Ginger and white cat with eyes closed lying on white blanket

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Cat health care

Although it can't tell you when it feels unwell or is in pain, any changes in your cat's normal pattern of behaviour may indicate an underlying cat health problem and should be reported to your vet.

There are some cat health problems that will need to be attended to by a vet. However, by learning how to provide a good level of cat care, you can help prevent many illnesses and health issues, ensuring your cat stays happy and healthy for as long as possible.

Below, you can find useful signs of poor cat health to keep an eye out for, and practical advice on how to provide the finest level of cat care.

Signs of ill health

  • Is your cat refusing to eat or generally eating less than normal?
  • Has your cat chosen to be alone for a long period of time or tried to hide from you?
  • Is your cat listless and unwilling to interact with you?
  • Does your cat have any physical symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting or bleeding?
  • Is your cat's behaviour abnormal in any way?
  • If you have answered yes to any of the above, you should contact your veterinary practice for advice.

Top to tail health care: eyes

  • Wipe around the eye area every day using a separate piece of damp cotton wool for each eye.
  • Check the eyes every week to ensure they are clean, clear, healthy and free from discharge.
  • Any inflammation, discharge, cloudiness, or other abnormalities should be reported to your vet.
  • If your cat's eye is sore or infected, try to prevent it scratching it with its paw, or rubbing it against a piece of furniture, as this could cause further damage.
  • If your cat's eye has been seriously injured, cover it with a damp piece of gauze or a bandage and seek veterinary assistance immediately.

Ears

  • Gently wipe the inside of the ear once a week, using a separate piece of damp cotton wool for each ear.
  • Do not insert cotton buds into your cat's ear - the ear is easily damaged and a cotton bud could also push wax further inside the ear.
  • Any excess earwax, discharge, head shaking, ear scratching or other abnormalities should be reported to your vet.

Mouth, teeth & gums

  • Get your cat used to having its teeth brushed from an early age and you will prevent the need for expensive treatment later on.
  • Brush your cat's teeth at least twice a week with a soft toothbrush or finger brush - your vet will be able to recommend special toothpaste.
  • Do not use human toothpaste for your cat.
  • If your cat will not accept a toothbrush, try wrapping a piece of old towel or cloth around your finger instead and use this to clean its teeth.
  • Inspect your cat's mouth on a regular basis and make sure its teeth and gums are examined by your vet on an annual basis.
  • Excessive salivation, bad breath, bleeding gums and problems eating should all be reported to your vet.
  • Tooth decay and gum disease in cats can lead to other health problems; including heart, liver and kidney disease.

Cat grooming

  • Most cats spend long periods of time grooming themselves. However grooming your cat every few days will help to strengthen the relationship between you and your cat and will also enable you to check for any abnormalities of your cat's coat, or skin.
  • Long-haired cats should be groomed every day to prevent painful mattes and knots from forming.
  • Any hair loss, skin rashes, lumps or other abnormalities should be reported to your vet.

Uninvited guests

  • Fleas, ticks, worms and other parasites can cause health problems for cats and humans alike, so it is important to control them effectively.
  • All kittens have roundworms and require regular worming until 6 months of age - your vet will advise you how and when to worm.
  • Adult cats should be wormed for roundworm and tapeworm every three months, although cats that hunt regularly may need worming more frequently - your vet will advise you of the most effective preparation to use.
  • Do not let your cat lick children or adults on the face, as roundworm eggs are carried in the mouth and can be passed on to human beings.
  • Cover your children's sand pit when not in use to prevent your cat using it as an outdoor litter tray and passing on any infection to your children.
  • Keep worming tablets and medicine out of the reach of children.
  • Ticks can usually be removed by daubing the area with surgical spirit and using tweezers to twist the tick from the skin - if the head remains embedded your vet may need to remove it to prevent infection.