Tips for a long life
On average, cats usually live for around 12-15 years. And to give her the best chance of living a long and happy life, you can do a five-point monthly home exam. This way you'll be able to detect and prevent any problems sooner rather than later.
Five steps to a happy cat
1. Weight check
Get on the scales with her regularly, and keep an eye out for changes in body weight by standing above her and looking for a slight "waist" behind her ribs. If you think she's looking a little podgy, place both hands around her upper waist – you should be able to feel her ribs (but they shouldn't be sticking out).
You can also check for pouches of tubbiness in her groin area and under her belly.
If she fails any of the weight tests, you'd best go and talk to your vet about the next steps. In the meantime, keep all treats and table snacks off the menu, and divide her daily feeding allowance into two to four small meals a day. Make sure she gets some exercise, too, starting slowly with short bouts of activity and gradually building on this.
If, on the other hand, you think she's underweight, take her into the vet for a full health check.
2. Coat and skin check
Your cat's coat should feel wonderfully smooth from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. You can part the fur near her head and along her spine to check for any flakes, scales or cuts. Move on to the base of her tail, the rump and stomach to see if any fleas have set up home - they'll look like tiny black flakes or specks. If you think you have found fleas then speak to your vet about a suitable treatment for her.
The colour of her coat can tell a story too. It should be bright and glossy, so if it's dull or matted she might be poorly. Your vet will be able to help.
3. Eyes and ears check
If you gently pull down your cat's lower eyelid, the area you see should be pink. You can also check that her pupils are normal size, and stand with her by a window, opening the curtain and closing it again to check how responsive her pupils are to light. If there's any coloured discharge, or excessive eye watering, she may have picked up an infection.
Your cat's ears should be clean and pink in colour – but not bright pink. They should also be free of debris and any nasty odours. Check for wax, especially dark wax, which may be a sign of ear mites or infection.
Visit your vet if you come across any problems her eyes or ears.
4. Teeth and gums check
Carefully open her mouth to inspect all her teeth. Look for tartar build-up, which is yellow to dark brown in colour. If you find any you'll need to take her to a vet to have it removed. As ever, prevention trumps cure, so the best thing to do is to have your vet give her mouth a regular, thorough clean. You can help by buying a specially designed pet toothbrush and toothpaste, or with chew snacks designed to fight plaque.
5. Spot checks
It's easy to check for unusual lumps or bumps on your cat. Just place both your hands on top of her head and move them down under the chin, then behind the front legs, under the shoulders, down the back, over the hips, and down the legs. Check her claws and footpads for cuts or cracks too. If you find anything you're not happy with, take her to the vet.
If you're very tactile with your cat you'll soon get to know how she looks when she's healthy. That way you'll be able to spot anything that's unusual quickly and easily, and you'll give her a great chance of living a long, contented life.