As close as we feel to our special pets, we can never just talk with them! How wonderful it would be if they could tell us how they are feeling, especially if they are unwell. Instead, we have to rely on physical and behavioural signs. Sudden changes in energy, appetite, litter tray use, mobility and general mood and tolerance (such as when grooming) can all point to underlying issues.
One observable area that can give us clues as to the wellness of our pets is the condition of their fur. It is also possible, with a little vigilance, to spot a problem that could become potentially serious if not tended to quickly.
Here, we’ve broken down the factors to consider when assessing your cat’s health based on the condition of their coats.
Cats are typically fastidious groomers, even interrupting a good play session to tidy up a rough patch of fur. If your cat’s normal level of attention to grooming seems to suddenly escalate, it could be a sign of a health problem. Various forms of skin infections and parasites can compel a cat to over groom, even to the point that thinning fur, areas of skin irritation (often known as “hot spots”) or bald patches can occur. If your cat spends a good deal of time outside and you suspect they may have parasites, get your vet to recommend a flea shampoo as well as a long term treatment to keep them at bay. If it’s not parasites, it may be dermatitis. EIther way, a quick trip to the vets can get to the bottom of the issue.
For such obsessive groomers, it can be a stark contrast when your cat’s grooming habits suddenly and significantly decrease. Of course, older, injured or arthritic cats may lessen their motivation for it and lack the mobility to do it effectively, and any animal in pain can’t be expected to assume uncomfortable positions in order to self-groom. Other than that, under grooming in cats can be a sign of dental or general oral issues, but this will usually go hand-in-hand with a noticeable loss of appetite. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult your vet to rule out any nasty oral infections or tooth decay.
A generally scraggly or patchy coat can point to an underlying issue of malnutrition. Not surprisingly, this is particularly common among wild and feral cats. Poor coat conditions tend to resolve themselves once the animal starts to receive sufficient nutrition as part of a healthy diet, especially one rich in fish oils (omega 3 fatty acids) and proteins. If your cat’s poor coat condition persists despite them enjoying a healthy, well balanced diet, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
Thevets.com told us that cats can be diagnosed with either an overactive (hyper) or underactive (hypo) thyroid condition, and both of these can affect their coats. “When accompanied by symptoms like increased thirst or appetite, weight loss, agitation or a rapid heart rate, a matted or greasy coat can signal hyperthyroidism. Conversely, a ragged or matted coat in combination with symptoms such as weakness, lethargy and weight gain can be signs of hypothyroidism.” Either thyroid condition can be serious for a cat but thankfully they are medically treatable. It is best to catch it early though, so if you suspect a combination of your cat’s symptoms as possibly related to their thyroid, then see a vet quickly.
There are various severe infections that a cat can contract that present as dermatological issues, including feline leukemia (FeLV), pneumonia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). If your cat has an unkempt and oily coat, or if you notice any lumps or growths beneath their fur, then of course check with your vet. A simple blood test can determine whether any of these blood-borne, life-threatening infections are at play.
Ideally, you should examine your cat’s coat periodically regardless of any signs of ill-health, but especially if they are displaying any signs of potential issues. If you notice any flaky, dry skin, greasiness, excess dander, thin or balding patches or lump under the skin, consult your veterinarian. Keep a close eye on your cat to visit the vet prepared to assist a diagnosis with any observations in changes of behaviour, mood, appetite etc.
A thorough physical examination and possibly some blood tests can often determine whether there is any hidden illness quite quickly, as well as assisting the vet in creating the most effective treatment plan moving forwards.