even a cat with less then excellent health may be a wonderful pet once it gets the proper medical treatment.
Here are some things to look for when trying to assess a cat's health.
BehaviorThe level of activity may vary from one cat to another. Some perfectly healthy cats are very calm and do not easily respond to external stimuli. Still, kittens are in most cases particularly active and curious - an indifferent kitten that does not move around much might be ill and you need to consult your veterinarian at once.
Always keep an eye on the basic behavior patterns such as using the litterbox, grooming, and of course, eating and drinking. If anything strikes you as odd, consult your vet. After keeping a cat for some time and coming to know its nature, you can identify with relative ease any significant change in the way the cat behaves. If you're a first-time owner, and not sure what to expect as "normal" you are welcome to ask experienced owners on our cat forums.
PostureCats are the masters of balance. A healthy cat's gait is steady and fluid. A cat showing signs of losing balance could be suffering from various health problems. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as cerebellar hypoplasia. Limping, difficulty with jumping, or any other problem related to movement, can indicate anything from nutritional deficiencies to fractures or even eye or ear problems.
CoatThe cat's coat directly reflects its state of health. The fur of a healthy cat is smooth and pleasant to touch, and does not show bald patches, wounds, or cat fleas. A dry and coarse coat may be a sign of unbalanced nutrition.
The presence of fleas can be detected by tiny black dots, hidden down deep near the roots of the hairs. Read more about fleas, how to find them and how to treat them in our article about cat fleas. Their presence of fleas usually indicates worms in the cat's intestines, as well as possible skin problems that might be directly caused by flea bites.
EarsThe cat's ears should be pink and clean. If you see a waxy brownish-black secretion in the cat's ears, check for the presence of ear mites (a miniscule ear parasite common among cats). Very often, a cat infected with ear mites will also scratch its ears and shake its head, and you may be able to see scabs in that area. You will not be able to see the mites themselves, as they are microscopic. A vet needs to give the final diagnosis and will also guide you about the treatment.
EyesThe healthy cat's eyes are shiny and clear, and lacking any secretion. Cats have a third, inner eyelid, which is usually wide open and not exposed. If the third eyelid is not fully open, it can be seen covering a part of the eye. This situation can indicate a health problem, since it is often a sign of physical or emotional stress.
NoseThe nose of a healthy cat should be velvety and pleasant in texture, and without any discharge. The nose can be moist to varying degrees, but never very wet.
MouthThe cat's mouth should be pink, clean, and without any bad breath. The teeth should be whole, white, and without excess tartar. It is recommended to have the cat's teeth regularly examined, and teeth problems dealt with in a timely fashion. Other signs of possible mouth disease are drooling and an apparent grooming problem - cats that suffer from infections in the mouth area often avoid self-grooming.
The rearThe cat's rear end and genitals should be clean - Dirt in that area might indicate a problem of diarrhea. Diarrhea may be a sign of poor nutrition, worms or even some form of disease. Even without diarrhea, worms can sometimes be spotted around the anus, particularly tapeworm, which often look like small white and soft grains of rice.
Once you bring your new cat home, it is important to keep an eye on its health and to pay attention to changes in its condition. The cat cannot speak and tell us when something hurts or annoys it, and it is our duty to be alert. When a medical problem is suspected, do not hesitate. The veterinarian should be called and consulted at once. Do not wait to see if the cat gets well on its own. Many medical problems can be treated easily early on, while postponing treatment causes suffering to the cat and higher treatment costs.
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