As part of normal feline family relationships, the queen or mother cat will groom and check over her kittens to ensure that they are all clean and well. Not only does this help to reassure the mother cat that nothing is amiss with her babies, but it also forms an important part of the bonding process between cat and kitten, and helps to make the kitten feel safe and reassured.
When you bring your new kitten home, they should visit the vet promptly for a professional check over and the first of their two-stage vaccinations, but after both of their vaccination visits are complete, your kitten probably won’t see the vet again until it is time for them to be spayed or neutered.
In the interim period and throughout your kitten’s life, it is important that you as their owner perform some quick, basic health checks on your kitten, to ensure that they are well and healthy. Again, not only does this give you an early indication if anything is wrong, but it helps to strengthen the bonding process between you and your kitten too.
Read on to learn about how to give your kitten a basic health and wellness check at home.
It is important to ensure that checking your kitten over is stress-free, and if possible, enjoyable for your little cat. Wait until your kitten is chilled out and comfortable, both so that they are not unduly wound up or looking to play, and so that you can see their resting breathing rate.
Try to get your kitten into the routine of having a quick check over once a week or so from as young an age as possible, and handle your little cat carefully and gently, with lots of petting and stroking too.
Run your hands and fingers gently along your kitten’s legs and body, looking for any lumps, bumps, spots or sore areas. Gently stroke the abdomen, and make sure that it is not hard or distended, and does not appear to be uncomfortable for your cat.
Try to observe your cat breathing when they are at rest or sleeping, and breathing evenly. Watch the abdomen rise and fall, and check that the breathing is not laboured, noisy or open mouthed. Brachycephalic cats with squashed-looking faces, such as the Persian cat, may snore or breathe noisily, due to the genetic mutation that causes their shortened faces; your vet should tell you what to expect from their breathing, and how to tell if it is normal and within safe parameters.
Check that your kitten’s eyes are bright and clean, and not covered in film or muck, or with a nasty discharge. Look for any clouding or anomalies on the lens of the eye, and ensure that your cat’s pupils are responsive to light, and able to follow movement.
Look around the ears for the signs of scratching or ear mites, and into the ear for inflammation, heavy wax deposits or mites.
Your kitten’s nose should be slightly moist and cool to the touch, without running or crusting around the nostrils. The teeth should be clean and healthy-looking, without a heavy build up of plaque.
While your kitten’s breath might smell of their last meal, it should not be foul smelling or rancid, and the inside of their mouths should be clean. Never force your kitten’s mouth open or handle the jaw roughly, as the jaw of the cat is very delicate and can soon be injured by inadvertent heavy-handedness.
Check that all of your kitten’s claws are ok and not split or broken by applying light pressure to the skin between the toes to make the claws pop out. Ensure that the pads of the paws themselves are supple, and not dry or cracked. Pay some mind to the dewclaws too, and ensure that they are not torn or protruding to the point that they rub or catch against the other leg when your kitten walks.
Kittens do not usually need to have their claws trimmed, but if their claws are very long and click on the floor when they walk, you might need to check with your vet if they require trimming.
Keep a note of your health checks on your kitten, and monitor any changes that you might notice. It is also helpful to keep a note of your kitten’s growing weight as they get older, and how they change physically as they age.
If you spot anything unusual or that you are not sure about as the result of your checks, speak to your vet for advice. Vets and veterinary nurses sometimes run special kitten health clinics, and are able to answer all of your questions or queries if you have any concerns, or would like some reassurance.