1. Eyes: Healthy eyes are bright and shiny!
Besides the eye being beautifully bright and shiny, the pink lining of the eyelids should not be inflamed or swollen. While a small amount of mucus and watery tears is normal, any yellow-green pus, a lot of watery eye discharge or a sticky eye can all be signs of an eye problem. The whites of your cat’s eyes should not be red or yellowish.
There are a number of potential causes for eye problems – and you need to see your vet to find out what is causing the problem, as how to put things right will differ depending on the cause. Your cat could have something in its eye, an infection or maybe some other problem. Eyes are very delicate and any problems can also be painful for your pet so the sooner you have it checked, the better
2. Skin and coat: Healthy skin and fur are supple and smooth!
Regular stroking and grooming is not only a chance for some fun bonding time with your cat, it’s a chance to check out its skin and coat and if your cat is prone to getting knots in their coat, it is a good opportunity to keep them from forming
While you are checking, look out for scabs, lumps and bumps, white flakes or red areas and areas that are painful to touch, all these are potential warning signs. Bites or scratches from a cat fight can be particularly nasty: puncture wounds may be small but very deep and have the potential to become infected and form abscesses.
Check your cat for fleas, ticks, lice and other external parasites. The symptoms of fleas can vary from severe itching to no signs at all: cats often have fleas without showing anything. However, they may cause scratching, or commonly chewing, of the lower back or tail-base. Close inspection can reveal either small black insects or the small black dots which are flea faeces. Flea faeces can be identified by brushing your cat’s coat with a fine-toothed flea comb and placing the debris you collect on a wet piece of white paper. Flea faeces will dissolve in the water to produce brown / red swirls on the paper.
A healthy coat, whether short or long, is glossy and pliable, without dandruff, bald spots, or excessive oiliness. Sometimes even a problem like stress can show itself through the coat which can lead to bald patches from over-grooming.
If you spot any potential problem, make an appointment with your vet – early intervention can nip problems in the bud before your cat suffers and often, you can take measures to stop them recurring. There are also “over the counter” treatments available at your local pet shop.
3. Ears: The skin inside your cat's healthy ears should be light pink and clean!
There may be some yellow or brownish wax which is normal, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. There should be no redness or swelling inside the ear, and your cat shouldn't scratch his ears or shake his head frequently. If the ears begin to smell unpleasant, then that too is a sign something may be amiss.
4. Mouth, Teeth, and Gums: Healthy gums are firm and pink, black or spotted, just like your cat’s skin and the teeth should be shiny and white. Your cat’s breath should not smell.
At least 70% adult dogs and cats could suffer from periodontal disease. This affects the gums and the tooth structures underneath and often leads to the loss of teeth. Also, if left unchecked, this could even affect bone and other supporting tissues of the teeth.
Just like us, regular tooth brushing can help prevent problems from developing and regular dental checks with your vet (at least annually) can help make sure that problems don’t develop that can’t be reversed. Your cat can learn to enjoy teeth brushing (yes really!) and your vet practice will be able to advise you on how to tackle brushing your cat’s teeth, and will be able to help you learn to do it. For more advice, see our dental care article.
5. Weight: A healthy cat should not be overweight!
A healthy cat's weight is the result of the balance between diet and exercise, and unfortunately just like in people, there’s a big obesity problem in the feline world. If your cat is getting enough nutritious food and exercise but still seems over or underweight, he or she may have a health problem.
The best way to tell if your cat is overweight is to feel their rib-cage area. You should be able to feel the ribs below the surface of the skin without much padding, and the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association PFMA produce a cat ‘Size-O-Meter’ which is recommended by vets to help. Feed a good nutritious diet and don't give your cat too many between-meal snacks. If you do give treats, then remember to take this into account when measuring up meals.
Obese cats can develop serious health problems which vets see all too often, so it’s best to talk to your vet practice about keeping your cat’s weight in check, and they can recommend what to feed and the type of activities to encourage your cat to do – indoor cats can benefit from some structured playtime.