Here’s what you need to know about the most common kitten ailments, and what to do to get your kitten healthy again.
Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed
A healthy kitten is happy and just plain fun to be around. Good health goes beyond physical considerations, and includes emotional status. Emotional and physical health are two sides of the same coin and cannot be separated. Each influences the other.
Physical illness impacts the baby’s attitude, and a positive or negative personality influence physical health. Negative emotions, collectively referred to as “stress,” can depress the kitten’s immune system. Stress makes the cat more prone to physical illness, and can make it more difficult for the sick kitten to recover.
Body and Soul—Signs of Good Health
Your kitten shows he’s healthy by the way looks and the way he acts, and reacts, to the world around him. He should literally be the “picture” of health. It’s very easy to monitor Kitty’s health simply by paying attention to him. In most cases, signs of good health are very obvious. Once you become familiar with what is normal, you’ll be better able to recognize signs of problems, both physical and emotional.
The fur on a shorthaired kitten should be shiny, smooth, and feel like silk against your hand when you pet him. Longhaired kittens have fluffy, silky, or cotton-like hair.
Dry lifeless or brittle fur, bald patches, mats and tangles, and a dirty coat are all signs of a health problem. One of the first signs of illness shows up in the fur coat. It may point to problems with nutrition, or parasites like intestinal worms or fleas.
In normal kittens, you won’t see much bare skin. The inside of the ears, the nose, and paw pads are bare, and the fur is naturally a bit thinner on the shorthaired kitten’s temples above and beside his eyes. When you pet your kitten, his skin underneath the fur should feel smooth and without blemish.
Any lump, bump, scab or sore in the skin should alert you to a problem. Bald places, red or rough skin, or discoloration can be a warning sign of a variety of health problems. For instance, very pale skin on the inside of his ears may indicate anemia, while a yellow tinge, called jaundice, points to a liver problem.
Kitten eyes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. The one universal is that healthy eyes are bright, clear, and have only a small amount of clear tear-like discharge (if at all). Kittens meet the world with their eyes wide-open.
A squinting eye points to discomfort or pain. Kittens can scratch their eyes or get dust in them, and end up with a watery, squinty, or cloudy eye. Any discharge from the eyes, other than moderate clear tear-like secretions, is cause for concern. The cause ranges from simple irritation to a viral or bacterial infection like upper respiratory diseases that can be life-threatening to young kittens.
Normal kitten ears are clean. The visible skin is a healthy pink. There may be a bit of amber-colored waxy substance that’s easily wiped out. Your new youngster will also be alert to interesting sounds.
Shaking his head or pawing and scratching at his ears alert you to problems with your kitten’s ears. Ear infections or parasite infestations can cause these symptoms and make your baby miserable. Any sort of discharge points to a health problem. For instance, a crumbly dark material inside kitten ears often is due to an infestation of ear mites.
Kittens are literally led around by the nose, so a healthy one is important to both physical and emotional health. The nose can be different colors, from light pink to black, or even freckled. Usually the nose stays moist, from the kitten licking his nose and from minimal clear discharge.
A stopped-up nose can have catastrophic consequences for your your kitten. That’s because Baby’s appetite is ruled by the smell of his food. If his nose is plugged, he won’t eat, and that can make him even sicker. A gummy or crusty nose or sneezing are signs he needs help.
The gums above the teeth in your kitten’s mouth are naturally pink. Some kitties have a bit of pigment in the gums and can have darker gums. Depending on his age, Kitty may have a few teeth missing or new ones coming in. Those places can be a bit sore.
Sores on the gums, on the tongue, or roof of the mouth can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection. The kitten may refuse to eat because his mouth is so sore.
Healthy Claws and Paws
Paw pads are soft and smooth, while the claws grow cleanly from the ends of each toe.
Problem Claws and Paws
Kittens are so stoic that they rarely limp when a paw hurts. They may instead simply stop moving around as much.
Torn or split claws are painful and need attention. Also, any crusty material at the base of the nail bed (where the claw grows out) could indicate a more serious whole-body health problem with the kitten’s immune system.
The kitten’s anus should be clean. Check the furry bottom area beneath his tail. Kitten elimination is a barometer of his health. The consistency of feces varies a bit depending on his diet, but should be well formed and not liquid. Normal urine is yellow to amber colored. Monitor your kitten’s litter box to keep track of his normal bathroom habits.
An occasional soft stool probably isn’t cause to worry, but diarrhea is serious especially with tiny kittens. They can become dehydrated very quickly. Diarrhea can be a sign of a wide range of health problems, from intestinal parasites to viral infections. Straining in the litter box is just as serious, and may indicate such conditions as constipation or urinary tract problems. Blood in the urine or feces is always a sign of a health problem. In other words, an energetic kitten that acts depressed, a friendly kitten that becomes aggressive or shy, or a laid-back kitten that turns hyperactive all should be a cause for concern.