Health checklist for cats

Is your cat’s health as good as it could be? This checklist will help you figure it out.

Cats tend to hide discomfort well, so it can sometimes be hard to tell when they’re not feeling up to par. Taking the time to check in with your cat’s health on a regular basis can help catch problems before they become major. This checklist will help you determine when something might call for a vet visit.

1. Unusual behavior

Cats are creatures of routine. Any unexplained deviation from your cat’s normal behavior, such as hiding in strange places, restlessness and pacing, excessive vocalization or aggression, can be cause for concern.

2. Changes in his litter box habits

Any changes in your cat’s litter box habits can signal illness, stress or pain. These include eliminating outside the litter tray, urinating more or less than normal, blood in the urine or feces, and a change in stool frequency or consistency.

3. Vomit or hairballs

All cats vomit now and then, but if your cat starts throwing up more than normal, it may mean hairballs, illness or some form of food intolerance.

4. Changes in appetite

Watch for fluctuations in your cat’s appetite. A picky feline that suddenly becomes a hearty eater could indicate diabetes or thyroid issues. Similarly, a good eater that has lost his enthusiasm for food needs a veterinary check up as soon as possible.

5. Weight changes

Any unexplained weight changes indicate that something is going on with his health.

6. Changes in his fur

Take a look at your cat’s coat. Is it shiny and sleek? Dullness and excessive shedding can suggest a health problem.

7. Skin issue

Over-grooming, scratching and biting usually indicate fleas, but can also be signs of stress or skin allergies.

8. Oral health

Take a look inside his mouth. If his gums are red, his breath is bad, and there’s tartar on his teeth, he has periodontal disease. Another way to detect dental problems is to watch for signs such as difficulty eating, drooling, dropping food, and pawing at the mouth.

9. Lumps and bumps

When stroking or grooming your cat, be alert for any unusual bumps, lumps or sores on his skin.

10. Sleep habits

Many cats sleep up to 18 hours a day, but if your cat suddenly becomes unusually lethargic and is sleeping all the time, it’s time to call the vet. This is especially vital if he tires easily, his breathing seems labored, or he starts panting after exertion.

11. Mobility issues

Watch your cat as he walks, runs, jumps and plays. If he is limping or has any difficulty moving, he could be injured or developing arthritis.

12. Eyes

Look into your cat’s eyes. They should be clear and bright, with no discharge. His third eyelid will sometimes come partially across when he’s sleepy, but if it’s visible all the time, there’s something wrong.

13. Claws

Check your cat’s claws. If he’s an indoor cat, he will likely need them clipped from time to time. Claws that are too long can catch in carpeting and upholstery and cause injury. If you can’t do the clipping yourself, ask your vet to do it.

By keeping tabs on your kitty’s normal habits, behavior and appearance, you’ll be able to tell right away when something changes. Report anything unusual to your veterinarian as soon as you notice it, and you’ll have an excellent chance at averting serious health problems!


Ann Brightman is Managing Editor for Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has also been a writer and editor for over 25 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and is also a Tai Chi instructor.