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The cat's check-up

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Owners of cats can attest: one can become as attuned to the health of a pet as that of a child. Every sneeze, drawn-out meow, missed dinner date arouses concerns. Recently, Nita Heerk was amazed to realize, I know my cat's potty habits! Who woulda thunk?!

Here are 10 things to look for when it comes to your cat's health:

1. Has my cat stopped eating? One missed meal isn't a big deal. There are always those fussy days! But utter indifference to food is usually not a good sign.

2. Is my cat sleeping poorly? Cats are light sleepers and may startle awake at any provocation, but when sleeping, they are the ultimate slackers. As Nita's vet told her, "Watching a cat sleep should make you feel good." If instead, you feel a clench in the gut (why can't he relax?!), the cat may be as unhappy as you feel.

3. Does my cat have burning ears? Cats can get heated up, just like any other mammal, but red, burning ears may indicate a fever. Nita Heerk's cats always gets hot, red ears the same day they get shots. The ears return to normal within 8 hours.

4. Nita's cats also get restless, yowling and pacing, right after shots. She will calm them with butter on the paws.

5. Is my cat pooing and peeing irregularly? Nita's cat Bob developed Feline Urologic Syndrome. He was peeing less than twice a day.

6. Is my cat excessively grooming him or herself? After straining to pee, Bob would spend over ten minutes grooming his nether regions. Likewise, when Aurora has problems with her anal sacs, she gives herself away by excessive grooming.

7. Has my cat lost interest in grooming? Cats are fastidious by nature. As they get older, grooming gets harder, and older cats may need help with difficult-to-reach areas. However, even older cats still like to groom. If a cat has completely given up even on the idea, something might be amiss.

8. Has my cat undergone a radical personality change? Cats' personalities can change after extensive surgery. And their personalities will sometimes alter when their surroundings change. A personality change with no discernible cause may indicate a more severe cause.

9. Is my cat crying abnormally? Like with all of these questions, the answer to this one is rather relative. Aurora cries when she is hungry. Bob cries when he wants attention. However, Nita Heerk pinpointed his F.U.S. distress (all his other symptoms she understood in retrospect) when his cries became excessive and odd. This is something only a parent could discern!

10. Are my other cats acting oddly towards the possibly ill cat? This question is based on observation rather than science. Nita Heerk noticed that before Max's death, Aurora began to avoid him. Perhaps Aurora was reacting to his personality change. Perhaps she sensed Max's failing systems. Or perhaps she was just being obnoxious.

All 10 points/questions should be used only as indicators. The best thing to do when you are concerned about your feline friend is call your veterinarian--or the Animal Emergency Clinic. In Portland, Maine, the Animal Emergency Clinic is located at 739 Warren Avenue, 207-878-3121.

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