6 Tips For Keeping Up With Your Cat’s Health

When a person is sick, it’s usually pretty obvious. We’re not claiming that everyone goes down for the count when they get a minor cold, but we’re usually not ourselves. We tend to gripe about aches and pains, sneeze, cough and avoid our usual routines and work. Cats, on the other hand, intentionally hide their illness. The tactic stems from their wild ancestors, where appearing sick made an animal an easy target for predators. So, how can you pick up on a cat’s subtle cues that they might be sick? Keep reading for six signs to watch for.

Keep an Eye on Their Weight

It’s important to know your kitty’s average weight and keep an eye on it over time. Your veterinarian will weigh your cat when you bring them in, and this can help you establish a good baseline. Sudden or gradual weight loss without an explanation can be a sign of an underlying disease. Some illnesses, like hyperthyroidism or lymphoma have few or no signs aside from weight loss.

You can weigh your cat at home using a digital scale. First, stand on the scale without your cat. Then, hold your cat and step on the scale again. The difference between those two measurements is your cat’s weight. If you have a wiggly cat who doesn’t like to be held, try weighing their empty carrier, then put them inside and put the carrier on the scale. For more sensitive measurements, a handheld travel scale also works well.

Watch Them Move

If your cat has lost that fluid movement that cats are known for, it could be osteoarthritis. Watch for stiff movements or a reluctance to jump to places they used to. Speaking with your veterinarian and finding a pain control medication can bring relief to your little fuzzball. Keep in mind that over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen are harmful and possibly fatal to cats, so don’t use any medication not recommended by your veterinarian.

Pay Attention to Habits

Cats are creatures of habit. In an ideal situation, they’ll eat at similar times each day and interact with you in some sort of a routine. Changes in these habits can indicate illness or stress.

The same goes for your cat’s sleep habits. In kittens, sudden bouts of sleeping with little interest in play does not always indicate a threatening illness, but it does mean that something has changed. A quick call to the veterinarian can help you decide whether it warrants further investigation.

As cats age, they naturally sleep more, but again, a sudden increase can signal something else. Paying attention to whether they sleep in a hunched position, or if they’re not sleeping in their normal locations can help determine whether it’s time for a veterinarian visit.

Check Their Breathing

Paying attention to your cat’s breathing rate can give you insight into heart disease, an all-too-common condition for cats. Count your cat’s breath while they sleep over the course of a minute, where each “in and out” is one breath. An ideal respiratory rate is less than 30 per minute, and the breaths should be slow and relaxed. If they appear to be elevated, or short and spastic, it could indicate issues with their heart, lungs or chest.

Observe the Litter

You might not want to hear it, but your cat’s litter can tell you a lot about their health. While there are now litters available on the market that can help you identify health issues by changing colour, you can also monitor for other changes. Urine clumps that are smaller than normal, or appear less often (or not at all, even when your cat is visiting the box) can mean that your cat is having bladder issues. On the other hand, larger urine clumps or more frequent urination can be a sign that kidney disease or diabetes are rearing their heads.

As far as stool, it should appear as long cylinders that are somewhat moist. Constipation can occur in older cats, evidenced by dry, hard and infrequent stools. Whether you notice urinary or stool issues, checking with your veterinarian can help you identify and treat the issue.

Monitor “Bad” Behaviour

Cats who are unwell sometimes engage in less than desirable behaviours. A cat with urinary tract issues might choose to relieve themself in a basket of laundry, as they’ve started to associate the litterbox with pain. They might suddenly meowl or snap at you when you touch a sore joint during a cuddle session, or seem desperate for food even after they’ve been fed, begging and pawing at your plate during mealtimes.

Brush Your Cat

As long as you can manage, brushing or combing your cat regularly can help you identify potential health issues. Things like hair loss, scabs or nail problems easily go unnoticed until you brush your cat. By keeping a regular brushing schedule, you’ll stay on top of issues before they get out of hand.

Check-in With the Veterinarian

Detecting and preventing illness as early as possible is key to keeping your cat happy and healthy. Scheduling appointments with your veterinarian on a regular basis is key to staying on top of your cat’s health. Routine vaccination, flea and parasite control, and other preventive measures will keep your kitty purring. A lifelong relationship with your vet is key to a happy, healthy household!

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