Sphinx is a rather unsociable cat. Although he’s affectionate towards his family, he’ll only come for a cuddle on his own terms. He spends most of his time outdoors or in the basement, stalking mice and sleeping in a sunny rec-room windowsill.
His person Zoey was taken completely by surprise when she one day found Sphinx curled in a dark corner of her closet, looking miserable. Veterinary tests revealed he had a gastrointestinal infection, probably brought about by eating something bad. “Because he spends so much time outside, I had no idea he’d probably been suffering from diarrhea and vomiting for a day or two,” Zoey says.
Luckily, antiobiotics and probiotics brought Sphinx back to health in a few days, but Zoey resolved to keep a closer watch on her feline friend from then on.
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 well being 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Any unexplained weight changes indicate that something is going on with his health.
• Take a look at your cat’s coat. Is it shiny and sleek? Dullness and excessive shedding can suggest a health problem.
• Over-grooming, scratching and biting usually indicate fleas, but can also be signs of stress or skin allergies.
• 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.
• When stroking or grooming your cat, be alert for any unusual bumps, lumps or sores on his skin.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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!