Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness, especially at the early stage. Most cat owners only get to see symptoms when their cats have become really sick. That’s why you need to learn what is normal for your cats and observe for subtle changes. This way, you can recognize problems early and take your cat to your veterinarian for quick treatment.
Cats are known for forming habits, and a deviation from their normal behavior may be a cause for concern. It could be a change in their drinking habits, appetite, growing, litter box routine, and even the sound of their voice.
Apart from checking for these subtle changes, you can perform a periodic health check on your cat at home. However, these periodic checks at home are not a substitute for regular veterinary care. Normally, your cat should take at least an annual exam by a veterinarian. If your cat is older than seven years, you’re meant to take them for bi-annual exams.
How can you do a home health check for your cat?
Here are some things to consider when doing a home health check for your cat:
Keeping track of your cat’s weight is a good way to do a health check for them at home.
Although it can be difficult to recognize gradual weight gain or weight loss in cats, you can get an inexpensive digital scale that is meant for babies. This way, you can accurately measure your feline friend’s weight in ounces or pounds.
Another way you can keep track of your cat’s weight is to measure your weight on your regular bathroom scale, and then measure while holding your cat. The weight difference gives the weight of your cat. This technique is not as accurate as a baby scale, but you will still notice some differences.
Increased appetite and thirst
Most cats are delicate feeders, even when some are naturally greedy and will eat whatever you place in front of them.
However, when a cat that eats moderately on a normal starts overeating, it could mean they are suffering from a metabolic problem such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes, or poor absorption of food. Sometimes, parasites such as tapeworm can cause poor absorption of food.
Drinking excessive water is a clear sign that shows the onset of several health ailments that may become undiagnosed until it progresses to a much later stage. You should seek veterinary attention if you notice your cat drinking more water or the pattern changes noticeably. If possible, you can take fresh urine samples along when visiting your veterinarian.
Cats may suffer from diarrhea if they are unwell and this should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible. There is a whole spectrum of diarrhea, from the watery feces to those that are softer than normal.
If your cat’s bowel is inflamed, for example, the feces may be fairly normal but streaked with blood and mucus. However, with outdoor cats, it can be difficult to know if diarrhea is present. The cat may mess indoors, or the owner notices staining of the hair around the anus.
While mind cases of diarrhea can be self-limiting if you place the cat on a bland diet, severe diarrhea especially when the cat is unwell, requires that you visit your veterinarian for quick attention.
Skin and Coat
Normally, your cat’s skin should not be dry and flaky and the coat should be shiny and full. Cats spend time grooming and anything that interferes with that process, such as a sore mouth or neck pain, can negatively affect their coat quality.
You can examine the skin and coat of your cat to ensure it is free from parasites such as ticks and fleas. Keep an eye on excessive nibbling or scratching. Also, look out for matts in older cats or long-haired cats who are unable to groom.
You can gently lift your cat’s lip folds and open their jaw to check their teeth and mouth. The tongue and gums should be salmon pink in color. And if you notice any lumps or redness, it could be a sign of a problem.
If you noticed any large build-up or tartar on their teeth, you may need to visit your vet for removal. Also, if your cat has bad breath, you need to get them checked by your local veterinarian.
A cat’s respiration rate should be between 20 and 30 breaths per minute when they’re at rest. You can time your cat’s breathing for 15 seconds and multiply it by four. This would help you know how many breaths your cat takes in one minute.
Coughing and wheezing are two signs of a potentially serious problem. More so, when your cat shows rapid, open-mouthed breathing, it can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Also, when your cat struggles to breathe, it can indicate the onset of several serious conditions, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and chest problems.
You need to check your cat’s claws regularly and trim them from time to time. While trimming, you can check for any injuries to the paw pads or torn toenails. When claws are too long, they can get caught on upholstery or carpeting and get torn.
If you cannot trim your cat’s nails, you can get someone to help you out. You can also take your cat to the veterinary clinic for a nail trim.
You can run your hands through your cat’s entire body and apply gentle pressure. If you notice any lumps and bumps, or your cat responds with discomfort in any area, take them to your vet.
Your cat’s ears should be dry and clean. However, you may notice a small amount of wax in your cat’s ears from time to time. This is normal and can be cleaned by dipping a small cotton ball in vinegar solution or warm water.
But if you notice any odor or discharge from your cat’s ear canal, it may be a sign of infection. A red or coffee-ground like brown discharge from the ear may indicate the presence of ear mites.
Cats tend to vomit from time to time as the digestive system of cats is adapted to swallowing a lot of indigestible things such as hair, bones, and skin and then vomiting them back up. If a cat is not fine and vomiting, it is quite significant, especially if they are not eating.
You need to keep track of the time of vomiting after eating, and the nature of the vomitus. This helps your veterinarian identify the cause of the problem.
When a cat vomits repeatedly, they often do not take in fluids and this may lead to dehydration. In this case, you should seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.
Cats can be pretty lazy sometimes, but a sudden change in activity levels may indicate that there’s a health problem. Although it may not be a cause for immediate panic, you should observe changes in your cat’s environment that may trigger a psychological upset. And if your cat’s normal activity levels do not resume in a few days, you should seek veterinary advice.
Cats may not be able to express themselves clearly, especially when it has to do with their health. That’s why you need to regularly do a home health check for your cat to keep them in tip-top condition.
If you notice conditions that are beyond your control, you should visit your veterinarian for proper medical attention.