It’s no secret that most cats are extremists when it comes to keeping themselves well groomed, but did you know that they’re also good at hiding their illnesses?
Because a cat cannot just come out and tell you when she is feeling under the weather (and of course, you cannot understand all of her meows), many pet parents have no clue that all is not well until the problem becomes serious.
Once you begin bonding with your pet and become familiar with what is normal and what is not, you can often catch on to minor problems before they turn into major problems. You can monitor your cat’s health and well-being, to some degree, by paying close attention to her appearance and behavior.
Cat Coat and Health
The coat is one place to notice any problems — straggly, unkempt hair can be a tell-tale sign of trouble. Because cats are such natural groomers, a cat who is not keeping up appearances may not be feeling well.
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On the flip side, a cat who overgrooms (to the point of being raw) may also be sending a message. Excessive grooming could be a sign of stress or an unwanted skin condition. Insect bites, allergies or flea infestation can cause acute dermatitis, which makes make your pet lick until she is hairless in spots (known as hot spots) and has raw, red skin.
Most of your kitty’s body should be covered with enough hair to hide the skin, protecting it from cold or humid weather. However, it is normal for the fur to be a little sparse between her eyes and ears.
Other Possible Health Issues
A cat’s coat can also deteriorate from a lack of vitamins, caused by inadequate nutrition.
Or, perhaps the cat simply cannot exercise her natural grooming techniques because of arthritis. Stiff joints may prevent her from twisting her body in order to reach certain areas. In this case, the pet parent can lend a helping hand — but play it safe and use gentle motions when brushing or combing, as you may not be aware of which body parts are in pain.
According to veterinarian Eric Barchas, DVM, matted, greasy hair on cats can not only have an unwanted smell, but in some cases be linked to dental problems, bladder infections, diabetes or other medical conditions.
As with dogs, shedding is common in cats, and a medical problem is unlikely if there are no signs of matting, balding or thinned out areas on the fur.
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Notice your cat’s actions and behaviors and trust your instincts. If something goes off in your head telling you your pet may have a problem, take her to your veterinarian. With your knowledge of your cat’s habits and your veterinarian’s expertise on the medical aspects, the problems can be resolved.