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I have a cat who is getting on in years, turning 11 this year. His vet has identified some plaque and tartar that would benefit from dental health treats. I told the vet this cat has a habit of inhaling food without chewing it, dental treats included. The cat is a ragamuffin, and not a particularly large one as the breed goes, only ~10.5 pounds – I add that to say it's more a behavioral issue than him simply being a giant. The vet's only advice was to try different treats, and they referred me to a list of approved dental treats by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

I selected a few off of the list and sure enough they're roughly kibble sized. My cat has no trouble choking them down (but sometimes trouble hacking them back up, still unbitten and unbroken). The rest of the ones on the list that I've been able to find sizing information for are no larger, making me sure they will be no more effective. The vet has not been able to provide further guidance.

We are separately proceeding with a teeth cleaning. But an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, I would still like to find a suitable, effective dental treat.

How can I get my cat to actually chew his food and treats?

Or, what dental treats are large enough that an average adult cat has to bite them to digest? Or are there dental treats/treatments that are effective without being chewed?

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    "Not chewing food" is completely normal feline behavior, and is why the idea that "kibble cleans teeth" has persisted so long mystifies me to no end. Have you considered brushing his teeth? Are you open to options beyond the "dry crunchy" format?
    – Allison C
    Jan 11, 2022 at 22:13
  • How big is kibble sized? I have so called 'dental' kibbles that are roughly cube shaped and maybe 1×1×1 cm. Smaller sizes go down in one piece, but these are just too big.
    – Berend
    Jan 12, 2022 at 7:13

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As long as you keep in mind that those dental sticks are only treats and the majority of the food is still cat food, I would go for dental treats in stick format for dogs. There are also dog treats made of dried animal skin that become a tough leathery consistency when soaked in water or saliva. They come in different forms and sizes. I would go for a single thickness of skin and cut them into cat portions with sturdy shears.

Your cat will surely understand that it's impossible to swallow them whole. But it might try biting off too big chunks, so only feed them supervised.

Apart from that, I would put the vets advice into perspective. Your cat has early symptoms of something that can develop into a dental problem, but finding plaque and tartar on the teeth of a 11 yo cat is absolutely normal. If your cat accepts the teeth cleaning, consider yourself very lucky and go for it. You're right that prevention is better than cure, but if you cannot find any treat your cat likes and if s/he fights the teeth cleaning every time, you should consider how much some plaque and tartar impact his/her quality of life vs. a daily procedure s/he hates that causes him/her stress every day.

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