Claws to teeth
July 27, 2008 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Please help me help my cat.

I have a male housecat (doesn't go out). He's about 8-ish years old. Not terribly often, but sometimes, he uses his front claws to "pick" at his teeth. He does it in a very emphatic, frantic sort of way. When I started typing this question, one of his claws was actually stuck either in between his teeth, in his gums, or somewhere else in there. I just was able to manage to help him get it loose. He is now laying by the door to the outside -sort of unusual for him (like, leave me alone and all). Not sure what I'm now asking since I managed to get him loose but does anyone have any thoughts here? Thank you so much in advance for all responses!
posted by thatguyryan to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
He may have a cracked tooth, a tooth that's rotten, or on his way to a some kind of oral infection. If he hasn't been to the vet in the while it might be time to get him in for a dental cleaning/check-up.

Oral infections can be bad for a cat's health.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:26 PM on July 27, 2008

Are his claws especially long? My cats do this when their claws grow out and the outer layer of claw starts to sort of flake off. Maybe you could try trimming them (or your vet might provide this service) or getting a scratching post.
posted by jschu at 7:32 PM on July 27, 2008

Sometimes cats do this to bite at their claws especially if they are long. If you get them something to scratch on this will happen less.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on July 27, 2008

Are you sure it's not the opposite, e.g. he's picking at his claws with his teeth, instead of the other way around? Most cats use their teeth to clean dirt that builds up in and around their claws.

On preview, what jessamyn said. Maybe you need to trim his claws for him and/or get him a scratching post.

If the claws are not the issue, and there is truly something wrong with his teeth, then a visit to the vet is in order.
posted by amyms at 7:49 PM on July 27, 2008

Cat tooth problems can be incredibly painful. You really should take him in to a vet.

You might also need to learn to trim his claws. It's not that bad if the cat trusts you and you are gentle and don't rush (especially the first few times).
posted by amtho at 8:28 PM on July 27, 2008

Nthing trimming the claws. An outdoor cat naturally tends to wear them down, but an indoor cat like yours (and mine) doesn't, and needs them trimmed.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:51 PM on July 27, 2008

Nthing taking the cat to the vet to get the mouth checked out. However, the vet can also show you how to trim their claws, up to making a 'cat burrito' out of a towel if you have to. Despite trimming my cat's claws often, occasionally they would tug at their claws with their teeth, often pulling off the old layer of nail.

There are also cat nail trimmers out there that make the job quick and painless for both the cat and the human. But I had good luck with waiting until the cat was calm, stopping when they got agitated, talking to them softly, and rewarding them with their favorite treats in the world even if we only got one nail clipped.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:21 PM on July 27, 2008

You can clip your cat's nails with an ordinary run of the mill nail clipper. Just hold the paws firmly in your fingers, spreading the toes. The claws will poke out, just chop off a small amount at first to be safe. I also want to say when I first read the question I thought you said "Please help me find my cat" and I was coming into to offer my hopes that they would be okay.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:41 PM on July 27, 2008

Cats are very prone to oral resorptive lesions, which can cause intense pain and will only get worse without extracting the affected teeth. It sounds like your cat is having mouth pain, not claw problems, from your description. Vet visit is in order either way.
posted by biscotti at 4:29 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would like to mention that cats don't show pain in the same way as humans. The cat acting different than normal was one of the reasons I suspect there might be some kind of mouth/tooth issue. (His age was another reason.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:38 AM on July 28, 2008

nthing the mouth pain. When my cats (rarely) chew on their nails, it's a rather leisurely affair--not frantic like the OP describes. Another thing to check would be his eating habits. If he's eating less or favoring one side of his mouth when he chews, he's probably got a mouth problem and it's best to take him in to the vet.

But since his claws are long enough to get stuck in his mouth, give them a trim. As a former groomer, I wouldn't recommend using human nail trimmers on a cat. Use something like this instead. Much easier to hold on to while you're wrangling a kitty and less likely to split their nails.
posted by ailouros08 at 6:15 AM on July 28, 2008

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