Cats are very good at not showing when they’re unwell. Cats can go quiet, and unless they’re an indoor cat using a litter tray, it’s not as easy for pet owners to monitor their cat’s health and toilet habits, which can indicate any signs of them being under the weather.
Unlike dogs, cats live their lives fairly independently and have developed a trait to protect themselves from being vulnerable, which suggests why they can hide some signs of being unwell. To help pet owners monitor their cat’s health, we have put together a cat health checklist to provide you with more information on how to check on their general health between veterinary appointments.
How to Check your Cat's Health at Home
Checking the health of your cat’s coat and skin
A cat’s fur and skin is a major indicator of the quality of their overall health. Check their coat is shiny, clean, free from dandruff, ticks, and fleas. Always keep your pet’s preventative treatments up-to-date, as fleas and ticks can cause irritation and for your pet to scratch, which can cause cuts and lead to a bacterial infection.
Any signs of dry skin, redness and hair loss can also indicate that they’re unwell. Read more about common cat skin problems here.
How to maintain your cat’s claws
Active, outdoor cats can use trees and materials to climb and naturally wear down their claws to keep them clean and sharp. Scratching posts are a useful way of encouraging indoor cats to maintain their claws and so they don’t use your furniture as a target. Check that your cat’s claws don’t grow too long, which is caused by a lack of maintenance, as long nails can curve into their pads which can lead to an infection.
If your cat will sit still, pet owners can also trim their cat’s nails regularly using domestic animal nail clippers. Be careful to not cut the ‘quick’, which is the nerve ending that runs into the nail. If you cut their claws too close to the quick, this can cause bleeding and discomfort. Your local vet will be able to help cut your cat’s claws if you aren’t comfortable doing this.
How to check your cat’s ears, eyes and nose
Cat’s ears are very delicate, so observe your cat’s ears carefully when they’re comfortably sat down, sleeping, or even while they are grooming. Check that your cats’ ears are clean, have no wax, dirt, or smell. Ear mites can leave a reddy/brown wax and cause irritation, which may lead to your cat itching and scratching the area. Any small cuts, redness, or bumps can indicate a skin infection. Cat’s with thin or no fur may require sunscreen to protect their skin from burning in high temperatures.
Check that your cat’s eyes look bright, with no crusting, redness, cloudiness, discharge, or swelling. Cats may paw at their eyes if they have an infection and should be seen by a vet straight away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Cat’s noses can vary from dry to being moist. A healthy cat’s nose should be clean, smooth and free of any discharge and crustiness.
How to check the health of your cat’s teeth, mouth, and gums
Cats are less likely to allow pet owners to open their mouths, so checking on their oral health can be tricky. If they allow you, check their teeth and gums regularly by gently opening their mouth to look inside. Healthy gums should be a pale pink or black and have clean white teeth with no signs of dark brown tartar.
If your cat starts dropping their food, shows a lack of interest in eating, drools or has bad breath, this can indicate an underlying infection.
How to check your cat’s digestive health
Frequent vomiting and diarrhoea are signs of ill digestive health. Cats often eat grass and may vomit infrequently, but if these symptoms increase, get in touch with your vet straight away.
How to check if your cat is a healthy weight
Pet obesity is common, as an estimated 39 – 52% of cats are diagnosed with obesity. Cats over 2 years tend to be more overweight as they naturally become less active, whereas senior cats more commonly lose weight as they get older as their appetite decreases. Kittens and cats under two have more energy and should weigh in at their optimum weight unless they are overfed/ find other sources of food when they’re out roaming.
To check if your cat is under or overweight, you should be able to feel your cat’s ribs without pressing too hard when stroking them, and their belly shouldn’t hang down. An overweight cat may have a level of excess fat around their abdomen and no obvious waistline, which starts between your cat’s ribs and hips.
An underweight cat’s bones are more visible, with their ribs more prominent as less fat is stored around the abdominal area, and their waist highly accentuated. Underweight cats can experience an ‘abdominal tuck’, as their tummy appears to be sucked in.
Further signs that your cat might be unwell
While cats are independent animals, any noticeable changes in your cat’s mood can be an indication they’re not happy, unwell, or stressed. All cats’ personalities are unique, so keep an eye on any changes that are different from how your cat behaves usually.
A cat may seem on edge by spiking their fur, or withdraw from your affection if they have an injury or underlying infection.
When should I contact the vet?
If you notice any changes in your cat’s general health, don’t hesitate to visit your local Animal Trust clinic. We provide free consultations to all our patients, no matter how many times you visit, so we can help pets across the north-west access expert veterinary advice and treatment as soon as they need help.
Use our online booking system to arrange a free appointment at your nearest Animal Trust clinic. You will only be charged for any treatment required following your pet’s diagnosis.