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Summer Health Check

At this time of year we always allocate some time to check the general health of the cats. On the odd occasion we've had to deal with unwanted 'lodgers' we've been glad of the good weather, and so have the tribe.

All of these checks can (and should) be done on a fairly regular basis, but doing a summer MOT is good way to make sure everyone gets a thorough going over at least once a year too

1. Eyes

Eyes should be bright, alert and shiny. They should be free from gunge and should not weep, although like us just after waking they may sometimes need to have a bit of a wash to look their best.

Cats have an extra 'inner' eyelid too. This should not be visible when they have their eyes fully open, so if you can see it permanently get an appointment with the vet.

2. Ears

Ears should be clean and free of wax, bugs, dry skin etc. and there should be no smell.

Often cats with ear problems will scratch at their ears or shake their heads excessively, look for these signs and consult your vet if you're at all concerned.

3. Nose

A cat's nose should be soft, clean and generally a little moist.

If your cat seems to have a permanently dry or permanently dripping nose then this could indicate problems and further investigation should be undertaken.

4. Teeth

Check the teeth out for excess tartar and bad breath. These symptoms can indicate and underlying illness and should be checked by a vet if found. Long term tooth decay can cause a variety of problems for cats, including kidney disease and heart problems, so their teeth should definitely be looked after properly.

You can also give their teeth a clean yourself. Most vets stock cat toothbrushes that will fit on the end of your finger, and 'pleasant' flavoured toothpaste - 'pleasant' for cats that is, probably not so good to use on our own teeth...

5. Coat

Your cat's coat should naturally be smooth, soft and clean. Give him stroke and feel for knots or any other lumps and bumps, pull the fur apart and check for fleas and lice. If you spot any problems you should take him to the vet to get him checked out ASAP.

Assuming things are ok to begin with, there are a few other things you can do to groom your cat even further.

5.1 Bath
If you're brave enough (stupid enough?) to try getting a cat into a bath it can be great fun, and they look so cute when they're all wet!

Some cats just will not tolerate it and it's really not worth the effort, but some love it. They look great afterwards, and getting them used to bathing is a good investment for if/when they come back filthy from some outdoor escapade, as ours have been known to do.

Alternatively you could use dry shampoo.

5.2 Dry Shampoo for cats
Baking soda can be used as a dry shampoo for cats (and dogs, and fridges, but that's for another newsletter)

Just rub the baking soda well into the coat, let it set for a few minutes and brush off!

5.3 Brush
You could use a regular brush, they will certainly benefit from a smoother coat and less fur balls, but you could also try.

5.4 .The JML Pet Mitt
This thing is fantastic! We were first bought one for Christmas a few years ago and none of them seemed to like it much at the time. It straightened out the fur just as well as a brush does, but it didn't seem to get much hair out so it got shoved in the cupboard.

Then last year I was having a spring clean and Rags came in covered in leaves, dust, grass, you name it. I had just emptied the cupboard containing the Pet Mitt so I gave it another go.

I couldn't believe how long it took to get all the dust out of his fur but what really amazed me was how much loose fur this thing pulled out.

It seems we didn't give it enough of a chance before, and the first few minutes just loosen the fur in advance of the avalanche to come - by the end of the session Rags had fallen in love with the Mitt, not to mention looking like he'd been on a serious diet!

Note: These now apprear to be out of production, however Kong make something called a Zoom Groom, which works on the same principle and is actually better than the Pet Mitt was

6. Feet

6.1 Pads
Check the pads of their paws for dryness, cuts, infections etc. Sometimes splinters or thorns can be lurking in there too, and cats can be masters of disguising their discomfort.

6.2 Claws
Hopefully your cat has plenty to scratch and regularly sheds the top layer of claw, but it's worth checking that they're clean and sharp, and clipping them back a bit if necessary. (This is not to be confused with Declawing)

Check out this article for advice on how to clip your cats claws.

You might like to try clipping the claws BEFORE trying to get them in the bath.

7. Rear

Don't forget to check out the blunt end of your cat!

I try not to give out the wrong impression to the cats, especially to Rags who seems convinced everyone is really interested in seeing his derrière, but sometimes it is necessary and can indicate things such as infections, worms or dietary problems.

If you notice anything unusual, consult your vet.

7.1 Stools
Stools should be small and firm and should not contain any signs of blood or parasites.

Evidence of problems is not always present, but this can be a good place to look for clues.

8. Weight
It should be fairly easy to tell if your cat is over or underweight, simply by knowing your cat. Another good indicator is that you should be able to feel the cat's ribs but each rib should not be well pronounced.

Most often excess weight is directly connected to diet and many companies do 'light' cat food these days, however an underweight cat, or a cat that is persistently overweight even after diet changes, should definitely be taken to the vet.

That about wraps it up for the Summer Health Check; We hope you've found it useful and interesting and please do let us know if we've missed anything you think should be included.

This article was first published in The Purr Company's regular Mews-letter, visit us for more cat stories and articles, a gallery of our visitors cats , cat videos and our online shop.

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