Keeping your cat healthy and in good shape is not usually easy, especially if they are adept at masking an illness.
However, being familiar with basic vitals, such as a cat’s normal temperature and number of heart beats per minute can give you a pulse on your kitty’s health.
To make sure you are checking these vitals correctly, you may need to ask your vet for guidance about your pet. But here are some basic tips for keeping track of your cat’s health, the tools you need to check each vital sign and what an unusual reading might indicate.
Take Your Cat’s Temperature
One of the easiest ways to take your cat’s body temperature is to use a traditional rectal thermometer. Since some cats will refuse to submit willingly to have something inserted into their tail end, you might need to use a toy or treat while you take their temperature.
Lubricate the thermometer end well and insert it about one to two inches. If you are using a digital thermometer, hold it there until it beeps. To ensure you get an accurate reading, wait about two minutes.
If you or your cat are not comfortable with that particular method, the alternative tool is an ear thermometer or touch-free infrared thermometer made particularly for pets.
Once you have taken your cat’s temperature, record their normal readings in the event you ever need to grab it and go. You can use a smart phone application to keep this information or store it in your pet first aid kit, together with more details about their medical history and pet insurance information.
The normal body temperature for a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your kitty’s temperature is lower or higher than that, make sure to check with your vet.
Check Your Cat’s Heart or Pulse Rate
The best place to check the heart rate is on the femoral artery, located inside your cat’s thigh near the crotch area. Using your fingers, put a little pressure on the leg’s middle part to feel the pulse. Press down for about 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the total number of heart beats in a minute.
If you can’t feel the pulse, just check behind their elbow over the rib aviary where the heart is located.
The normal pulse of a cat ranges between 140 to 220 beats per minute. If your feline has been resting, their heart rate will be on the lower side of the scale. If your kitty’s rate is too fast, too low or non-uniform, there is a call for concern and you should check with your vet.
Take Your Cat’s Respiratory Rate
To check your kitty’s respiratory rate, just count the number of breaths your cat takes in a minute. The best time to do this is when they are relaxed but standing. You will know your cat takes a breath every time you see their sides move in and out. Alternatively, you can place your hands on their sides to feel the movement.
Observe your cat and count her breaths for one minute. A normal respiratory rate for a feline is between 20 to 30 breaths per minute. If your cat is breathing quickly or appears to be panting and she has not been playing strenuously, this could signal an issue.
The two main causes of breathing difficulties in cats are congestive heart failure and asthma. To be safe, consider taking your kitty to a vet when you notice any shortness of breath. Just like humans, cats are prone to flu, colds and upper respiratory infections, so keep any eye out for a runny nose, sneezing, breathing abnormalities and lethargy.
Check Your Cat’s Eyes
Eyes can be another sign of health issues or illness. Examine your cat’s eyes and check whether the pupils are of equal size in both eyes. If one is larger or smaller it may indicate a head injury or a potential health issue.
Another area to examine is under the eyelids as well as the inner and outer eye, which should be white, but not red or pink. Furthermore, the eyes should be free from any discharge or tears. To check this, gently pull down the outer and inner eyelid a bit. .
Ensure your kitty is not pawing or scratching their eyes, which may indicate infection, pain or a foreign object in their eyes. Typically, your cat’s eyes should be open, clear, bright, with no discharge.
Eyes are particularly painful and sensitive for cats if they have an issue and the problems worsen rapidly without vet care. Make sure to take your kitty to the vet for any of these concerns.
Check Your Cat’s Dental Health
Gum disease leads to pain and can have a negative effect on your kitty’s overall health and wellbeing. Healthy cat gums should be bright or light pink, but not red, bleeding or swollen. And just like humans, your cat teeth should be clean, white and free from chipping.
The main symptom of dental issues in cats is usually bad breath. However, dental issues can also cause pawing at the mouth, difficulty eating and drooling. When you notice any issues in your kitty’s mouth, talk to your vet about having them resolved.
You can avoid dental problems with a simple, oral care routine. Daily brushing will help keep your cat’s gums and teeth healthy. Make sure to use a toothpaste specifically for cats.
Watch Out for Behavior Changes
Although cats are known to be quirky, sometimes erratic behavior may be signs of underlying issues. When your feline starts to drink or eat more or less, stops jumping on things, begins hiding more or starts to show any abnormal changes in their behavior, it is worth it to consult with your vet. Although there can be a perfectly normal explanation for your cat’s behavior, it can also be the start of more adverse problems, such as kidney disease, cat UTI or diabetes.
Don’t wait until the symptoms are more obvious since treatment could be much more difficult.
Observe Your Cat’s Weight
According to several estimates, half of cats are overweight while a quarter of them are obese. Because carrying excess wight can lead to some hazardous health conditions, it is good for cat owners to watch their furry friend’s waistline.
A healthy kitty is usually between eight to 10 pounds on average, but there is room for some variation between individual cats. The easiest way to test whether your kitty is at a healthy weight is to place your hands firmly over their ribs or on their sides. If you can’t feel their ribs, then your cat is overweight. Conversely, if you can see their ribs, your kitty is underweight.
If your kitty could stand to lose some pounds, your vet can help you create a healthy plan to manage their weight. You can use a digital scale to weigh your cat at home and keep track of their progress.
Even if your cat is at a healthy weight, it is crucial to observe their overall body condition because gaining or losing weight may be a sign of underlying health problems. Weight loss despite healthy eating may be a sign of cat diabetes.
Summing It Up
Checking your cat’s vital signs offers you a better snapshot of their overall health which can give you peace of mind. In addition, annual vet checkups are essential to maintaining your kitty’s health. Senior cats should undergo biannual exams since their bodies change more quickly as they age.
If your kitty’s vital signs seem okay—normal cat temperature, no breathing difficulties and the like—but you suspect they are not feeling well, don’t hesitate to consult your vet. You are the best one to understand your furry friend, so trust your instinct and get them the help they need in time.