Malocclusions in Cats

cat smiling against green background

Malocclusions in Cats

If you love cats, you just know your cat is perfect, right? And it’s true. Most cats are perfect in every way. Although humans have bred cats to have certain traits such as long hair or a spotted coat, there is not as much variation in body size and head shape as we see in different dog breeds. Cats are all close to their wild relatives in behavior as well as tooth shape and arrangement. But every now and then we see cats whose teeth do not line up properly. Because cats have such sharp teeth and little room for error, any discrepancy in jaw length or tooth position can cause pain. 


Types of Malocclusions in Cats

When teeth or jaws do not line up properly, it is called a malocclusion. There are different types of malocclusions:


Class I Malocclusion

In a class I malocclusion, the jaws are the right length (upper and lower jaws are the same) but one or more teeth are out of position.


Class II Malocclusion

In a class II malocclusion, the lower jaw is too short. This is also called an “overbite” or “parrot mouth”.  A class II malocclusion can result in the lower canine teeth (the “fangs”) contacting and puncturing the tissues of the upper jaw. This is the least common malocclusion in cats, but because cats have such large and pointed canine teeth, it can cause the most pain and trauma. Meowch! 

The cat in this photo has a class II malocclusion. 

Normally the lower canines would be in front of the upper canines. Even though this cat was young, the lower canines had already caused severe bone loss by putting pressure on the tissue around the upper canines as seen in the following dental radiograph.

Fortunately, extracting the upper canines created space for the lower canines. The cat could then close her mouth without any pain. 


Class III Malocclusion

In the more common class III malocclusion, the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. This is also called an “underbite”. Sometimes it is very subtle, but other times it can cause the lower canines to be outside of the upper lip when the mouth is closed. While peculiar looking, this malocclusion may not cause any abnormal contact between the teeth and jaws. 


Premolar Malocclusions

Another common malocclusion in cats is when the upper fourth premolars contact the gum tissue of the lower jaw, right next to the lower molar. In this photo, you can see just a little bit of gum recession and inflammation at the lower molar. 

But what you see on the dental radiograph is far more bone loss underneath, and the molar needed to be extracted. 

Some cats who have this malocclusion will get an angry-looking mass of inflamed gum tissue next to the lower molar. The more the tissue swells, the more it gets poked by the upper tooth. This can be a very painful condition for the cat, and often it occurs on both sides. 


Treating Malocclusions in Colorado Cats

If you think that your perfect cat might have less than perfect teeth, reach out to Animal Dental Care & Oral Surgery in Fort Collins. We’ll be happy to take a look and advise you on different treatment options, such as orthodontics. We want every cat to have a pain-free mouth!


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/6/2024). Photo by Kim Davies on Unsplash