? (Baby vs. Adult)
As waddling toddlers, we humans have 20 baby teeth total. By adulthood, and after those oh-so-painful wisdom teeth grow in, we sport 32 teeth overall. Our canine pals transition from 28 deciduous teeth during puppyhood to 42 as full-grown dogs.
The table below describes how many teeth cats have — and which type — throughout their lives:
|Type||Kitten (#)||Adult (#)||When They Grow In (Adult)|
|Premolars||10 (6 upper; 4 lower)||10 (6 upper; 4 lower)||4.5-6 months|
|Total||26||30||By 6-9 months|
All four teeth play essential roles in survival and hunting instincts. Those ultra-sharp incisors and canines in front are the “grip” teeth, reliable for clenching wiggling mice between the teeth and tearing flesh from prey. The rear premolars and molars are for crushing through bone and slicing fresh prey into tasty chunks.
The full-adult set lines up nicely with a cat’s first solo hunt around 8-16 weeks.
Watching that gummy kitten mouth grow mini toothy daggers is nothing short of adorable, but it’s just one of many milestones. The video below explains what happens in those first 0-8 weeks:
Cat Teeth: A Timeline
Fluffy’s first nine months are intriguing to witness, watching her transition from pure gums to itty-bitty fangs to skin-puncturing adult canines at near-lightning speeds.
Follow along as we review the cat teeth timeline!
That 3.5-ounce (99-gram) newborn kitten can hardly fend for herself. A blind, deaf, and almost entirely immobile days-old kitten depends on her mother to meet her daily needs (i.e., warmth, urinating, food, etc.). At birth, cats are toothless, sporting an adorable gummy smile, though they do have baby teeth (deciduous teeth) budding deep beneath the jaw bone.
Fluffy will spend nearly 22 hours a day sleeping during those crucial first few weeks and the remaining time nursing alongside her littermates. Those toothless mouths certainly come in handy when suckling on their mother’s teats every 2-4 hours (ouch!).
Baby Teeth Come In
Those baby teeth begin arriving somewhere around the three-week mark, around the time that many kittens begin the weaning process (switching from their mother’s milk to wet food). That once-buried tooth bud gradually pushes through the jaw bone, later erupting through the gum to reveal its white enamel.
Also dubbed the “milk teeth,” these 26 teeth piercing through a young kitten’s sensitive gums can make them understandably tender. It’s not unusual for kittens to mouth toys, chair legs, or even your arm to soothe and massage their swollen gums.
However, these baby teeth only stick around for 6-8 weeks before kittens begin shedding them once and for all. Cats start losing their baby teeth as early as 12-16 weeks! Intriguingly, you might not even notice that Fluffy’s lost a canine until she yawns or meows. That’s because active kittens might shed these hollow shells while they’re eating (swallowed), playing, or hiding.
Adult Teeth Replace Them
Teething can be an awkward time for young kittens, who are losing their baby teeth as nearby adult teeth erupt through the gums. Many kittens experience discomfort and signs like:
- Low appetite
- Sore gums (with some spotting)
- Irritability or aggression
- Not letting you touch her mouth
- Less grooming
As a kitten begins replacing her baby teeth with adult teeth, they usually sprout in a particular order: Incisors, canines, premolars, then molars. A cat will sport full adult teeth set by the time she’s 6-9 months old and looking more and more like a full-grown cat (6+ pounds!).
Cat’s Baby Teeth Didn’t Fall Out
Although some kittens lose their deciduous teeth a few weeks earlier or later than their littermates, most will have their 30 adult teeth by the nine-month deadline. However rare, some kittens experience a “persistent tooth” that refuses to loosen or shed on schedule, failing to make room for the budding adult tooth beneath.
When a persistent tooth strikes, it forces the underlying adult tooth to jut from the gums at an unusual angle. In other words, a kitten could have more than 30 teeth temporarily, though the circumstances are less than ideal. Persistent deciduous teeth can cause:
- An uneven or misaligned bite
- Extra tartar and decay
- Excess debris lodged between the teeth
- Severe pain causing an inability to eat
If your kitten doesn’t seem to be losing her baby tooth on-time or is donning mysterious extra teeth, take her to the vet. The longer you delay care, the more likely the adult teeth will erupt in an improper position. Early extraction will free up space for those adult teeth when they’re ready!
How To Care for a Cat’s Teeth
Dental care is among the largest gaps in the cat-loving community, with just 4% of owners admitting to brushing Fluffy’s teeth daily. That crunchy kibble can only scrape away so much tartar, and about 80% of cats will have dental disease by age three. It’s your job as a pet owner to keep those newly sprouted pearly whites clean and healthy!
To care for your cat’s teeth properly:
- Give them frozen nylon chew toys while teething to massage the gums and relieve pain.
- Start brushing your cat’s teeth at least twice a week during kittenhood to build the habit.
- Take your cat to the vet if you notice a decreased appetite or bad breath.
- When brushing, don’t forget to loosen plaque from the gums too.
- Add teeth-cleaning additives to your cat’s water bowl to reduce tartar.
- Buy your cat mesh dental toys that can scrape tartar and plaque build-up away.
Vets recommend brushing your cat’s teeth as early as kittenhood, as felines are notoriously reluctant to accept new routines. Ease your kitty into the habit by choosing a quiet place, starting with a Q-tip to get her used to touching her teeth and then moving onto a gentle-bristle brush.
If that nine-month mark comes and goes without discovering baby teeth around the house, it’s normal to feel concerned. There are two possible explanations:
- The teeth did fall out, but while she was chomping on kibble. Or they blended into the carpeting and bedding when she shed them.
- The teeth didn’t fall out, and Fluffy has retained deciduous teeth. Because this can cause reabsorption or mangled teeth, a vet will recommend extraction.
The mouth is one of the first areas that veterinarians examine during a check-up. If the vet doesn’t comment on your kitty’s teeth, those adult teeth are healthy!
- Alley Cat Allies: How Old Is That Kitten? Kitten Progression: At-a-Glance
- VCA Hospitals: Raising Kittens
- Greencross Vets: Kitten Teething
- VCA Hospitals: Persistent Deciduous Teeth (Baby Teeth) in Cats
- Ipsos: Most (95%) Pet Owners Brush Their Own Teeth Daily, But Few Brush Their Dog’s (8%) or Cat’s (4%) Teeth on a Daily Basis
- PetMD: Gingivitis in Cats