Can Cats Manage Without Their Teeth?

For modern humans, teeth seem to be essential. We chew with our teeth and without them would need a radical change of diet. We use them to speak, and without teeth our speech would be impaired. Last, but not least, there are major aesthetic considerations. It’s little wonder most people fear losing their own teeth and rush to replace them with dentures when it finally happens.

But what about our cats? Do cats need their teeth as much as we need ours?

Toothless cats are not rare. Some cats lose their teeth naturally, usually to a combination of old age and dental disease. Many cats have their teeth extracted due to mouth and gum disease. A fairly common syndrome called Lymphocytic Plasmacytic Gingivitis Stomatitis, or LPGS for short, is responsible for quite a few cats having all of their teeth extracted. Sometimes canine teeth are left, while other times it’s a full mouth extraction.

This often brings worried owners to our cat health forum with lots of questions:

“Will my cat manage without her teeth?”

“Will I need to change my cat’s diet?”

“How will my cat chew his food without any teeth?”

Well, good news! Cats manage just fine without their teeth!

We have quite a few toothless felines in our community, and their owners come forward with reassuring words –

I have several kitties who have had their teeth pulled. After the initial surgery, they’ve all been much better off. They can eat better – both wet & dry food without any problems.” shared our member White Cat Lover.

Long-time member Momofmany shared this story about her toothless cat Stumpy, now a rainbow Kitty: My Stumpy … had the last of his teeth pulled about 5 years ago. He ate dry food with no problems at all, in fact, he loved to steal dog kibble, which is much larger than cat kibble. He just sucked it down. Stumpy was eating kibble at the vets after the teeth extraction before the drugs had worn off from the surgery (the vet tech had some food out for another cat and didn’t think Stumpy would be interested in food – ha! Showed them)

In fact, OrientalSlave added this interesting tidbit: “I’ve seen a cat with just canine teeth eat a mouse – whole, head first!

Feral cats are a special case. They can and do consume regular cat food without an issue. As our member catwoman707 shared in a post –
There have been several cats through our rescue, the latest one was Cookie, a feral prego who I trapped and she had her babies the next day. She must have suffered terribly as any/all kitties do; they are so good at hiding their pain but feel just as much as we do. Within 2 days after the removal of all of her teeth, she was scooping up canned, learning how I’m sure, and as soon as I put dry in her cage she was chowing again, but without the pain!

However, feral cats that rely on hunting as a major source of food will not do well without any teeth at all. Cats use their teeth to kill their prey, and without teeth a feral cat could lose a significant source of food. Because toothless ferals rely on their caregivers for food, a secure long-term solution needs to be worked out for them to make sure they keep receiving care for their entire lives.

With the exception of feral cats, rest assured that your cat will be absolutely fine without her teeth.

As many of our members report, these cats eat dry kibble, canned food and even raw food. Extracting the teeth may or may not cure Stomatitis or Gingivitis but it will almost certainly provide your cat with relief as soon as the pain from the extraction subsides. As long as she or he is free of pain, your cat will be happy, with or without teeth!

In the photo: Twitch displaying a toothless grin. Picture by White Cat Lover.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions about your cat? Post them in the cat forums.

The forums are the only place where you can get quick answers to your cat-related questions. Please do not use the comments section to ask questions about your cat.

11 comments on “Can Cats Manage Without Their Teeth?

Jenny July 22, 2020
My cat just got diagnosed with Stomatitis Complex and needs a full teeth extraction. He is an outdoor only cat and we are worried about him defending himself against other cats in the area without any teeth. Anyone have any advice for this? And NO, he will not become and indoor cat. He was born feral, he's a little older and prefers outside.
    MarkMDP July 27, 2020
    Hello Jenny! You are welcome to join the forums (it's free!). The Cat Health forum is a good place to start a thread here: Please note that no online advice beats professional diagnosis.
James February 24, 2020
If my cat doesn’t eat wet food, is it alright if she eats dry food after the surgery or will this be detrimental to her in some way?
    Furballsmom March 27, 2020
    @james, I realize your cat is probably already home and hopefully doing well after surgery, but if you were to soften the kibble it would make things easier for her. Don't leave moistened kibble out very long due to increased bacterial growth. Canned food can be left out for longer periods of time. You might consider working to transition her to wet food, there are articles here
lunariris February 6, 2014
@BearBear I've never heard of bugs on teeth before. I'm not sure what your vet means. But two of our cats have had one or two teeth pulled and ate better after. Initially after surgery for a couple of weeks they should eat only wet food until the gums heal from surgery, and now they can both eat wet or dry, but they still have most of their teeth. If they had just a few or none, I imagine they could still eat wet pretty safely, espicially the pate' kind. 
bearbear January 8, 2014
What is the aftercare for dental surgery?
bearbear January 8, 2014
My vet said my cat had "bugs on her teeth".  Does anybody know what this means??
dars babies September 8, 2013
My cat Moses RIP had all of his teeth pulled except his fangs and did GREAT! He gained 4 pounds in one year, because he felt so good.
lesliecat March 2, 2013
I have had many toothless cats. The get along just fine. As in humans the gums harden up. Also, cats cannot actually chew so they mostly swallow it whole (dry food).
pansy's pal February 14, 2013
Pansy Pickle had only two teeth when we adopted her and managed just fine. She was a gentle, sweet, loving and happy girl. No one told her that losing her teeth might be hard so she just accepted the fact.
momofmany February 6, 2013
My Stumpy lost all of his teeth from LPGS when he was 11 years old and lived to be nearly 18 years old. That was over 6 years with no teeth at all! I asked my vet (in jest) when she extracted the last of his teeth this question: If a declawed cat will start biting due to losing his claws as a defense weapon, will a toothless cat start clawing in defense? We both had a great chuckle over this thought, and eventually learned that the answer is NO.

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