How to perform a monthly health check on your cat
Performing a check on your cat is not to replace veterinary attention, but being aware of your cat’s physical and emotional condition between visits can help pick up potential problems quickly. Catching possible health problems early is an important aspect of cat care.
It is prudent for cat owners to learn how to, and schedule time once a month to perform a monthly check. This should never replace professional examinations by your veterinarian, but as most pet owners only see their vet every 6 to 12 months, a monthly check can pick up a possible problem between visits.
Check for signs of bleeding, debris, dirt or wax. Look for signs of ear mites (reddish/brown discharge in the ear, bleeding from the ear, coffee-grounds like appearance in the ear, scratch marks, odour). You may notice a small amount of wax which is normal.
The ears should not have an unpleasant odour. Check the edge of your cat’s ears for thickening, scaling, lesions, and redness. Look for lumps, bumps or any swellings on the ear.
Check a cat’s hearing by having somebody stand behind the cat and clap. Does the cat react to the noise?
Bright and clear with no redness, swelling, weeping or discharge.
Take a look at the pupils (the black portion of the eye), are they bot the same size? The pupils should constrict (become narrower) in bright light and dilate (become larger) in low light.
Check the vision by holding a cotton ball above the cat’s head and dropping it. Does the cat react to the movement?
Free of discharge. Check for lumps, bumps, swellings, and ulcers which don’t heal or unexplained bleeding.
Some ginger cats will develop black spots on their nose and gums as they age, this condition is called lentigo and is harmless, however, it is still a good idea to speak to your veterinarian if spots develop on the nose.
Mouth, teeth, and gums:
The breath should not be unpleasant and the teeth should be white with no signs of chips or lesions.
Gums healthy looking and pink without receding, redness, bleeding or swelling. Check for signs of tartar around the gum line.
Look around the mouth, lips, and tongue for ulcers, lumps, bumps, swelling, and lesions.
Check for lumps and bumps on the chin. A dirty appearing chin may be a sign your cat has feline acne.
Skin and coat:
The skin should look healthy and pink with shiny and plush fur. Gently pull up the skin on the shoulder and release. It should spring back immediately if it doesn’t your cat is dehydrated.
Check the length, if they are too long (especially in indoor only cats) give them a trim. Pay attention to the paw pads, the nail fold (the white portion above the claws) and between the claws. Look for lumps, bumps, swelling, discharge or scabs.
Run your hands along the head, body, limbs, and tail checking for lumps, bumps, and signs of pain.
Pay close attention to the mammary glands (on both male and female cats) to look for changes such as ulceration or lumps on or around the glands.
Put your cat down and observe his movements. Does it appear stiff or uncomfortable? Is it avoiding using any limbs?
Observe your cat’s breathing. This should be even and appear to be easy and effortless. Increased respiration and or effort should not be observed. Also, check for panting, wheezing, coughing, suffering shortness of breath.
Keep a record of your cat’s weight. Run your hands along the cat’s ribs. You should be just able to feel the ribs. If they can be easily felt, your cat may be underweight, if you can’t feel them at all, he may be overweight.
Even with the monthly home check, it is important to be aware of your cat’s general routine, habits and physical appearance. If you notice any changes in behaviour such as increased or decreased thirst, increased or decreased hunger, changes in litter tray habits, sleeping more or less, not grooming, poor coat condition, wounds which do not heal, coughing, sneezing, etc., then seek immediate veterinary attention.