The best dental treats for cats are more than crunchy mint-flavored snacks. They contain active ingredients that help to keep your cat’s teeth clean and his gums healthy.
That’s why we recommend Virbac’s C.E.T Oral Hygiene Chews as the best dental treats for cats on the market. These big, tooth-scrubbing treats contain enzymes that consume oral bacteria, helping to prevent bad breath, tartar buildup, and eventual gum disease.
It combines these qualities with a species-appropriate ingredient list that doesn’t contain a lot of low-quality or harmful additives.
While it appears to do a better job than any other treat on the market, it’s not the only dental treat that can help. In addition to our top recommendation, we’ve chosen several other treats that go the extra mile to improve your cat’s dental health.
But before we jump into the details about this treat and the rest of our top recommendations, let’s talk about the whats and whys of dental treats for cats.
Here’s Why Cat Dental Treats Are A Good Idea
An estimated 85% of cats over age 6 have some form of periodontal disease—a condition occurring when tartar builds up on your cat’s teeth, causing gum inflammation and a string of other conditions.
If your cat’s mouth isn’t healthy, that sickness will eventually spread to other parts of the body, meaning that dental health affects more than your cat’s teeth and gums. As periodontal disease progresses, toxins spread from the mouth and into the bloodstream and organs, causing organ failure and other health issues.
That’s why it’s important to take care of your cat’s dental health before it’s too late. There are numerous ways to keep your cat’s mouth healthy. Brushing his teeth every day is the most effective method. Annual dental cleanings at the vet will remove any buildup you weren’t able to catch with the toothbrush. And dental treats can fill in any gaps.
Dental treats are one of the most popular forms of preventative dental health care available. In contrast to the challenge of daily brushing, cat dental treats promise a fun, painless way to keep your cat’s mouth healthy. But they’re not a complete solution and, sometimes, they’re not a solution at all.
But Only A Few Cat Dental Treats Actually Work
The majority of cat dental treats on the market are inspired by an old-school veterinary myth about dry kibble. During the 20th century, we were told that dry kibble was good for your cat’s teeth, leaving less residue than canned food and lightly abrading plaque. This myth has been largely debunked, revealing that dry food has little or no ability to clean cat teeth.
In keeping with this abrasion theory, most dental treats for cats are nothing more than glorified dry kibble.
According to the marketing, these treats lightly abrade your cat’s teeth, scrubbing off plaque and surface bacteria. But there’s a problem with this theory. Cats don’t really chew their food. Their teeth seldom spend enough time touching the rough food to get any abrasive effect. If your cat has ever vomited after eating dry food, you’ve probably seen graphic evidence of this fact.
Instead of getting that mild abrasive effect, cats essentially swallow their treats whole.
And besides failing to scrub much of anything off of your cat’s teeth, the average dental treat coats your cat’s teeth in starch.
While dry cat food is often touted as a low-residue alternative to wet cat food, the inherent carbohydrate content of these foods makes that claim questionable. Dry food and treats leave a carbohydrate residue on your cat’s teeth, leading to bacterial buildup and, eventually, plaque and tartar.
What Are The Qualities Of The Best Dental Treats For Cats?
While mint-scented kibble can’t do anything to help your cat’s teeth, some specially-formulated treats can help to encourage good dental health.
The best cat dental treats are low in residue-building carbohydrates and contain enzymes that can consume the bacteria remaining in your cat’s mouth, reducing the likelihood of plaque and eventual tartar buildup.
Top 5 Dental Treats For Cats Reviewed
Virbac C.E.T Oral Hygiene Chews Review
Greenies Feline Oven Roasted Chicken Flavor Adult Dental Cat Treats
VetriScience Perio Plus Everyday Health Feline Bites Dental Cat Treats
To help you to understand and make choices about the treats currently on the market, we’ve reviewed 5 popular dental treats for cats, rating each of them on their effectiveness, ingredient quality, and nutritional appropriateness for your carnivorous cat.
Overall Best: Virbac C.E.T Oral Hygiene Chews Review
In contrast to the average dental health treat packed with high-carbohydrate ingredients and marketed on a false premise of abrasion and residue reduction, these treats are primarily made from freeze-dried meat or fish. This meat is combined with enzymes that can help to freshen your cat’s breath and consume bacteria.
They’re virtually carbohydrate-free, meaning that they’re truly a low-residue treat and good for all cats, including diabetic ones.
And unlike other treats that your cat will swallow without chewing, these treats are the size of wine corks, forcing your cat to dig their carnivore teeth into each treat as they eat them, exposing their dental surfaces to the active ingredients.
In addition to teeth-cleaning power, these treats are palatable. They contain animal digest, which is a source of the concentrated meaty flavor that cats love.
Freeze-dried Fish, Poultry Digest, Dextrose, Antioxidants (Containing Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid, Natural Flavor And Citric Acid), Glucose Oxidase (Aspergillus Niger), Dried Whey Protein Concentrate.
|Crude Protein||40% Min|
|Crude Fat||40% Min|
|Crude Fiber||0.5% Max|
What We Liked:
- Clinically proven to improve dental health
- A low-carb treat that leaves minimal residue
- Made with freeze-dried fresh meat
- Big enough to chew
What We Didn’t Like:
- Can be difficult to find in stores
Most Palatable: Greenies Feline Oven Roasted Chicken Flavor Adult Dental Cat Treats Review
Greenies dental cat treats are probably the first treats you think of when you hear the words “dental treats for cats”.
The packaging claims that these are the #1 vet-recommended dental cat treat, that the Veterinary Oral Health Council has confirmed that they can help control tartar, and that they’re “powerfully good”.
These treats lean almost entirely on the “crunchy texture equals clean teeth” premise. They’re small kibble treats that your cat might crunch and might inhale—it’s impossible to know if any abrasive effect will take place in your cat’s mouth.
The chicken formula contains chicken meal, wheat, brown rice, corn gluten meal, and poultry fat as the first five ingredients.
Although these treats boast a slightly more feline-appropriate ingredient lineup than some of the others on this list, they’re carbohydrate-heavy, potentially worsening the bacteria population in your cat’s mouth.
Chicken Meal, Ground Wheat, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Oat Fiber, Natural Poultry Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Choline Chloride, Citric Acid (a Preservative), Fruit Juice Color, Taurine, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols (a Preservative), DL-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), Ferrous Sulfate, Turmeric Color, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Manganous Oxide, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Carbonate, Rosemary Extract.
|Crude Protein||27% Min|
|Crude Fat||12% Min|
|Crude Fiber||10% Max|
What We Liked:
- Intensely flavorful and enticing
- Many customers say that these treats are great for their cat’s dental health
- One of the best-known and best-trusted cat dental treats on the market
- Free from artificial colors and chemical preservatives
What We Didn’t Like:
- Heavy carbohydrate content
- A crunchy kibble treat that your cat probably won’t chew
Best Chewy Dental Treat: VetriScience Perio Plus Everyday Health Feline Bites Dental Cat Treats Review
These cat chews contain a combination of probiotics, herbs, and other ingredients that can help to improve your cat’s dental health. These ingredients include chlorophyll, zinc, and coenzyme Q -10, all of which are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Natural zeolite is added as a deodorizer and pumice.
This combination of active ingredients makes these treats more promising than other dental treats for cats, but there’s a big problem. Most cats don’t like eating them.
The treats are large and hard, which theoretically encourages cats to bite in and enjoy the benefits of each treat. However, numerous customer reviews indicate that the large, hard treats are too challenging to consume, causing their cats to give up on eating them. One Amazon reviewer said that their cat “just got frustrated and walked away crying.”
Anise Oil, Apple Pectin, Brewers Yeast, Canola Oil, Chicken Liver Flavor, Citric Acid, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Fermentum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Fenugreek Seed Extract, Glucose Monohydrate, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Mixed Tocopherols, Oat Flour, Propionic Acid, Proprietary Blend (Maltodextrin, Sodium Alginate and Calcium Sulfate), Pumice, Rosemary Extract, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Sulfate, Sorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Vegetable Fat, Vegetable Oil, Water, Whey, Yeast Fermentation Solubles.
What We Liked:
- Low in carbohydrates and made without corn, soy, wheat, and other unnecessary ingredients
- Made with pumice to lightly abrade plaque
- Each treat contains ingredients that can help to improve dental health
- Rich in probiotics for overall health
- Large and hard to encourage chewing
What We Didn’t Like:
- Doesn’t get consistently positive customer reviews – many cats dislike or refuse these treats
- Some reviewers say that their cats threw up after eating these treats
Best Cat Dental Care Powder: ProDen PlaqueOff Powder Dog & Cat Supplement
While this product doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of a treat—it’s not much fun to eat and you’ll probably sprinkle it into your cat’s food rather than feed it on its own—it earns its place on this list as a dietary supplement with benefits for your cat’s dental health.
The product is made from a single species of North Atlantic seaweed that’s been dried and ground into a powder. That’s it. Ascophyllum Nodosum seaweed, also known as Norwegian kelp, has clinically-demonstrated benefits for improving overall oral health in dogs and cats.
It’s unclear exactly how this seaweed helps. It’s speculated that a combination of compounds in the seaweed contribute to its plaque-inhibiting effects, including phenols, iodine, phosphates, sulphur, and tartar-inhibiting elements.
This appears to be a safe food additive that shows a lot of promise for reducing plaque buildup and preventing tartar.
Ascophyllum Nodosum seaweed
|Crude Protein||116.5 – 33.0 mg|
|Crude Fat||5.0 – 6.6 mg|
|Crude Fiber||8.3 – 11.6 mg|
|Moisture||6.6 – 9.9 mg|
What We Liked:
- This product is easy to administer by mixing into or sprinkling on your cat’s food
- Appears to be more effective than many other cat dental treats
What We Didn’t Like:
Best Budget: HARTZ Dentist’s Best Chicken Flavored Dental Cat Treats
These treats are formulated with DentaShield technology, which, according to the company, reduces new tartar formation by up to 83%. It does this by “bonding with components in your cat’s saliva.”
It’s hard to ignore the fact that these treats are made with ingredients that aren’t species-appropriate and do more harm than good for your cat’s teeth. Each treat is made from corn flour, chicken meal, wheat flour, and corn gluten meal as primary ingredients. These high-carbohydrate inclusions are less than optimal for your cat’s oral ecosystem and overall health.
Think of these as an ever-so-slightly superior alternative to Temptations or any other low-value treat. The Hartz treats contain a few additives that might have some benefits for your cat’s dental health, but their other ingredients make them a poor choice for daily feeding.
Corn Flour, Chicken Meal, Wheat Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dehulled Soybean Meal, Turkey Meal, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Poultry Digest, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salmon Meal, Parsley Flakes, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Tuna Flavor, Color Added (Titanium Dioxide, Blue #1), Choline Chloride, Maltodextrin, Lecithin, Rice Hulls, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, Vegetable Oil (preserved with BHA & BHT), Copper Sulfate, Mineral Oil, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenate, Ground Corn Cob, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Phosphoric Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K activity), Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Citric Acid (a Preservative), Folic Acid.
|Crude Protein||25% Min|
|Crude Fat||8% Min|
|Crude Fiber||4% Max|
What We Liked:
- Cats love the flavor of these treats
- According to the company, the DentaShield can reduce tartar by up to 83%
- Made with parsley to freshen breath
What We Didn’t Like:
- Heavy carbohydrate concentration
- A crunchy kibble treat
- Made with artificial colors
- Contains the potentially-harmful preservatives BHA and BHT
What About Homemade Cat Dental Treats?
In addition to regular brushing, professional cleanings, and commercial dental treats, homemade dental treats can help to keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Raw meat and bones are among the most promising solutions.
Unlike any packaged cat food, raw meaty bones force your cat to use their jaws. When eating raw meaty bones, your cat uses their jaws to gnaw and tear, digging their teeth into muscle tissue and breaking through raw bone. This gnawing action strengthens their jaws and cleans their teeth. Because fresh raw meat doesn’t have any carbohydrate content, it’s low-residue and will contribute minimally to the population of bad bacteria in your cat’s mouth.
Remember that only raw bones are safe for your cat. While raw bones are flexible, cooked bones are prone to splintering and shattering, making them extremely dangerous for your cat to eat. Choose small bones that tone your cat’s jaws without overwhelming them. Cat-appropriate bones include chicken necks and wings.
Dental treats aren’t the end-all solution for oral hygiene, but the right ones can make a positive difference.
Not all dental treats do more good than harm, so choose carefully. You’d be better off giving your cat no dental treats at all than giving them kibble treats packed with corn, wheat, soy, and other high-carbohydrate, low-value ingredients.
The best choice is a chewy, enzyme-packed treat designed to support dental health, like the Virbac CET Oral Hygiene Chews reviewed above.
Good dental health results from a systematic approach from the inside out. Genetics, diet, and care all work in concert to determine your cat’s dental health. Before treats, your first priority should be choosing the right diet and brushing your cat’s teeth with a good toothbrush and toothpaste. After you’ve established a oral care regimen, dental treats can help to fight against tartar buildup.