Firstly, performing a feline health check should not replace your regular vet visits. But, being aware of your cat’s physical and emotional condition can help pick up potential problems before they become serious. Cats can be very good at hiding signs of illness and pain so it is important that the health check is performed carefully and methodically.
You should observe how much your cat eats. Loss of appetite can be one of the first signs that your cat is feeling unwell. If your cat hasn’t eaten for 24 hours or has a diminished appetite for more than 2 days, you should contact your vet.
It can be difficult to monitor how much water your cat drinks. Depending on their diet, age, size, how active they are and the time of year can all dictate how much water they should be drinking. It is vital though that you try to notice if your cat starts taking more trips to the water bowl or increases their water consumption. Polydipsia (excessive thirst) is often indicative to underlying health problems.
It can be challenging to weigh a cat at home but its weight is a good benchmark of health so it’s an important measurement to record. The most accurate way to weigh a cat is to place them in a travel carrier with a handle and use a luggage scale to measure the weight. If your cat is becoming over weight it has an increased risk of developing diabetes, osteoarthritis pain and hypertension to name a few. If your cat is loosing weight it could be a symptom of an underlying health problem and is best to consult your vet.
4. Skin & Coat
Your cat’s skin should not be dry, flaky or inflamed. Depending on breed, their coat should be full and shiny without any split ends, bald patches or dandruff. The fur should not be greasy and should be free of any matting. In a healthy cat if you gently pull the skin around the neck it will instantly fall back to normal. If the skin stays in a ‘tented’ position it is a sign of dehydration. If your cat is ill and the skin is tenting you need to contact a vet.
Ears should be clean and odor free. Check for any bleeding or thick brown waxy discharge. There should not be any pain when you gently feel around the base of the ear. If your cat keeps scratching at its ears or shaking its head rapidly, this could indicate mites or an ear infection.
Healthy cats eyes should be bright and clear, with no signs of runniness, soreness or discharge. Both pupils should be the same size and reactive to light or stimuli.
A cat’s nose is usually soft with no crusting on the surface. A wet or dry nose is not necessarily an indicator of health. The nose shouldn’t be runny, have any discharge or be bleeding. If you do notice any discharge or sneezing you should take him to the vet to rule out cat flu.
The teeth should be clean, smooth and white in colour. Gums should be a pink colour with no swelling or redness. If your cat’s teeth are brown or black, or their gums are red or bleeding you will need to take them to the vet. Other signs of mouth problems are dropping of food, reluctance to eat, drooling, pawing at the mouth and bad breath.
Your cats breathing should be steady and effortless. A cat’s normal respiratory rate is between 20 to 30 breaths per minute while at rest. Difficulty breathing and coughing are indicators of potentially serious problems. Rapid, laboured or open-mouth breathing requires emergency veterinary attention.
10. Body check
Run your hands along your cat’s entire body and tail with gentle pressure. If you notice any lumps and bumps or if your cat responds with discomfort in any one area take them to the vet.
Keep an eye on your cat’s mobility. If your cat starts having difficulty with movements such as jumping, walking or is limping you should consult your vet. Decreased range of movement or pain while moving could indicate injury, arthritis or potentially more serious conditions.
You know your cat best
If you observe your cat sleeping more than usual, or if he seems subdued and less playful, it can mean your cat is feeling under the weather. Unwell cats can also shy away from human contact, start urinating in unusual locations or sometimes appear unusually aggressive for no obvious reason. Remember, you know your cat best and if you notice any unusual changes contact your vet for advice.