Your Cat’s Physical Examination at Home
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Your cat cannot explain his symptoms, so it's the responsibility of you and your veterinarian to take care of him. You can help speed the diagnosis and recovery by having the answers to the following questions ready.
Start by having the answer to some general questions. How long have you owned your cat? How old is your cat? Has your cat ever been ill? Is your cat currently under treatment for an illness or disease? Has your cat ever been tested for Feline Leukemia or Feline AIDS? Where did you get your cat (adoption center, breeder, previous stray, etc.)? What medication is your cat currently taking? Does your cat receive any consistent flea treatment? Is he/she vaccinated? And if so, which vaccines and when last vaccinated? What other type of pets do you have? Are any other pets ill? Have there been any recent acquisitions? Have there been any recent activities such as boarding, grooming, etc.? Is the majority of his/her time spent indoors or outdoors? Have there been any recent changes in diet or eating habits? What brand of food, how much and how frequently does your cat eat? Do you feed your cat table scraps? What kind? How often? Do you feed your treats? What kind? How often? Have there been any recent changes in water consumption? How much water does your cat typically drink per day? What type of litter do you use and how frequently is the litter box cleaned? Have you noticed any coughing or sneezing? Have you noticed any lumps or bumps on your cat? Is your cat urinating normally? Is your cat having normal bowel movements? When is the last time he/she had a bowel movement? Have you noticed any recent weight loss or weight gain?
After answering some general questions, more specific questions need to be answered.
Regarding the eyes: Have you noticed an increase or decrease in tear production? Do the eyes appear cloudy or red? Have you noticed any discharge coming from the eyes? Do the eyes appear bloodshot? Are the pupils the same size in both eyes? Have you noticed your pet rubbing or pawing at eyes? Is your cat squinting his/her eyes? Do the eyes appear to be sunken or excessively protruding?
Regarding the ears: Do you notice any swelling or discharge from the ears? Are the ears drooping when they normally stand erect? Are the ears red and inflamed? Do you notice any odor to the ears? Is your cat rubbing or pawing at the ears? Have you noticed a lot of head shaking? Have you noticed any pain or crying when you rub or scratch your cat's ears?
Regarding the nose: Have you noticed any congestion, sneezing or coughing? Have you noticed any blood coming from the nose? Have you noticed any nasal discharge?
Regarding the mouth: Have you noticed any swelling of the lips or tongue? Any bleeding from the mouth? What color are the gums – tissue just above the teeth? Is your cat able to open and close the mouth normally? Is there any pain involved in opening or closing the mouth? Have you noticed any excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth? Is your cat able swallow food normally? Looking inside the mouth, are there any foreign objects such as bones or sticks stuck on the roof of the mouth or around the teeth?
Regarding the chest: Is your pet experiencing any difficulty breathing? Have you noticed any panting? Is there any pain when the chest area is petted? Have you noticed any recent coughing? What is the heart rate? Is the heartbeat steady and consistent? Place your hand or your ear on the left side of your cat's chest, just behind the elbow. You should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. Count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute.
Regarding the abdomen/stomach area: Has your cat been having any diarrhea or vomiting? Is your cat able to eat and drink normally? Does the abdomen/stomach area appear swollen or distended? Does your cat appear in pain when the stomach area is petted? Is your cat known to chew on non-food items such as clothing, towels, strings, etc.?
Regarding the urinary and reproductive systems: Have you noticed any difference in urinating? Does your cat seem to strain when urinating or cry in pain? Does your cat repeatedly try to urinate with no urine produced? Is there any blood in the urine? How frequently does your cat urinate? Is your female cat spayed? If so, at what age? Did your female cat ever have kittens? At what age? If unspayed, when was her last heat cycle and was she bred? Is your male cat neutered? If so, at what age? Do you notice any discharge from the vaginal area? Do you notice any discharge from the penis? If your cat is not neutered, do you notice any swelling of the testicles? Have you noticed your cat excessively licking or grooming the genital area?
Regarding the musculoskeletal system – bones and joints: Have you noticed any limping? Are any legs or joints swollen? Has your cat been excessively licking at one area of his/her legs? Does your cat show signs of pain when walking? Is your cat able to walk normally? Does your cat walk on his/her knuckles? Does your cat drag any legs when walking? Have you noticed any pain when petting your pet?
By being able to answer these questions, your veterinarian will be in a much better position to help your pet. Additional tests may be necessary to find out what the problem is but the answers to the above questions can greatly narrow the area of concern.