As any cat owner knows, our feline friends can be quite unpredictable. Some are friendlier than others, while some prefer their alone time; some are content to lie around for most of the day, while others spend more time exploring and living up to the “curious cat” trope.
Regardless of personality, there are several important indicators that your kitty is feeling happy and healthy. Learn the signs of a healthy cat, along with potential symptoms to look out for.
A healthy cat should be curious, playful, and alert to her environment. She’ll likely want to explore any new object you bring into the house, whether it’s a bag of groceries or a new cat toy. Of course, you know your cat best—if playing simply isn’t her thing, you’ll still be able to recognize any changes from her typical disposition.
Of course, purring is also a standard sign of a content cat. Most cats purr when they’re being pet or brushed, but some will simply purr just because they’re happy. Note that sometimes, noisy breathing due to respiratory issues can sound like purring. If your cat is purring on the regular, she may need to see a vet (but let’s hope she’s just feeling ultra happy).
A happy cat tends to be a relaxed cat. Cats can nap anywhere, anytime, but if they choose to nap with household members, it means they feel safe and comfortable. Cats should sleep regularly throughout the day, but not excessively—between 12 to 16 hours is standard. Sometimes, you’ll notice a slight tail twitch. Cats don’t necessarily wag their tails the way dogs do, but they can flick their tails as a sign of being happy with their current situation.
Cats are creatures of habit and may start to feel stressed by any major changes, such as visitors or other changes to the household. Some cats may retreat to a safe, quiet space when they would otherwise enjoy sunbathing in the living room. This is typical feline behavior, but if Snowflake becomes abnormally antisocial, it may be worth talking to your vet to make sure there are no underlying health conditions to rule out, especially because consistent stress can affect the immune system.
Appetite and Digestion
Eating is a favorite hobby of any healthy cat. Cats tend to eat several small meals throughout the day, rather than a few large ones. They should also be drinking plenty of water. Because every cat is different, take some time to become familiar with your cat’s typical eating and drinking routine over the course of 24 hours. That way, you’ll be able to tell when something is off.
The litter box is a helpful window into your cat’s health, too. To start off, your cat should be using the litter box on a regular basis. If she’s going anywhere else, there might be a problem, especially because burying waste in dirt or sand is a feline instinct.
Your cat should be urinating frequently and leaving small, firm stools in the litter box. Monitor the litter box regularly to check for any abnormalities in your cat’s bathroom habits.
Some extra fluff on a cat may seem like a cute addition, but that extra weight can lead to health issues such as heart problems and joint issues. As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to feel your kitty’s ribs and spine when you run your hand along her side and back. A little layer of fat is perfectly fine—you don’t want your cat to be underweight, either. If you can’t feel the ribs, she may be overweight.
Looking at your cat from the side, you shouldn’t see a drooping belly. Looking at your cat from above, you should see something resembling an hourglass figure, with a defined waist area.
When it comes to numbers on a scale, ask your vet about the appropriate weight for your cat’s breed and age.
Skin and Coat
The color of your cat’s skin can be anywhere from a shade of pale pink to black. That being said, healthy skin is free of scabs, lumps, and bumps. The coat should be smooth and free of dandruff.
A healthy cat will groom herself regularly, but some breeds may need some extra brushing to prevent hairballs and keep cat hair from gathering all over the house. Be sure your kitty isn’t over grooming, though, as this could be a sign of anxiety, allergies, stress, or boredom… and could result in bald patches of fur and eventually, irritated skin.
Symptoms of a Sick Cat
Even the healthiest cats can feel under the weather sometimes. Some common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Appetite changes (eating significantly less or more than usual)
- Behavioral problems, such as lethargy, aggression, or atypical social isolation
- Constipation, digestive issues, and/or accidents outside of the litter box
- Vomiting (not just your typical hairball)
- Coughing or wheezing
- Itching and scratching
- Hair loss
- Bumps, scabs, and other skin problems
- Unexplained weight changes
- Limping or reluctance to move
If you notice signs of concern, it’s never a bad idea to contact your vet.