How often do you check out your cat’s health?
Phew…a tough one for lots of us. When I mean is check some basics; things that often go wrong or that need managing.
I have a page on indicators of a healthy cat. But in this short article I would like to focus on just two topics (a) flea check and (b) mouth check.
From experience these are areas that we can check and which need checking routinely. The former is easier than the latter.
I am sure the regular visitors do regular flea checks. They are very regular people!
To check for fleas you need a flea comb (not a human nit comb by the way as the teeth are too widely spaced). A cat flea comb has 32 teeth to the inch. If you are flea combing regularly it will go through a double coat quite easily. If you don’t do it regularly it is hard to comb through a double or triple coated cat because the down undercoat is dense and very fine. This is a motivator to do it every day!
To ease the comb’s passage through the coat it can be angled off from the perpendicular with the teeth point away from you. This prevents the teeth digging in. But the teeth should go to the bottom of the fur. The better angle is perpendicular or towards you slightly.
The areas to comb are: all around the head, neck chin and shoulders. Followed up by a session at the end of the spine (at the beginning of the tail). You will find eggs and feces in that area. Fleas also inhabit the flanks of the cat but much less so. The prime areas for the flea are neck, shoulders and chin.
The comb should be passed through the same area of fur more than once because fleas move around. Fleas will be caught on the comb. Then you have to kill them fast. I crush them with my thumbnail and between the fingers. You can roll then over the teeth of the comb with your fingers which damages them sufficiently to stop them jumping whereupon you can crush then anyway you like! They pop when crushed.
A cat’s teeth and particularly the gums are a source of ill-health. Periodontal disease (gum disease) is quite common because we don’t naturally see our cat’s teeth and gums but modern cat food is not that great in respect of maintaining oral health.
Some cats hate their mouth being inspected. You can make that most cats…But it can be done and really should be done. Sometimes you read visitors saying that their cat smells. It is probably bad breath due to gum disease. It is an area that it easy to neglect.
Although a proper or full inspection of a cat’s mouth has to carried out under anesthetic by a vet we can do spot checks.
You can inspect a cat’s gums by raising the lips to expose the mucous membrane of the gums. The gums should be pink (sometimes they are pigmented, which is normal). If the cat is anemic or has poor circulation the gums will be pale. This is a nice diagnostic tool.
To open the mouth place the thumb and forefinger of your left hand (if you are right handed) against your cat’s upper cheeks and press in gently. Her mouth will open. The lower jaw can be pushed further open with the right hand. I restrain my cat by putting her in a thick towel and rolling her on to her side. This is calming for her and makes the process more manageable.
I do understand though that a lot of cats will resist strongly.
You can tell quite quickly if the gums are reasonably healthy or inflamed, swollen and red (diseased). The best area to look at is the outside of the upper and lower jaw.
That is the inspection. A vet visit will be required to deal with badly infected gums. A vet will clean them under anesthetic. There is a chance that a cat will be injured or killed by the anesthetic. This is a case of risk assessment.
I am not sure of the percentage of cats that die under anesthetic. It is somewhere between 1 and .01 percent I believe.