How to tell a cat’s Age by her Teeth?

Posted by Sep 28, 2017 |

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Author Amira

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I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

This website is dedicated to share useful but entertaining information and help You understand Your cat’s actions, behavior and needs.

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Unless you know the exact date your cat was born, determining how old she is can be quite difficult. However, knowing her age is an important factor in the decisions about the care she needs. Therefore, if you don’t know when your cat was born, you should estimate her age.

While the estimation can seem like a daunting job, the easiest and most reliable way to tell the age of a cat is by looking at her teeth as cats develop their teeth at different growth stages. As such, the number and type of teeth your cat has will depend on her specific age.

So, if you are wondering how old your cat is, you should be able to get a good idea of her age by observing the presence, development, number, and characteristics of her teeth. And for this, you need to know how to examine your cat’s mouth and what you should see inside: how many and what types of teeth she should have.

So, let’s start this article about these important tips and facts followed by the exact answer about how to tell a cat’s age by her teeth.

How to examine a cat’s mouth?

To estimate your cat’s age by her teeth, you will need to lift her lips up gently and open her mouth. Please be aware that cats generally do not like this process and will not open their mouths willingly. Because of which opening your cat’s mouth might need some preparation, patience, and cautiousness. Here are the tips how to do it:

  1. Approach your cat when she is at ease. Don’t try to open her mouth when she is playful, upset or sleeping, and pick a time when she is calm, happy and wants to be around you.
  2. Position your cat comfortably. Pick her up and place her ideally on a tabletop where the lighting is good and there is nothing breakable nearby as some cats fight and knock things over during the process. If necessary, use a towel or blanket to wrap your cat up so she can’t move or get a helper who can hold her.
  3. Open your cat’s mouth carefully. Hold her steady on the table and position your fingers: your thumb on one side and your forefinger on the other side of your cat’s mouth along the cheeks. Then, gently apply pressure until your cat opens her mouth and you can see all of her teeth.
  4. Look inside your cat’s mouth. Maintain the same position and examine her teeth.
  5. Release your cat and reward her for good behavior. Since you don’t want your cat to injure herself while getting away, calm her down a bit by petting and praising her. In addition, you can also give her some tasty treats as a reward which will create a positive association with this procedure.

Warning: Cats that aren’t used to handling their mouth by their owner may resist, fight and bite. Since cats’ teeth are sharp and their bites can be painful and can also cause infection, be aware of the signs of your cat’s warnings and never let your fingers get caught in her mouth. Be always prepared to stop the examination and have a veterinarian do the checking if necessary.

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How many and what types of teeth do cats have?

To estimate your cat’s age by her teeth, it is also very important to know what to expect when you examine her mouth: how many and what type of teeth she should have.

First of all, know that cats are diphyodont so they develop two sets of teeth during their lives.

When a kitten is born, she is toothless. The first set of teeth starts to appear when she is around 2 or 3 weeks old. The first teeth to erupt are the deciduous incisors which are the very small teeth at the front of the mouth.

The next ones that erupt through the gums at the age of 3 to 4 weeks are the long, sharp, chisel-shaped canines at the corners of the jaw. These are the ones that can be seen whenever the cat opens her mouth and because of their sharpness, they can do the most damage to the human’s body which can lead to serious infections.

The premolars – that sit right behind the canine teeth along the sides with two pointed cusps on their biting surface – follow shortly by the time the kitten reaches 4 to 6 weeks of age. Kittens do not develop molar baby teeth – the teeth farther back in the cats’ mouth, with several cusps on the biting surface.

At about 8 weeks of age, the entire first set of teeth: 26 baby teeth (12 in the lower and 14 in the upper jaw) should be in place involving:

  • 12 incisors – 3 upper and 3 lower on each side (so 6 up, 6 down),
  • 4 canines – 1 upper and 1 lower on each side (so 2 up, 2 down),
  • 10 premolars – 3 upper and 2 lower on each side (so 6 up, 4 down),
  • 0 molars.

Please note that this first set of teeth is known as the “baby”, “milk”, “primary”, or “deciduous” teeth which means that they are only temporary. These teeth fall out as the adult, permanent teeth start to grow in at the age of 3 to 4 months.

The second set of teeth: permanent teeth appear in the same order as the temporary ones.

The first permanent teeth to erupt at the age of 3 – 4 months are the incisors, followed by the canines by the time the average kitten is around 4 to 5 months old. After these teeth pop out, the premolars begin to slowly grow in at about 6 months of age and by the time the kitten is 6 to 7 months old, the four molar cat teeth should have erupted.

All in all, while kittens have 26 baby or deciduous teeth (due to having no molars), cats have a total of 30 permanent or adult teeth by their sixth or seventh month which can be divided into the following types:

  • 12 incisors – 3 upper and 3 lower on each side (so 6 up, 6 down),
  • 4 canines – 1 upper and 1 lower on each side (so 2 up, 2 down),
  • 10 premolars – 3 upper and 2 lower on each side (so 6 up, 4 down),
  • 4 molars – 1 upper and 1 lower on each side (so 2 up and 2 down).

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How to tell a cat’s age by her teeth?

Once you start examining your cat’s mouth, you might find that the estimation of your cat’s age by her teeth can be quite difficult. However, if you follow the next steps, it can help determine your best estimate of your cat’s age.

  1. Determine if your cat has baby or adult teeth

As your cat ages, she will go through different teeth development stages. When your cat is relaxed and comfortable, check to see if she has baby teeth or adult teeth.

The kittens’ deciduous teeth are usually bright white and a little bit smaller and thinner with pointed sharper tips, while the permanent teeth are wider, thicker and larger with flat edges.

So if you notice tiny, thin and sharp teeth, they are the temporary deciduous teeth, so your kitten is more than 2 weeks and less than 3 months old. However, if you find thicker and larger teeth in your cat’s mouth, they are the permanent, adult teeth already, and your cat is very likely more than 3 to 4 months old.

  1. Count your cat’s teeth

As cats go through teething, the number of their teeth changes. Kittens should have all their 26 baby teeth erupted by the age of 6 to 8 weeks, while adult cats have 30 permanent teeth approximately at the age of 6 to 7 months.

If your kitten has all 26 of her baby teeth in place, she is likely between the ages of 6 weeks and 3 months. However, if you notice missing teeth, it means her deciduous teeth are still erupting so she is probably younger than 2 months old.

Since kittens start losing their primary teeth right after their eruption to give space to the new adult set of teeth, you might spot missing baby teeth with erupting permanent teeth when your cat reaches between the ages of 3 and 6 months.

And, if your cat’s adult teeth are all present (30 permanent teeth), she is definitely more than 7 months old. (A detailed guide of teething timeline can be read below.)

  1. Check the condition of your cat’s teeth

From the time a cat reaches her early adulthood – having all permanent teeth in place by the age of 7 months – it becomes even more complicated to determine her age by her teeth. However, it is not completely impossible. Once she reaches this point, the characteristics, color, and condition of the teeth can give an idea of the age, rather than the type or number.

Normally, a cat older than one year will still have white, undamaged and healthy teeth. However, as she gets older (usually from two years of age) her teeth will become more and more yellowish and worn down.

So, the degree of tartar accumulation and damages on the surfaces of the teeth will indicate just how old the cat is likely to be.

If you want to try to determine your cat’s age, first of all, verify that your cat has all of her adult teeth, meaning that she has past the kitten stage so she is more than 7 months old.

Then, look for yellowing of your cat’s teeth and check for signs of wear down. If her teeth are mostly white without any definite damage (perhaps just a bit dull teeth), she is likely to be around 1 year old. However, if her teeth are becoming yellower, she is most likely more than 2 years old. (A more detailed guide can be read below.)

  1. Consult your veterinarian

Since it is not an easy job to determine a cat’s age by her teeth, many people turn to their veterinarians to get a better idea.

If you don’t know when your cat was born and you cannot estimate her age, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian who can give you a rough estimation.

Your veterinarian can take a closer look inside your cat’s mouth, or even do a thorough examination of her whole body which will generally reveal the current age of your cat.

How to tell the age of a kitten by her teeth?

While every kitten gets her teeth at a slightly different time, with the following guideline you can roughly estimate your cat’s age by which baby teeth and which adult teeth she has.

  • A kitten with no visible teeth is most likely a newborn, younger than 2 weeks old.
  • The 12 small front incisor teeth (6 in the top and 6 in the bottom of the jaw) are the first to erupt so you should see them at the age of 2 to 3 weeks.
  • The long pointy canines (2 on the top and 2 in the bottom of the jaw) are the next and should be seen at the age of 3 to 4 weeks.
  • If you notice that your kitten’s deciduous premolars (3 in the top and 2 in the bottom of the jaw) began breaking through the gums, you can be sure that your little one is approximately 4 to 6 weeks old.
  • When your kitten reaches the age of 8 weeks old, all her 26 baby teeth should have erupted. At this stage, do not expect your kitten to have temporary, deciduous molar teeth. These are only grown at the second stage with the adult, permanent set of teeth.
  • Since the baby teeth are only temporary, they fall out right after their eruption. So if you spot any missing tooth in your kitten’s mouth, she should be between the ages of 2 to 4 months. This is the time when her adult teeth will begin to emerge.
  • The adult incisors are the first to show up (6 in the top and 6 in the bottom of the jaw) and seeing these teeth means that your kitten is around 4 months old.
  • Spotting the permanent canines (2 on the top and 2 in the bottom of the jaw) can give you the clue that she is in her 5th month.
  • When your cat reaches 6 months, her adult premolar teeth should be visible (3 in the top and 2 in the bottom of the jaw).
  • The adult molar teeth are the last to come in so if you don’t see them yet but could find all the other teeth, your kitten is around 6 months old.
  • By the age of 7 months, all her molars (2 in the top and 2 in the bottom of the jaw) should have erupted.
  • If your cat’s adult teeth are all present (30 permanent teeth), she is most likely more than 7 months old.

How to tell the age of an adult cat by her teeth?

While it is relatively easy to determine a kitten’s age by her teeth, it can be difficult to tell the age of an older cat that has crossed the cute kitten stage. One thing you can be sure of: once your cat has all her permanent teeth in, she is definitely older than 7 months.

However, from this time onwards, you should pay more attention to the color and condition of your cat’s teeth, rather than the amount.

Look for yellow spots on your cat’s teeth. As most cats get older, they have more and more tartar accumulation on the surfaces of their teeth.

  • From the ages of 6 to 7 months up to a year, your cat’s teeth should be white, healthy and clean without any sign of tartar accumulation.
  • The first time you can expect to see slight yellow tartar buildup is at about 1 to 2 years of age.
  • Between 3 and 5 years, the tartar has spread more and your cat will have increased yellowing on her teeth.
  • The yellow tartar will be easily visible by the time your cat is between 5 to 10 years old.
  • By 10 to 15 years, your cat will have an extreme amount of tartar buildup on all her teeth and she may have lost some teeth as well.

Check your cat’s teeth for signs of wear down. As cats’ age increases, their teeth will wear down and lose their points appearing quite dull.

  • At the age of 1 to 2 years, your cat’s teeth should be undamaged, or perhaps just a bit dull.
  • Some worn places on the tops can be observed between 3 and 5 years of age.
  • Generally, between the ages of 5 to 10 years, your cat’s teeth will show clear signs of wear, and most probably her canine teeth will start to become less pointed.
  • After 10 years of life, heavy wearing down of the teeth will be apparent and some may be even missing.

Note: While this guide can give you a rough estimation of an adult cat’s age, it is not completely reliable because tartar buildup is affected by the cat’s diet as well as the frequency and the appropriateness of the cat’s dental care.

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Important note about the estimation

Although teeth are good indicators of a cat’s approximate age, they are not foolproof. Please note that the answers found in this article are rough and very general, and the aforementioned timeline is based on normal, healthy condition.

Since every cat will get their teeth at a slightly different time, and their lifestyle, diet, oral hygiene, and health are also variant from one to another, the exact age can slightly differ even among breeds and can also vary within kittens of the same litter, not to mention that medical problems or accidents can cause delayed tooth development or even tooth loss.

Please take this note into account when you observe your cat’s teeth and if you are in doubt by any chance, turn to a veterinarian who can give you a better idea not only about the current age of your cat but also about her overall health.

Know more about the topic – Other ways to determine a cat’s age

While by far the best indication of cat’s age is the teeth, there are other things that can help with the estimation. So if you are observing your cat’s age and have checked her teeth already but still not sure how old she is, you can do the following things:

  • Examine your cat’s body. As a cat ages, her body type and shape changes from lean and muscular shape to a bit rounder and fatter body and eventually to loose skin.
  • Check your cat’s fur. Depending on the age, a cat’s coat may be more or less thick with different texture: a smooth, thick fur will turn to a thinner coat with gray hair.
  • Look at your cat’s eyes. The degree of cloudiness and cleanliness in a cat’s eyes can also give a better understanding of her age. A younger cat has clear and bright eyes with no noticeable tears or discharge, while older cats may have cloudy eyes with apparent tearing or discharge.
  • Monitor your cat’s habits and behavior. As a cat’s age increases, her activity level decreases. While younger cats are more active and playful, older cats are less active and will spend more time sleeping.

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Bottom line

Whenever you are wondering how old your cat is, you can estimate her age by examining her body and behavior. While her fur, eyes, and habits can provide you a quite broad estimation, the easiest and most reliable way is to observe the presence, development, number, and characteristics of her teeth.

Examine your cat’s mouth by determining the teething stage, counting her teeth and checking their conditions, and if you are still in doubt, contact your veterinarian who can give you a better estimation.

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