Very often, merely looking at a cat will tell you quite a lot about his or her overall health. It is important to know the things one should observe when looking for a new cat. Please remember when adopting a new cat, that even a cat with less than excellent health may be a wonderful pet once he or she gets the proper medical treatment.
Here are some things to look for when trying to assess a cat's health.
The 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 his or her 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 in our cat forums.
Cats 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.
The cat's coat directly reflects his or her 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.
The 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 minuscule ear parasite common among cats). Very often, a cat infected with ear mites will also scratch its ears and shake his or her 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.
The 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.
More about cat eyes here: cat-eyes
The 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.
The 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.
Read More on cat-dental-care.
The 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 the disease.
Even without diarrhea, worms can sometimes be spotted around the anus, particularly tapeworm, which often looks like small white and soft grains of rice.
Once you bring your new cat home, it is important to keep an eye on his health and to pay attention to changes in his condition. The cat cannot speak and tell us when something hurts or annoys him, 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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