Dear Doctor June 2023


Baby teeth and adult teeth at the same time

Q: I can see that my kitten’s adult teeth have started pushing through the gums, but she still has a number of her baby teeth. Is that normal? I’m worried that her mouth will become overcrowded with two sets of teeth.

Robin McCauliffe
Belmont, Massachusetts

Dear Ms. McCauliffe,

A: It probably is normal because your kitten should lose her baby teeth pretty soon — within days. Here’s the usual timeline:

A newborn cat’s baby teeth, also known as milk teeth or deciduous teeth, start breaking through her gums at about 3 weeks of age. By the time she is 6 to 8 weeks of age, all 26 of them are there. Her body then begins to resorb the roots when she is about 3 months old, and she often swallows the crowns — all just before the 30 adult teeth start coming in.

But sometimes there are a few days of overlap. Thus, don’t worry if, for a short period, your cat has some baby teeth and permanent teeth at the same time.

In rare cases, a cat’s baby teeth don’t fall out in a timely manner on their own. The condition is referred to as persistent deciduous teeth, and the cat requires oral surgery to remove them. 

It’s important to have someone skilled at veterinary dentistry do the work. A tooth and its roots have to be extracted completely, and a cat’s baby teeth are more delicate than permanent teeth and more easily fractured.

Fading with age?

Q: Is it possible for a cat’s coat color to fade in old age? It really seems to me that my cat has lightened.

Sissy Devine
Arlington, Texas

Dear Ms. Devine,

A: Coat color may change slightly with age, so chances are your eyes are not deceiving you. In certain breeds, notably the Siamese, Himalayan-Persian, Balinese, and Birman, coat color is dependent not on age but upon a temperature-dependent accumulation of pigment in the hair coat. That can cause the development of “points.” Think: darkened nose, ears, feet, and tail. Cats whose coats are susceptible to temperature-induced color changes tend to be lighter in warm climates than cold.


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