It’s always a good idea to take cats to the vet for a wellness check every year. However, during the in-between time, it’s best to continue keeping an eye on your cat at home with health checks. The Refined Feline has compiled some necessary steps you can take at home to check on your cat. This will ensure that they’re at their optimal health and that YOU are taking care of your furry feline!

Know Your Cat’s Typical Behaviors

Knowing your cat’s “normal” range of behaviors for them specifically can help you realize when something is amiss. Your cat will undoubtedly have certain personality traits you have noticed, along with a routine they stick to. Your cat will most likely do certain things at specific times during the day. As a pet parent, you know your cat well, and can quickly pick up on their subtle behavior changes when they’re not feeling their best. You’ll be familiar with their meows, purrs, and chirps; also when they want toys, treats, and their general movements and gait. It is vital to pay attention to how your cat interacts with you, other family members, and even when company comes over. It’s also recommended to occasionally observe their bathroom habits, as well as noting how much they eat and drink when they’re feeling good. This will be your baseline for when they seem to not feel good, which can alert you to any problems. If your cat is feeling a little “off”, this may present itself as a decreased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, and more.

Cats can be tricky though, as they will hide their sickness to protect themselves, like in the wild. Cats can sometimes be the prey in certain situations, and they don’t want to show weakness to any potential predators, even if they are indoor cats. So it’s important to note any changes you see in your cat, whether it’s only happened once or a new behavior that occurs every day. Even the smallest changes in their routine can be signs that something may not be right. Having that baseline of your cat and their “normal” behavior will make it easier to notice these behavior changes, so keep a close eye on your frisky feline!

On average, healthy cats will have bright, round, clear eyes with just a little bit of their extra eyelid showing. They will visit the food and water bowl a few times throughout the day, in addition to the litter box. Typically, cats will urinate a few times a day and defecate at least once, producing feces that hold a shape. Their coat will be non-greasy, clean, sleek, and free of mats. They will also jump without difficulty and move around easily throughout your home. Even though cats will occasionally be a little clumsy, if it starts increasing, you may want to schedule a vet visit.

Giving Your Cat A Home Health Check

It’s never a bad time to check your cat’s overall body condition whenever you’re interacting with them- purrrfect timing!  Since they are covered in fur, it’s far too easy to not notice something under the fluff, like a scratch, bite, or something stuck. You’ll want to check them thoroughly- feeling your cat’s head, body, and tail for any bumps, lumps, or even hair loss. If you suspect fleas, you can use a flea brush to check for them. You can also part a small patch of their fur and note any small, black bugs or dots on their skin- the dots are flea dirt. To check their limbs for any stiffness or pain, move them in an ambulatory fashion and note if there’s any resistance. Your cat may not be a fan of this method, so you can also touch and feel their limbs to detect any other concerns. You’ll want to check their skin’s elasticity and hydration by lifting the patch of skin in-between their shoulder blades. If the skin quickly and easily snaps back down, they are hydrated. If the skin is very slow to return and your kitty is younger, this may be a sign of dehydration. If your cat is older, this could be loose skin from shedding a few pounds over the years.

Check On Your Cat’s Eyes & Ears During A Home Health Check

Next, look at your cat’s eyes to  be sure they are bright and clear. They shouldn’t be weeping or running, have any type of discharge, or be squinted. The third eyelid should be visible, but if it’s covering the majority of their eye, they may not be feeling well. Your cat’s ears should be a light pink and free of any discharge, wax, parasites, wounds, or odor. You can use a makeup round or a cotton ball with a little water to check their cleanliness. If you wipe out any brown-colored discharge, it’s most likely wax. If it’s darker or has an odor to it, your kitty may have an ear infection. It’s best at that point to leave the ears alone and bring them to the vet to get started on treatment. If your cat is holding their ears at differing angles too, this may be an indication of an infection. Another sign is if they excessively scratch their ears, so be sure to check them out frequently.

Peek In Your Cat’s Mouth During A Home Health Check

Your cat may not let you check out their mouth on a consistent basis, which is another reason to keep an eye on it. See if you can at least lift their lip to check out their gums, which should be light pink and free of inflammation and bleeding. Try pressing the tip of your finger to their gums, which will cause it to pale slightly but it should return to its normal pink color. If it looks red, pale, or is slow to return to pink, it may be time to visit your vet. Every opportunity you get, check their mouth for severe inflammation around the tooth line, and any loose or jutting teeth. If there is any odor or bad breath, this means your kitty is due for a dental cleaning. Your cat may also require dental treatment if your cat seems uncomfortable or there are loose teeth. Don’t forget to check over your cat’s paws by pressing down to expose their nails. Check the entire paw for any wounds or broken nails, and while you’re at it, give them a good trim if needed.

Related: Ways To Keep Your Cat Safe And Healthy Indoors

Spotting the Signs   

Cats can easily feel great one day, and then feel “blah” the next. It can also be more of a gradual decline, like as they age they will begin to get a little thinner. One clear indication that something is wrong is when your cat acts almost the opposite of their norm. These examples can include:

  • If your highly quiet and reserved kitty is suddenly meowing more often
  • If your energetic or very young cat is constantly playing on their cat tower and is suddenly lethargic
  • If your cat is quickly drinking all of their water, requiring you to refill their bowl multiple times a day
  • If your super clean and tidy cat is suddenly not using the litter box any longer
  • If you’re scooping much less or much more than usual from your cat’s litter box
  • Any drastic or unexpected behavioral changes, such as your quiet cat becoming very agitated or cranky

Noticing what is normal for your cat can help you detect when something is off much quicker. Being in tune with your cat’s behavior and quirks can help you notice those tiny changes, which could mean big changes to their current health. Since your cat can’t tell you when they’re not doing well, the faster you notice something is wrong, the quicker you can help them. They’ll be feeling better  in no time, and you’ll be relieved that your kitty is healthy and happy! You got this handled, pet parent!