Some good veterinarians say that a limited amount of cat illness diagnosis can be carried out by cat caregivers. In fact, quite a lot of diagnosis is encouraged. The key, though, is to know your limits and when to take your cat to a veterinarian. These limits must never be crossed as it might jeopardise the cat’s health. We should not try and diagnose from the internet alone without proper training (self-training is good too) or supervision. The internet tends to suggest that we can. This is not, therefore, an article, that tells non-qualified people how to diagnose cat health problems. But it does show how to approach this important topic with a commonsense attitude – I hope.
My opening statement comes direct from some fine vets who have written excellent books that are meant to be used by cat ‘owners’ (cat caretakers or caregivers) to diagnose cat illness and administer some treatment. However, these books make it clear as to when we should stop diagnosing and treating and when we should go to the vet 👍.
Examples when a cat’s owner’s diagnosis may prove critically important
Actually, sometimes it can be crucial to our cat’s health if we have the knowledge to apply a bit of veterinarian type care. I am thinking of emergencies. An example is artificial breathing and heart massage. Artificial breathing is “used to exchange air in the unconscious cat”. In order to administer life support techniques to a cat we need to do a bit of basic cat illness diagnosis: is the cat breathing and is there a pulse? To diagnose the former, we can observe the rise and fall of the cat’s chest and feel the breath against our cheek. The following linked page tells you how to check a cat’s pulse: Normal Cat Pulse.
If the cat is breathing the airway should be cleared. If there is breathing and a pulse the treatment is mouth to nose breathing (artificial breathing) and if there is breathing but no pulse the treatment is CPR (artificial breathing and heart massage).
I have explained this to give an example of how we can be usefully employed to do some cat illness diagnosis. There are many other examples. Taking one at random: dehydration. Cat dehydration can be very serious when a cat is ill. It may be due to inadequate fluid intake. This may be as a result of a loss of appetite as a lot of water is found in commercial cat food (80% water sometimes). A spot of cat illness diagnosis can tell us if our cat is suffering from dehydration as a result of an illness.
One sign of dehydration is a loss of skin elasticity. This can be checked by picking up the skin on the back of the neck “into a fold”. When released it should “spring back into place. In dehydration the skin stays up in a ridge”. The mouth is also dry; gums should be wet and glistening and not dry to touch. Dehydration in kittens is potentially very serious; indeed fatal. OK – that is just one example.
The quotes and the thought that we could and should exercise some cat illness diagnosis comes from the excellent: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook
When used properly and sensibly this book really is a godsend to cat caretakers as it informs us about our cat’s health. If we are more aware of our cat’s health we are better cat caretakers. The cat illness diagnosis element is a bonus.
THERE ARE SOME PAGES ON ORAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE.
I used this book to diagnose Timmy’s abscess (opens in new window/tab) and Binnie’s cystitis. I have also used it to help devise a better diet for Binnie who has a propensity to urinary tract disease (FLUTD). Note: This page was written about 12 or more years ago. My cat Binnie died many years ago. I don’t know what happened to him but he has probably passed as well. He was a stray cat visiting my home at the time.
One of the good things about the book is that it informs its readers when we must take our cat to the vet. One bad thing for me is that the authors, excellent as they are, do not decry the declawing of cats. They start the section by saying that declawing “may be considered for indoor cats…” – wrong, sorry. This is an old-fashioned viewpoint and an inhumane one. Although I am convinced that the authors are moral and humane in attitude. This must therefore be due to years of “conditioning” and “normalisation”. The authors are American veterinarians.
There are other books that encourage us to undertake cat illness diagnosis. The first that comes to mind is The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms:
As the title indicates, this book lists symptoms and does some diagnostic work for the cat owner by listing possible causes. It is a direct aid to cat illness diagnosis. The book also directs readers to treat the cat themselves or see a veterinarian together with the possible treatments by the vet. There are useful sections on a range of cat health issues as well. A fine book written by American vets.
A book edited by a British vet and his veterinarian nurse is another that I also like. The editors are Trevor Turner BVet Med, MRCVS and Jean Turner VN. The book is: Veterinary Notes for Cat Owners. There are many authors. This book is written more in the manner of a manual for laypersons, which provides a source of knowledge. Diagnosis will naturally follow but with caution as there are no guidelines as to when to see a vet. It is long at over 500 pages.
A specialist book that discusses cat health that is largely based on cat food and written by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins DVM is called: Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life. For me this book has allowed me to reassess my cat’s diet and thereby do my best to ensure that unnecessary illness does not follow from a poor diet. And I am talking about cat diets that are sometimes recommended by vets! For example, a 100% dry food diet (e.g., Hills l/d) is not recommended by Ms Hodgkins but it was by a vet I went to. As people we know the importance of diet on our health. Do we give the same considerations to our cat? Ms Hodgkins ensures that we do – highly recommended.
RELATED: Cat Illness Symptoms
A book that is more about preventative cat care rather than “reactive” cat illness diagnosis, is Natural Cat Care (Natural care). The author is Dr. Bruce Fogle. He also wrote the excellent: The Encyclopedia of the Cat (Encyclopaedia of).
But knowledge of cat care either leads to a lowering of the need to diagnose illness or to the ability to diagnose cat illness more efficiently. When and if we go to our vet with an ill cat, it is better, much better, if we have a say in directing the vet rather than accepting all that the vet says.
Finally, a book on Homeopathy for Your Cat: Remedies for Common Feline Ailments by Dr. H. G. Wolff. We have heard of homeopathy for humans but for a cat 😉. Not sure. But this is an excellent book that helps laypeople diagnose and treat in a non-conventional way. Caution is required of course.
An example is instructive. On page 17 the author refers to “tear ducts”. This is a common, in fact universal problem for extreme, flat-faced, Persian cats who suffer from tear duct overflow. See Persian Cat Health Problems.
This book does not claim to cure tear duct overflow in Persian cats because that is only possible by not breeding extreme, flat-faced Persians. But tear duct overflow can occur for any cat due to a blockage in drainage or a growth. Dr. Wolff recommends “Silicea 12 administered three times a day for the first week, then twice a day until the symptoms are cured”. The figure “12” indicates the level potency.
Silicea #12 is also used for human health problems. It is a “cell salt remedy”1 for improving, “skin conditions; dry hair, skin or nails; acne; boils; ulcers; unhealthy skin”. Make what you will of it. Please don’t pre-judge; try with care instead.
We should acquaint ourselves with our cat’s health and illnesses. We should have a basic knowledge about cat illness diagnosis. But above all we should know our limits and not hesitate in taking our cat companion to a good veterinarian. Please see Cat Illness Symptoms for some assistance.
Postscript: this page was first published around 2009. I have refreshed it, checked it and republished it at Jan 07, 2022. It is a nearly new product 😎.