The first thing you need to understand is your cats eating, sleeping and bathroom habits. Touching and grooming from head to tail will also help you understand what is normal, so that you are more aware of signs when your cat becomes ill.
1. Weight Loss is cats aren’t normal and call is a sign of illness. Things that you can watch for: look at your cat from above. You should see a waistline. Now view your cat from the side and see if the belly hangs. In a normal-weight cat, there should be no hang. Next, put your hands on your cat’s back and make sure you can feel the ribs.
2. Messy Coat: When cats are nervous, they often raise their fur of their coats and shed excessively. If that’s the case, a change in the environment — such as a big move — could be stressing your cat. If your cat has stopped grooming and the coat looks clumpy or flaky, that may be cause for concern, as cats are normally fastidious groomers.
3. Bad Breath and Pale Gums: Checking your cat’s gums and teeth regularly can help you spot changes more easily. Pale gums, or paleness in the ears or around the eyeballs — for cats with black gums — can signify illness. This subtle color change can indicate poor circulation and disease. In addition, check the teeth and make sure there is no plaque or tartar. Another illness tip-off? Unpleasant-smelling breath that doesn’t come from something you’ve put in the food bowl.
4. Dilated Eyes: Gaze into your cat’s eyes. You should see similar-sized pupils that aren’t dilated. With some illnesses, the pupils can dilate and remain dilated. One pupil may even appear to be slightly larger than the other.
5. Shallow, Quick Breathing: Respiratory problems can be another red flag for health woes, but you often have to watch cats closely to know they’re having problems. In retrospect, you may realize that your cat has been hiding or hunched up, with its breathing shallow but quick.
6. Behavioral Changes: While the above clues deal with bodily changes, behavioral changes may also alert you to problems. For instance, something could be awry if your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box, straining in the litter box, and hiding in odd places, not interacting with family members, becoming aggressive or irritable, or bouncing off the walls.
Even with these clues at your fingertips, how do you know when you need to call for expert medical help? Any of these things should drive you to the veterinarian’s office immediately: breathing difficulties, changes in the pupils, and straining to urinate or defecate. Otherwise, watch your cat for a few days. If you still suspect a problem, call your veterinarian without delay.
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