Kittens are born without teeth. At around 2 weeks of age, the little incisors at the front of the mouth begin to show through the gums. At around 4 weeks of age, the canine teeth (fangs) have emerged, and by 6 weeks of age the premolars have emerged. These teeth are all deciduous (also called baby or milk) teeth.
Kittens have a total of 26 deciduous teeth: three upper and three lower incisors on each side, one upper and one lower canine on each side, and three upper and two lower premolars on each side. They have no molars.
The deciduous teeth begin to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth starting at around 11 weeks of age. By 4 months, all the permanent incisors are usually in place. By 6 months, all four canine teeth are in place. By 8 months, all 10 premolars are in place. The four molars do not come in until late kittenhood or even early adulthood.
Adult cats have a total of 30 permanent teeth: three upper and three lower incisors on each side, one upper and one lower canine on each side, three upper and two lower premolars on each side, and one upper and one lower molar on each side.
As new teeth emerge, your kitten may have sore gums. His loose baby teeth may bother him, making eating uncomfortable. He may be more irritable and mouth shy, and quit playing abruptly if he catches something in his mouth and it hurts. Be considerate of his sore mouth. Don’t play vigorously with toys he grabs in his mouth. Avoid brushing his teeth during this time; you don’t want to teach him that brushing hurts. Feed him a soft food that doesn’t make him chew or crunch. Soak a rag in water and freeze it, then let him play with it. Better, buy a teething ring made especially for kittens. You can also rub gum numbing medication on his gums.
Sometimes a baby tooth remains in place, even when the permanent tooth come in beside it. This happens most often with the canine teeth. If it remains for more than a week, your veterinarian may have to extract it. Otherwise it can cause crowding of the other teeth, and can even be painful. It’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian check your cat’s teeth at about 6 to 8 months of age to make sure everything has come in as it should.
You or your veterinarian may notice occlusion problems. In ideal occlusion for most cats, the upper incisors fit snugly just in front of or level with the lower ones, and the lower canine is just in front of the upper one. In some cats, one side of the jaw grows more than the other, so the incisors may align correctly on one side but not on the other. Sometimes the misalignment is such that the cat cannot chew comfortably or a tooth jabs into the cat’s palate. In either case, your veterinarian may need to extract one or more teeth for your cat’s comfort and dental health.