Keeping on top of your cats physical condition requires good detective work. Conduct active and passive surveillance to discover problems early, says James Richards, DVM, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.
In the wild, a weakened or diseased cat is vulnerable to predators, so cats have become masters at masking problems. In order to determine what is abnormal for your cat, observe first how she behaves normally. For example, how much does she eat and drink? How often does she defecate? These things may vary from cat to cat.
Seek clues to your cats condition to detect problems before it is too late. As part of your passive surveillance, monitor your cats input. Make sure she is not skipping meals, eating less or more, and that shes drinking the normal amount of water, says Richards. Any change could signal problems.
Likewise, examine her output. Monitor the frequency and consistency of bowel movements, says Richards. Loose stools, changes in their color, and fresh blood or mucous in the stools are all things that alert a cats person to potential problems.
Changes in urination may also signal health problems. If the litter box is wetter, it means the cat is urinating greater amounts, says Richards. This is a different problem from a cat visiting the box more frequently but not urinating.
Pay attention to your cats behavior. Is the cat washing or sleeping more or less? Is she limping or vomiting? Is she hiding?
One way to conduct active surveillance of your cats health is to perform a mini physical examination at least once a month. We want to find out if the cat is having problems before a disease is advanced and the cat is showing obvious signs of distress, says Richards.
Make the physical examination as non-threatening as possible. Make the cat think the examination is an extension of just stroking and petting, says Richards.
While scratching your cats chin, lift her lip and look at her gums and teeth. Feel her skin for any lumps and bumps. Push her hair forward to look for flea dirt or excessive dandruff. Check her feet for changes in the pads or for ingrown toenails.
Although ingrown nails are uncommon, they can happen in older or polydactyl cats, says Richards.
Lift your cats tail to see if there are any stools stuck to her hair. Feces clinging to a cats hair can happen more often in chubby or longer haired cats, says Richards.
Check her ears for the presence of debris or odor. Look at her eyes and nose for any discharge. Check the inner eyelids. If you have any questions, ask your veterinarian, says Richards.
Regular monitoring of your cats physical condition will help ensure that she remains a healthy companion for many years to come.