Cats are incredibly tough little animals who tend not to hide health issues, including pain. Therefore, it’s sensible to watch out for hints that not all’s well. Catching a problem early can mean the difference between life and death. Also, it often comes with lighter vet bills.
Catitude is a key indicator. If your pet seems listless, disinterested in normal play and running around, that’s a bad sign. A pet who’s uncharacteristically bad-tempered may be suffering from pain.
The other two red flags are loss of appetite and missing the litter box. Of course, you have to check that your pet isn’t eating with the neighbour and that the litter is perfectly clean (no self-respecting cat wants to use a dirty box!)
Then there are obvious physical issues: sneezing, runny eyes, watery stools, and paws and ears that are too warm.
You may also look for the “third eyelid” – the membrane that slides out from the corner of the eye removing dirt from the surface and redistributing tears over the cornea. Usually, you don’t see this part of the eye. If you do see it, it may be nothing. However, it can also be an early sign of poor health, including tummy problems. In our house, a visible third eyelid means a checkup.
If your pet trusts you, a regular check of teeth and gums is also useful. As we like to avoid trouble, we take a photo of our pets yawning and blow it up. We look to make sure the gums are healthy, not white or red, and that teeth are free of tartar and obvious damage.
Mostly, being on top of cat health is like policing a two-year-old human. Know what they should be like and keep a weather eye out for change. And when in doubt, go ask the vet.