How to carry out a cat health check

As our cats age, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on their wellbeing. Here, Petplan vet Brian Faulkner shows us how to give them a regular health MOT at home.

It’s always a good idea to take your cat for a veterinary check-up at least once a year, alongside the essential annual dental check-ups and booster vaccinations. Taking your cat for their annual vaccinations means if any conditions that your cat is vaccinated against did arise, Petplan can cover the cost of the treatment. Dental treatment for illness and injury may also be covered under your insurance policy providing your cat has an annual dental check-up and any recommended treatment is carried out within six months. But you can also play your part in looking after your pet between vet visits by carrying out a regular cat health check at home.

You could incorporate a simple cat health check into your usual playtime or when you're stroking your cat – just try to pick a time when your cat is calm and relaxed. Watch our video on giving your cat a health MOT, or read on for a step-by-step guide to how to examine your cat.

How to check your cat's ears

While petting your cat, have a good look inside their ears. Their ear canal should be clean and pale pink, with no signs of redness or discharge. While a little earwax in cats isn’t unusual, an excessive or black build-up could be a sign of problems such as an ear infection, ear mites or allergies.

Look at your cat’s eyes

Your cat’s eyes should be clear and moist, without any cloudiness, inflammation or discharge. Crustiness in the corner of their eye, redness or weeping can all be symptoms of feline eye problems.

Inspect your cat’s nose

A healthy cat nose should be clean and slightly moist, with no discharge. Snuffling or sneezing could be a sign of a feline upper respiratory infection.

How to check your cat's mouth

Carefully pull back your cat’s lips to inspect their teeth and gums. Look for broken teeth, lumps or inflammation. Redness of the gums can be a sign of gum disease, which is a common problem in older cats.

Examine your cat’s paws and legs

Some cats don’t like their paws being touched, so you may need to get them used to this gradually. Take a look between their paw pads and gently press their toes to examine the claws. Look for any nail damage, signs of soreness or debris stuck between their toes.

Gently flex your cat’s legs and see how they respond. Older cats may not stand on their toes as easily as they did when they were younger, which could be a sign of arthritis. Always watch out for any signs of pain or lameness, which again could indicate arthritis or other problems with their ageing joints.

Give your cat a once-over

Gently run your hands over your cat’s coat and body to feel for any lumps or sore spots. In long-haired cats, you may need to part their hair for a closer look. This is also a good time to assess their body condition.

Check your cat’s bottom

If you’re doing a thorough cat health check, don’t forget their rear end! You might spot signs of worms or growths that are otherwise easy to miss. In older cats especially, you should also keep an eye on their bowel movements. Diarrhoea is the most obvious sign of a health problem, but difficulty going to the toilet also needs investigating.

Remember that doing a cat health check at home is no substitute for a veterinary check-up. The point is to get to know what’s normal for your cat and what isn’t, so you can raise any problems with your vet and get them treated as soon as possible. As your cat gets older, be alert to any health changes that need investigating – and if they’re not too keen on going for check-ups, don’t miss our tips for calmer vet visits!

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