As you'll know, routine vet visits are crucial for checking your pet's overall health and wellbeing. Depending on the age of your cat, they usually take place once or twice a year. While it's always important to attend these appointments, there are some quick and easy checks that you can do at home between these visits, too. These home checks can play an important role in detecting a condition before you've seen your vet, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.
1. Open wide
To properly check your cat's teeth and mouth, you have to do more than just take a quick look at the front few teeth, which can be tricky to do with some cats. You need to carefully lift the lips and look at the side and back teeth, too. Although not in the same way that humans do, cats can get ‘cavities’, known as resorptive lesions that can be as painful as tooth decay. You may be able to detect these by noticing little red spots on the crown of the tooth. Many cats persist in eating, but you might also notice yours drooling a bit more, or eating with only one side of her mouth. Remember that it’s important to book in a dental check with your vet at least once a year to ensure dental cover.
2. Bottom line
Cystitis is common in cats. And there are several things you can check at home to see out if your cat may have cystitis. These include blood in the urine, urinating in inappropriate places, or licking her bottom and perineum area because of irritation. However, while an infection is usually to blame in humans, cystitis in cats is more often a result of inflammation of the bladder, with one of the main causes being stress and anxiety. If your cat has experienced stress-related cystitis previously, she’s at greater risk of developing it again.
3. Bugged out
Even if your cat isn't showing signs of fleas or other parasites, it's still important to do a regular check because some cats can have an astonishing burden of fleas but appear unaffected. Take a close look at her hair, pushing it back to see underneath and in more hidden areas. If she has fleas, you may notice them crawling in the hair along the 'rump' – the top of the ridge of their back – or flea dirt, which looks like black sugar granules. Aside from being itchy and irritating, fleas can lead to tapeworms. Also, cat fleas are one of the most common conditions affecting any species of pet, so it's not just your cat that might be at risk. If you have dogs in your house, they can be far more sensitive to them.
4. Weighing up
Monitoring weight on a fairly regular basis is always a good idea. Owners often assume that a change in their cat's weight is a result of her eating and exercising more or less, but for any fluctuation of 10%, there may be a medical reason, such as a hormonal condition. As cats are generally small in size, you might be able to put her in a carrier and weigh her on your bathroom scales (subtract the individual weight of the carrier). If you’re finding it hard to do a reading at home, pay a visit to your vet. Most practices encourage people to come in and weigh their cats with a veterinary nurse at no charge.
5. Up to scratch
Your cat may need her claws clipped every few months, or not at all, depending on the breed. However, if a cat's claws get too long, they can curl round and start growing into the pad, so it’s always worth monitoring to check that everything looks normal. It’s often not until the cat is in obvious pain, or they start spotting blood, that owners notice there’s a problem. The dew claws – or 'thumbs’ – need particular attention. Because they're not in contact with the ground, they’re more likely to curl. Checking is quick and easy: gently pull back the hair on the paws and make sure you can see the end of each claw.