Signs of Cat Health

Make better assessments.
Including when it's time for a second opinion.

  1. Plenty of cues are given to your cat's current state of health. Here’s what you should look for.

    You see your cat every day. But despite this familiarity, how confident are you in your ability to recognize health trouble when you see it?

    At first glance, your cat may seem perfectly healthy. Just know that cats have evolved to show few, if any, outward signs of illness or weakness as this can make them a target in the wild. This is why it’s important to understand the clues that can give you information about your cat's current state of health.

    This activity will introduce you to the signs of health in your cat. They can differ subtly for every cat, but the overall rule of thumb is to work through this checklist monthly, looking for these types of changes to the status quo. And the earlier you and your veterinarian catch some illnesses, the more options you will likely have for treatment.

    Before you get started, always try to make the routine of checking your cat’s health an enjoyable experience. This can include extra cuddling, petting or treats. 

    Extra play can help, but be sure this is done after the inspection since cats can get overly excited and may misinterpret the health check as additional play. So it’s important not to get your cat too worked up before trying some of these techniques.

  2. Appetite & Body Condition

    Has your cat has been eating more or less than usual? Make sure you have a way to keep track of how much your cat eats per day. That way, you can see a change in diet if one occurs. If you note a change, this could be a sign of an underlying problem and may require a visit to the veterinarian.

    Also, check your cat’s body condition once a month. Here are three simple ways to tell if your cat's diet needs an adjustment. 

    • Rib Check: Place both of your thumbs on your cat's backbone and spread both hands across the rib cage. You want to be able to feel the ribs. Actually feeling your cat is important, as the coat of many cats will make a visual check difficult. 
    • Profile Check: Examine your cat's profile – it’s best if you are level with your cat. Look for the abdomen to be tucked up behind the rib cage - this is ideal. 
    • Overhead Check: Looking at your cat from overhead, identify whether you can see a waist behind the ribs.

    If you find that your cat's ribs and waistline aren't where they're supposed to be, adjust food accordingly.

    While you’re at it, gently rub or pet your cat’s belly to check for lumps or bumps. If one is found, please consult your veterinarian.

    To Complete This Step

    Work through each of the tests for body condition. How does your cat check out? Make a note of it, and upload a photo for future reference.

  3. Litter Box Visits

    When you’re conducting your routine cleaning of the litter box, keep an eye out for changes in your cat's bowel movements or urination, especially when it comes to frequency and/or quantity. Talk with your veterinarian if there are any irregularities.

    Also, suddenly going outside of the litter box when there have been no changes to her box or environment can also indicate certain illnesses.

    To Complete This Step

    Has your cat’s activity in the litter box been consistent? Any trouble to note? Make an entry in your journal.

  4. Eyes & Ears

    Pay attention to your cat’s eyes.  At least once a month, make sure the eyes do not look cloudy or unclear, and there isn’t any excessive drainage or discharge.  These could be signs of a problem.

    Watch for your cat's ability to focus, as well. Also, if you are able to see the third eye lid, generally this can mean something is wrong. The cat’s third eyelid is a white membrane that provides an extra layer of protection.

    As for ears, gently use a gauze pad to wipe them out. Check the gauze pad for a distinct odor or color. Each can be a sign that something could be wrong and we recommend you consult with your veterinarian.

    To Complete This Step

    Inspect your cat’s eyes and look for any of these symptoms. Then wipe out the ears. Describe what you see. This is also a great time to get a close-up shot of your cat’s face for your Journal.

  5. Coat & Nails

    A shiny, glossy coat is one sign of a healthy cat. If your cat's coat looks dull or rough, this may be a sign of a health issue. Also consult your veterinarian if your cat appears to have stopped grooming or is grooming excessively.

    When it comes to nails, cats will often trim or work them down on their own in a variety of ways, including but not limited to scratching. It’s important to monitor your cat’s nails to ensure they’re not growing too long as they could grow into the paw pad. 

    To Complete This Step

    Have you noticed a change in your cat’s grooming habits? How does his or her coat look and feel? Note this in your Journal, along with the condition of the nails. Trim as needed.

  6. Energy Level & Mobility

    If your cat's energy level changes without any explanation, consult your veterinarian. Both lethargy and mania are reasons for a checkup.

    Also stay alert for changes in your cat's mobility. An unbalanced, dizzy appearance or difficulty with moving means something isn't right.

    To Complete This Step

    Consider your cat’s “normal” energy level. How would you describe both temperament and movements throughout a normal day? Is your cat moving or acting differently of late?

  7. Behavior & Vocalization

    Pay attention to your cat’s behavior. Has your cat become more withdrawn than usual? Or is she increasingly agitated or aggressive, especially when being touched? Noticing sudden changes in personality could be due to a number of health issues.

    Cats may increase or excessively vocalize when something is wrong. This may be a sign of pain or discomfort, or even cognitive decline or confusion. If you notice your cat’s vocalization has increased, please consult your veterinarian.

    To Complete This Step

    Make a journal entry about the times your cat is most vocal. Is it around playtime or when you return home after being away? Noting these patterns now can be helpful in determining if something is off.

  8. Rely on Your Veterinarian

    If your cat is acting and looking different than usual, rely on your veterinarian’s expertise. This is especially true in the case of older cats, where it's common for owners to write off changes due to age. Most symptoms, when caught early, can help your cat live a healthy and happy life.

    To Complete This Activity

    If you’ve discovered any causes for concern while working through this activity, make an appointment with your veterinarian for help with diagnosis and/or treatment.

Community Progress