Unfortunately our cats can’t tell us if they aren't feeling well, so to try and help you notice and potential problems in your cat.
We've put together our guide to an at home Senior Cat MOT. This guide is not meant to replace a full clinical exam by a vet, but to help you find problems that might otherwise fall under the radar. There are a few things to look out for and if noticed get in touch with our vet straight away:
Loss of appetite
Drinking more often or drinking a larger amount per day
Stiffness, lameness or difficulty in jumping up
Lumps or bumps anywhere on the body
Toilet accidents or difficulty passing urine or faeces
Disorientation or distress
Uncharacteristic behaviour, such as hiding, aggression, excessive vocalisation
I personally always start at the head end and work my way backwards to the tail, so let's start there.
Your cat’s eyes should be open and comfortable with no squinting. Check for any discharge coming from the eyes. Your cat’s pupils might change size according to the amount of light in the room, becoming smaller in bright light and much larger in darker spaces.
It is important to go to the vet if you ever notice:
Holding their eyes closed, or squinting
If the eye(s) become red or sore
If any discharge develops
Both ears should be nice and pink on the inside, clear of any build-up of wax or discharge. Give the ears a good smell, ensuring there is no nasty odour.
If the ears have any discharge, smell or look sore we advise contacting your vet. If your cat is excessively shaking their head, it could mean something going on a bit further down inside the ear which is more difficult to see without the right equipment.
Older cats are generally more likely to suffer from dental disease, so don’t panic if you see something unusual but alway get it checked by a vet. If your cat does not tolerate you opening their mouth, you can save this for the next visit to the vet. Some cats will let you open their mouth completely, and others will let you gently lift their gums to expose their teeth - the key is to always be careful, and if your cat seems stressed, ignore checking the mouth for now.
The gums should be nice and pink, similar to your own, however some cats have darker pigments present. If the gums ever look pale, white or yellow you must visit your vet as soon as possible, as this could be an urgent problem.
Cats teeth should be clean and white, with no cracks in their teeth. If you notice any discolouration on the teeth, a dark yellow-brown colour, this could be plaque, they may be due a clean!
Skin and Coat
You cat should not have any knots (matts) in their fur, long haired cats are particularly prone to this. Pay particular attention to their belly and under their legs. As well as being knot free, just like head and shoulders say, your cat’s skin should be flake free.
Older cats are more prone to developing knots, if you cannot safely brush these out they may need to see a groomer to safely clip these off.
Gently stroke all over your cat, and gently part the fur to look at the skin a little closer. If you notice any rashes, lumps, bald patches or wounds then contact your vet. Another indication your cat may have skin disease is when they are excessively scratching or grooming.
Limbs (Legs and Tail)
Monitor your cat’s walking from a distance, look for any lameness. You may see their hips drop or head go down when they place their foot down. This is particularly in older cats that might be developing arthritis.
Another sign your cats joints are “slowing down” is they may be more cautious jumping up onto things, or sadly miss them.
To examine the limbs, gently run your hands down their legs and tail, feeling for lumps, bumps and wounds. This is also a good opportunity to check their nails.
In younger cats they usually keep their nails nice and short, however older cats struggle to maintain them as well. They are more susceptible to getting in-grown nails and should be checked on a regular basis
If you find anything unusual or of concern during your exam it is always safer to contact your vet.