Cat Health: A Checklist
All cat owners know cats are independent creatures and do not require a lot of your time. Cats love to sleep and hide in safe places; however, they also want and need attention. They need scratching posts, climbing towers, feeding, grooming and other loving care. Because of their independent nature and desire to be separated from human activity part of the time, many cat owners believe they do not have to interact with their cats on a daily basis. In reality, cats need daily attention from their human family to be at their best.
Below find a checklist for cat health. You’ll learn daily, weekly and monthly tips for cat healthcare. And call a local veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Daily Cat Health Checklist
- Feed a balanced diet and make sure they eat all their food, and that they aren’t getting extra calories by feeding from the table or excessive treats. Be sure the weight and body conformation of your cat meets the standards for a cat of their breed, size and age.
- Give your cat fresh water daily, even if you must pour some of the stale water out of the bowl from the day before.
- Check and clean their litter box every day and see if stool is moist and formed, and there is no diarrhea or blood.
- Make sure they urinate freely without straining. This is especially important for neutered male cats.
- Check the tip of her nose to see that it is moist and smooth.
- Provide plenty of exercise by playing games with cats or using a cat feeder that requires them to search for food. A rich environment is essential for healthy development of kittens. Place vertical places for the kitten to play and retreat for a nap. These can be shelves, perches, or catwalks where they can go to have quiet time. Play with them with a ball, a dim light on the wall, or a feather on a fishing pole to encourage playfulness and quality time.
- Observe your cat for signs of pain, such as reluctance to move, meowing, or a lot of sleeping.
Weekly Cat Health Checklist
- Brush and comb your cat’s coat if they have long hair, and cloth wipe it if they have short hair.
- Examine her entire body to note any changes in the size of lymph nodes, hair loss, rashes, lumps and bumps, matted or saliva-stained fur or dehydration.
- Check eyes for discharge and wipe away any debris that accumulates under the eyelids or on the surface of the eyeball with a tissue, cotton balls, or soft cloth.
- Check ears for signs of scratching due to irritation, infection or black debris that can be a sign of ear mites. Cats, especially young cats, are prone to ear mites. Clean her ears with a cotton ball if there is dirt or debris in the ear canal. Don’t use Q-tips to clean ears because you might injure the ear drum by pressing too deep into the ear canal.
- Check skin for external parasites, growths and bumps, red or lick spots and matted hair.
- Check for fleas and ticks on the cat and signs of fleas and ticks throughout the household.
Monthly Checklist for Cat Healthcare
- Check oral cavity for loose or broken teeth, tartar build-up on teeth and infected gums, periodontal disease, abscesses or oral tumors.
- Brush your cat’s teeth monthly.
- Check the paws and toe nails to make sure there are no hair or debris collecting between their toes, and see if the nails may need trimmed. Be careful that neglected nails do not grow back into the pads of the feet.
- Give heartworm preventive medication as needed. All cats, no matter if they live inside or outside, must be protected from heartworms. Heartworms have infiltrated all geographic areas of the United States, so regardless of where you live, heartworms may infect your pets.
- Check for abscesses and fecal mats, especially around the ears and the rump area.
Yearly Checklist for Cat Healthcare
- Take your cat to a veterinarian for a comprehensive checkup at least once per year. That examination may include a physical examination of your cat from her nose to the tip of her tail. These examinations may include blood testing for heartworms and other signs of disease or conditions, x-rays, palpation of the internal organs and legs and joints, listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and temperament. Yearly checkups are key to catching, diagnosing and treating all potential health problems.
- Schedule dental cleaning under general anesthesia annually.
- Keep your cat’s vaccination records and follow the guidelines recommended by your veterinarian to prevent illnesses and communicable diseases. All cats should be vaccinated with core vaccines including Distemper (Panleukopenia), Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Rabies vaccinations. These are needed even if the cat lives its entire life inside the home. Cats may need Feline leukemia, Feline Bordetella and Chlamydophila vaccinations. Check with your veterinarian to see what diseases are prevalent in your area.
No one knows your cat as well as you do, however, veterinarians are trained to detect diseases before they become costly issues for both you and your pet. Make it a habit to schedule an annual checkup for your cat. There is no better gift you can give your four-legged family member than a long, healthy life and annual checkups are an easy way to ensure your cat is receiving preventive care on a regular basis. It will be less expensive for you, and it will be better for your cat.
Compiled by Bruce W. Little, DVM