Every cat boasts an array of uniquely feline physical attributes. Like the color of their eyes or the length of their whiskers, a cat’s fur coat tops the list of what makes them beautiful or handsome.
Aside from aesthetics, however, a cat’s coat is the ultimate indicator of overall feline health. Whether thick and fluffy or silky and smooth, when they feel good, their coats can take on a lustrous quality. But when something’s “off” you’ll likely see it first with a change in grooming habits.
Kittens learn self-grooming from their mothers and are usually good at it by the time they’re weaned. Dampening a forepaw with their tongue, cats are fastidious about their hind legs, face, chin, neck, ears, whiskers, genitals, tail, paws, and shoulders until they’re squeaky clean.
More To It
The process makes them look stunning, of course, but there’s more to it than that. At the base of each hair, sebaceous glands produce an oily secretion. When they lick their fur, they evenly distribute the oil. This helps to lubricate the coat, and protect it from water, dirt, and to some extent, parasites.
Grooming also helps remove loose or dead hairs, and prevents mats. Integral as a cooling mechanism, when cats lick themselves their saliva evaporates and cools them down. When their fur is clean, air can freely circulate on the skin.
Less than Dazzling
Using the look and feel of your cat’s coat as a benchmark for overall feline health, if they start to look less than their absolute best there could be something going on, such as:
- Weight Gain – Any extra weight on a cat can seriously limit a cat’s mobility and flexibility. Plus, they can start to feel lethargic or lazy, reducing their interest in self-care.
- Arthritis – With achy, sensitive joints it can become painful for aging cats to twist and turn themselves into positions primed for pristine grooming. We can help you with supplements that may help soothe the symptoms of arthritis.
- Dental pain – Any sensitivity in or around the mouth can result in fewer activities overall. You may also notice a disinterest in dry food. Peek inside the mouth and call us to rule out any dental problems, like decay, gum inflammation, or infection.
A Watchful Eye
If you notice that your cat just isn’t feeling good, they probably won’t be bending around cleaning their backside. It’s important to rule out any of the above scenarios, as well as:
- Lumps and bumps
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia (feLV)
- Thyroid disease
If a greasy, oily coat persists, you may also see signs of weight loss, increased thirst and/or appetite, rapid heart rate, and restlessness.
Optimal Feline Health
Sometimes cats go to the other extreme and over-groom themselves. Please let us know if you see bald patches, hot spots, and thinning fur. Likewise, due to the severe skin reactions caused by fleas, we encourage you to keep your cat up to date on their parasite prevention.
On the Up and Up
Since they cannot tell us when they feel sick, it’s up to us to pick up even the most subtle clues. Please let us know if your cat exhibits sudden changes in litter box use, appetite, mobility, and grooming as these all set the standard for feline health and wellness.