The best way to tell if your cat is poorly is to know how she behaves when she is healthy. Cats are incredibly good at hiding an illness which means even subtle changes in behaviour can indicate a serious change in health.
A lazy shorthaired house cat stretching out its paws
General behavior changes to look out for include:
- Eating / Drinking
- Toilet Habits
It is also important to realise that with some of the traits listed above both positive and negative changes in can indicate a problem. For example, a cat who has come into contact with rat poison will probably have a decreased appetite but a cat who has worms may have an increased appetite.
If you are worried about any recent changes in your cat the best thing to do is to take them to the vet for a check up.
Checking Your Cat’s Eyes
Cat’s have great eyesight which comes in very handy for not only hunting but expressing emotion. It is therefore very important that their eyes are in tip top condition. If you think your cat may have impaired vision then there are a few ways you can check before taking her to the vet.
A young black and white kitten with great big yellow eyes
Physical Appearance Of Eyes - if the eye looks cloudy or has any visible surface scratches then this can be indicative of a problem.
Move Something Towards Your Cat’s Eyes Slowly - when settled with her eyes open you can move your hand or a toy towards her eyes slowly. If your cat doesn’t focus on the item or react as you move the toy towards her eyes then they may be a problem with your cat's vision.
Shine A Light In Your Cat's Eyes - using a small torch or reading light you can shine light into your cat's eyes. A healthy response is for the pupil to shrink/constrict and for the cat to blink, squint or turn away. A blind cat will show little to no change to a light being shined in its eyes.
Place Your Cat On The Sofa And Observe How They Get Down - a healthy cat will jump without a second thought but cats with vision impairments may reach out with their paws as if they are trying to determine where the floor is before they jump.
Checking Your Cat’s Ears
When you think about cats you will almost certainly picture their iconic ears. Cats have great hearing and have the ability to point their ears in order to improve their hearing in a certain direction. With such big ears it is unsurprising that they can suffer from a range of ear problems.
A close up of a Khao Manee cat's wonderful pink ears
Some easy checks you can do include:
Dirt And Wax - a little bit of dirt or wax is normal so you are really looking for an excessive build up. Its best to know what your cats ears look like when they are healthy so you can determine what is excessive for your cat.
Blood, Redness Or Inflammation - any of these symptoms can indicate injury or infection.
Smell - Smelly ears is usually a sign of an ear infection.
Itching Or Scratching - if your cat has itchy ears then they may well have picked up some ear mites.
Call Your Cat From Another Room - an easy way to check that your cat’s hearing is ok, although not the most effective as some stubborn cats won’t come when called. If you have a headstrong kitty then you may find rattling her cat kibble tin will work better.
If any of the above symptoms are present then you should take your cat to the vet for a check up.
Checking Your Cat’s Mouth
Cat’s have over 130 types of bacteria living in their mouths that cause disease. Yet they still have cleaner mouths than humans. But just like us, cats can have problems with their teeth and gums. To catch a problem before it develops into a serious health issue you should regularly check your cat’s mouth. If you start to notice your cat eating less due to problems with its jaw or mouth then the chances are it has been a problem for a long time already.
A beautiful young kitten yawning with its mouth wide open
Checking your cat’s mouth is easy and only takes a couple of minutes.
Make sure your cat is relaxed - the best time to check your cat’s mouth is when she is settled and relaxed on your lap.
Lift the flaps of her gums - either side of the top jaw where the whiskers come out you can lift back the skin to expose the teeth and gums. Be careful not to put your fingers directly into her cat’s mouth as she may bite you.
Examine her teeth and gums and take note of any changes in breath smell.
Gum colour - Healthy gums are usually pink. Brown, black and red gums are a sign of gum disease.
Gum recession - A cat with gum problems may show gum recession. This is where the gum moves away from the tooth and can expose the tooth’s root.
Plaque and Tartar - If you notice plaque or tartar build up on your cat’s teeth then it’s possible that serious tooth decay is happening underneath.
Bleeding gums - any blood on the gums or teeth is a sure sign of a serious gum problem.
Broken or loose teeth - it's important to notice any broken teeth quickly as they can cause a lot of pain, especially if left for a long time.
Lumps and bumps on gums - abnormal tissue growth on the gums can indicate an array of problems so best to get them checked out asap.
Swollen gums - this usually occurs if there is an abscess in the mouth which can be very painful.
Breath - cats aren’t known for their fresh smelling breath. But if you notice your cat's breath is particularly stinky then this may indicate an underlying mouth problem.
If you notice any of the above problems with your cat’s mouth then a visit to the vet as soon as possible is in order. It's always best to get your cat checked out by a vet when you suspect a mouth problem as these can be quick to progress, and significantly reduce the quality of life for your cat.