American housecats are typically overweight, so chances are your cat may be too. A cat that is at ideal weight will have their ribs slightly visible and have an evident waist when looking at them from above.
Like humans, excess weight can cause health problems with our cats, so it is important to keep them at a healthy weight.
Along with feeding less; feeding higher quality wet food and more exercise and play time can help your cat maintain a good weight.
Cats often won't tell us something is wrong, they are particularly skilled at hiding their pain. This is a survival instinct as in the wild cats are both predators and prey. They don’t want to expose potential weaknesses to other predators and make themselves vulnerable. If a cat gets to the point of expressing behavior that is the result of obvious pain or discomfort, it's often an emergency situation.
A great way to set you and your cat up for success is to start slowly getting them used to touching all over, especially on some of their most sensitive areas like feet, ears, tail and mouths. You can teach them to give you a paw, which will help when trying to cut their nails. Get them used to human fingers in their mouths so you can easily brush their teeth.
Snout to tail check ups can be a great way to bond with your cat and keep a good check on their health.
To get started, gently pet their head, sniffing the ears and removing dirt and waxy debris with a soft cloth moistened with cat specific ear cleaner. If anything appears red, smells bad or if you notice pepper or coffee ground-like dirt, get to the vet. These could be signs of an infection, the presence of ear mites, and you may cause pain if you attempt to clean.
If eyes tear excessively, have a thick discharge or if the pet is rubbing them, clean with purified water. Also observe eyes for differences in pupil size, if one is larger, this could be a sign of major medical problems and prompt medical attention is needed.
Next up we move to the mouth, take a careful look inside. Gums should be a healthy pink (except for pets with dark pigment) with no odor coming from the mouth. An unpleasant scent could indicate gum disease, tooth decay or gastrointestinal problems. Sweetness or an acetone-like scent could signal diabetes, but only your veterinarian knows for sure! Pay attention to hydration by feeling for moistness in the gums. Dry or sticky means you should encourage water intake. Dehydration is serious, so if skin at the nape of the neck sticks together when gently lifted, eyes are sunken and/or constipation presents, get to veterinary care!
The rest of the exam is like a gentle message, looking for things that don't belong like bumps, tenderness or wounds. Look for signs of skin dryness, a good brushing can help stimulate oil glands. Now the best part, reward your pet with a few treats or some play time!
Other things to keep an eye on are weight changes, changes in typical movements or grooming or changes in eating, drinking or litter habits. For example, decreased or increased thirst can be an indicator of changes in kidney function, diabetes, or other medical issues and should be looked at. Changes in urination habits can mean issues with kidney function, diabetes or urinary blockages. Urination outside the litter box can mean a bladder infection.
See the attached PDF from Pet Sitters international for a more detailed description.
How to pick the best food for your cat? The short version is, if you can afford it, feed your cats wet food.
Diet is the one of the most important decisions you make for your cat. Feeding them a balanced feline diet can help avoid painful and costly illness in the future. Most veterinarians suggest feeding wet food instead of dry kibble.
The biggest three negatives associated with dry food are:
1) water content is too low
2) carbohydrate load is too high
3) it is too high in plant-based protein versus animal-based proteins
Dry food is very heavily processed which includes being subjected to high temperatures for a long time resulting in alteration and destruction of nutrients. It is like feeding your cats junk food at every meal.
Many people will say "my cat is doing just fine on dry food". Every living being is doing just fine, until they notice a sign of disease. Every cat with diabetes or a blocked urinary tract was doing just fine until they were not.
Cats are carnivores, they are meant to get their nutrition from meat and not plants. The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is meat-based. Because plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, pet food companies will have a higher profit margin when using corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc. This abnormally high ratio or carbohydrates can wreak havoc on a cat's blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to diabetes.
Another reason to feed your cats wet over dry food is that cats also have a low thirst drive, so to stay healthy they must get hydration with their food. In the wild your cat would be eating a high protein, high-moisture, meat/organ-based diet, with only approximately 1-2 percent of her diet consisting of carbohydrates. The average dry food contains 35-50 percent carbohydrate calories. Some of the cheaper dry foods can contain even higher levels. Staying hydrated can help keep your cat safe from many common cat ailments such as bladder, kidney and urinary tract problems.
Many cat nutritionists would say the most low quality wet food is better than the highest quality dry food. Cats on canned food consume double the amounts of water as cats on dry food.j
Please do your own research and pick a food that is best for you and your cat. More detailed information on a cat's diet, and how it can affect diabetes or increased weight can be found here.