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what to do if cat licks eats toothpaste

Cats are notorious for their cleaning and self-care vigorous practices. They are the neat freaks of the animal world. Cats are very skilled at keeping themselves clean. However, since they cannot brush their teeth themselves, cats need your help in this area.

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When brushing your cat’s teeth, it is of paramount importance to use toothpaste and toothbrush formulated specifically for cats as human versions can be dangerous.

If your cat licks or eats human toothpaste, you will need to make an urgent trip to the vet’s office as human toothpastes contain harmful and even toxic substances for cats. Human toothbrushes are not toxic but their hard bristles can hurt the cat’s sensitive gums.

Why do cats like toothpaste?

Most cats are repelled by the toothpaste’s minty scent. However, cats are curious and if brave enough to lick it they may realize that toothpaste tastes good.

Cats like the sugary taste most toothpastes offer which is why this common household product can be pretty dangerous to cats.

Can human toothpaste hurt cats?

The short answer is yes, human toothpastes can hurt cats. Generally, there are two ingredients in the toothpaste that can cause issues in cats:

  • Fluoride
  • Xylitol.

These substances are harmful when swallowed. However, since you cannot explain to your cat to spit instead of swallowing the toothpaste, it is safe to assume that human toothpastes are dangerous to cats.

Can I brush my cat’s teeth with my toothpaste?

No, by brushing your cat’s teeth with human toothpaste you can cause fluoride and xylitol poisoning in your cat.


Acute fluoride poisoning in cats manifests with vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, labored breathing, restlessness, increased heart rate, stiffness, and seizures.

The clinical signs become apparent around 2 hours after the toothpaste digestion. A dose of 0.001 milligram per kilo of body weight is enough to trigger symptoms, while doses between 0.005-0.01 milligrams per kilo are fatal.

To translate this in practical terms, the amount of toothpaste necessary for one brushing is enough to cause poisoning in cats.

If the amount is not enough to cause acute poisoning, and a cat regularly licks human toothpaste, the fluoride can accumulate in the bones, thus leading to increased osteosarcoma risk.

Additionally, this prolonged exposure is linked with liver and kidney damages, irritable bowel syndrome, and joint issues.


The consumption of this popular sweetener causes a sudden spike in blood insulin levels, which results in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

If the hypoglycemia is not severe and the cat survives the episode, the risk of developing liver failure, later on is significant.

Around 0.01 grams per kilo of body weight are enough to cause poisoning in cats. In practical terms, one brushing will not have any consequences for your cat.

However, if the cat accidentally gets hold of the toothpaste and eats it, the results can be fatal. 

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What to do if my cat licks or eats my toothpaste?

Licking or eating human toothpaste warrant an immediate trip to the vet’s office. It would be helpful if you can bring the toothpaste with you so the vet can check its fluoride and xylitol contents. That way the vet will know what to expect and modify the treatment’s aggressiveness.

Why do cats lick toothbrushes?

This is one of the things cats like and we cannot quite explain why. However, it can be assumed that cats are drawn to the toothbrush’s moisture, the scratchy texture or the sweet-tasting leftover from the toothpaste.

Can human toothbrush hurt my cat?

To cats, the human toothbrush is less hazardous than the human toothpaste. However, there are still some risks (cuts and irritation) as the bristles on human toothbrushes are way too harsh for the cat’s sensitive gums.

Should I clean my cat’s teeth? And what will happen if I don’t?                        

Yes, you should clean your cat’s teeth. Just because human toothpastes are not safe for cats it does not mean you do not need to take care of your cat’s oral hygiene.

Just like humans, cats are prone to dental issues like gingivitis, periodontitis and cavity. Regular brushing (every day or at least twice per week) and maintaining a good oral hygiene is the best way of preventing these painful issues.

It is also highly advised to have your cat’s scaled at the vet’s office on a yearly basis. Depending on your cat’s overall mouth health, the vet may recommend a bi-yearly scaling plan.

What toothpaste and toothbrush are good for cats?

The toothpaste

There are regular, enzymatic, and organic versions. The enzymatic versions are enriched with bacteria-reducing enzymes thus making the brushing more efficient.

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Organic versions are a better option especially if you want a more natural approach to maintaining a good dental hygiene. Organic versions are also a better alternative for cats with sensitive digestion systems.

All toothpaste versions for cats are flavored. Popular flavors include chicken, malt and beef.

The toothbrush

There are regular-looking toothbrushes and finger toothbrushes for cats. Which type you will choose depends on personal preferences and ease of use.

Because of their size, regular-looking toothbrushes are a better option for kittens and small cats. For adult cats, finger toothbrushes are more practical.

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The alternative to brushing

Some cats do not like being manipulated and have their teeth brushed. In such cases, you can use dental treats or water additives to keep your cat’s oral hygiene on a satisfactory level.

How can I clean my cats teeth naturally and safe?

If you prefer a more natural approach you can clean your cat’s teeth with a homemade, cat-friendly toothpaste applied on a piece of sterile gauze. There are different recipes for homemade pastes and they contain common ingredients such as coconut oil, turmeric, kelp and dried parsley flakes.

Can you use dog toothpaste and toothbrush for cats?

Yes, dog toothpaste formulas are fluoride and xylitol free which makes them perfectly safe for cats. For the toothbrush, it might be a better idea to get a toothbrush designed for cats due to practical reasons. Namely, dogs and cats have different mouth anatomies.


Human dental kits (toothpaste, mouthwash, and toothbrush) are a no-go for cats. Luckily, the modern market offers an array of cat-friendly, oral hygiene products.

Keep things simple and choose an organic toothpaste and finger toothbrush as you cannot go wrong with these products.  

With so many different products making the right choice can be challenging. In such cases, do not hesitate to consult with your trusted vet or the salesperson at the pet store. 

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