How to Thoroughly Examine Your Cat

If you are a cat owner, you want him or her to be healthy. Knowing how a healthy cat looks, feels and even smells can help spot any changes that may require your veterinarian’s attention. Examining your healthy cat from head to toe helps establish a baseline. It’s important to first point out that a “disability” such as amputation, blindness, or hearing loss does not automatically rule out overall health. For example, an active blind cat may be much healthier than an obese cat with excellent vision. A thorough inspection of the cat’s head (and all elements of the head) is a good place to start.

before you start

You’ll want your cat to be relaxed to begin your home exam. The head of a healthy, observant cat usually gives the impression of alertness. The head is held high except in special circumstances, such as sleeping or wandering around.

what do you need

No tools are required, but it may be helpful to record the test date. In case you do find something, you’ll have some record of when it started.

Check the skin for abnormalities

Place your hands on the cat’s head, along the chin line and cheeks, and around the neck. Know that all lumps and bumps on your cat’s head are in good health. Crinkle the fur so you can check the skin for scabs, redness, fleas, etc. Consult your veterinarian if you feel or see anything new or unusual.

Check your cat’s ears

Except for the Scottish Fold and American Curl, all cats have triangular ears. The outer ear hair is short and usually thinner than the hair on the rest of the cat’s body. Because of this, white cats and other cats with light-colored ears are prone to squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer that tends to attack the tips of these cats’ ears and pink noses. Any signs of sores or scabs or a “skinky” appearance that don’t heal properly should trigger a visit from your veterinarian.

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The ears should be clean and free of ear mites, unusual lumps, or signs of infection. While a small amount of wax is usually present in a cat’s ear, there should be no foul-smelling or visible pus or drainage that can cause hearing loss. A cat with healthy ears should not shake its head or scratch its ears with its paws. Any of these signs is a red flag that the veterinarian should see the cat right away.

look at your cat’s eye

Your cat’s eyes should be clear, bright, and alert to his surroundings. Pupils may be narrow or wide, depending on the amount of light passing through them, but they should be the same size. The whites of the eyes should be white with no signs of yellowing or redness. Although you may see tiny blood vessels on the surface of the white of your eye, the presence of blood in the eye cavity can be a veterinary emergency. Squinting or blinking can also indicate an eye injury, such as a foreign object or a scratch from another cat. These also indicate that a veterinarian should be consulted. Conjunctivitis can be seen with reddening of the pink membrane on the eyelid, which is sometimes difficult to treat. None of these conditions apply to DIY home remedies. Either of them can eventually lead to serious problems and blindness if left untreated.

Check the cat’s nose

It’s no surprise that a healthy cat’s sense of smell is much stronger than a human’s, since a cat’s nose may be one of its most valuable assets. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate food in the form of prey, to sniff out enemies (predators, dogs, other cats), or to find mates. Cats use their own scent glands to mark their territory, which can be miles away in the wild. They used the vomeronasal (Jacobson) organ in the nose to identify pheromones — chemicals important for communication between individuals.

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A cat’s nose skin can be any color, including black and pink, or even a combination of colors.You may notice some black dots called Simple mole on the nose and face. These are usually normal, but consult your veterinarian if they grow or change rapidly.

The nostrils should be clear of mucus, not “running.” Although cats may sometimes sneeze due to allergies or dust, persistent, severe sneezing may indicate a foreign body, nasal tumor, nasal mites, or other potentially serious health problems in their nasal passages. So is the cat’s paw on its nose? This is more common in cats that are allowed outdoors, who may have inhaled foxtail or sharp blades of grass. This requires immediate veterinary attention.

give your cat a dental checkup

Like its nose, a healthy cat’s mouth and lips may be pink or black. Sometimes as cats age, they may develop black pigmented spots on their previously pink lips, which is normal. The normal color of a healthy cat’s gums and palate is “bubble gum” pink. Very pale gums or deep pink to red inflamed gums, especially when present with other symptoms, should be examined by a veterinarian immediately.

As obligate carnivores, cats’ teeth not only kill their prey, but also shred and shred its flesh for swallowing. The cat’s tooth is also an important defensive weapon. An adult cat has 30 teeth, 16 above and 14 below:

  • 12 front teeth: Used for grooming and scraping shredded meat from the bones of prey.
  • 4 canine teeth (aka “fangs”): Mainly used for defense and killing prey.
  • 10 Premolars: For use with molars.
  • 4 molars: Unlike humans, cats don’t “grind” food with their molars. Instead, they work in a “slicing and dicing” fashion, kind of like an electric meat slicer.
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A cat’s teeth are usually white with little to no tartar buildup. They are firmly rooted in the cat’s jawbone. Any signs of redness of the gums around the teeth or loose teeth should be investigated by a veterinarian. Following a regular dental care plan will help ensure healthy teeth and gums.

Find all cat whiskers

While the long whiskers above the upper lip on either side of the nostrils are what we usually think of as whiskers, cats also have whiskers above the eyebrows, behind the cheeks, and shorter on the back of the front legs.

These super-strong hairs are called tentacles, or tactile hairs, which are at least twice as thick as normal cat hair, three times deeper at the root and surrounded by nerves and blood vessels. Whiskers should never be trimmed, as they are tools that cats need. They shed occasionally, just like normal hair shedding, but the replacements grow back.

A cat’s whiskers are so sensitive that they can sense a whisper of a breeze. Their whiskers are invaluable in judging wind speed and direction, which helps them protect themselves and identify the location of potential prey.

Prevent problems during a head exam

If your cat starts to hesitate during the exam, take a break. You’ll want to be thorough, but there’s no reason to make your cat miserable. Give the cat some time and pick up where you left off. The exam can take hours or days, but please make sure you complete and date your notes correctly.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can provide the best advice for your pet.


How to Thoroughly Examine Your Cat
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