You probably know how difficult a puppy's teething stage can be, but the same holds true for kittens. Like puppies—and human babies—kittens have primary teeth, or baby teeth, which eventually fall out as the permanent teeth erupt.
Kittens aren't born with teeth. The baby teeth arrive between the kitten's third and sixth week of life. The first to erupt are the incisors, followed about a week later by the canines—hey, they're cats, let's just call them fangs. Two weeks later, out come the premolars. Those initial, or milk, teeth, total 26 when they've all erupted. Shortly before their third month, at 11 weeks, the baby teeth begin falling out and the permanent teeth start to come in.
The first of the permanent teeth to come in are the primary incisors. By the time your kitten is five months along, he's got all four fangs. Next month his premolars, all 10 of them, have erupted. Later on another four premolars come out, but that's not until he's nearly full grown. When he's got his full set of permanent teeth, that's a total of 30 kitty choppers, suitable for tearing prey apart or eating wet or dry cat food.
As the permanent teeth erupt through his gums, your kitten experiences soreness. He might have trouble eating because of his loose teeth, ready to fall out. While you might come upon a baby tooth, most of the time they're swallowed by the kitten. If you've been feeding him both dry and wet food, you might want to shift to exclusively wet food during the teething process, or moisten the dry food before giving it to him. While kittens don't chew everything in sight during the teething process, like puppies, it's a good idea to provide him with appropriate toys to chew on so he doesn't decide to exercise his gums on dangerous items like electrical cords.
Although the baby teeth should all fall out of their own accord when the permanent teeth erupt, sometimes that doesn't happen with a particular tooth. Your kitten could have that baby tooth next to the permanent one, where the adult tooth will have trouble maintaining a normal position. This can cause malocclusion, an abnormal bite. Cats with short heads, such as Persians and their cousins the Himalayans, might have an inherited tendency to retain teeth. During your kitten's vet visits, your vet examines his mouth. If she spots a retained tooth, she can extract it before it causes problems. Since tooth extraction requires anesthesia, she might schedule the procedure at the same time as your kitten's spay or neuter surgery.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.