Truly knowing your cat involves a little bit more than knowing their daily routine, favorite treats, favorite toys, and favorite hiding spots. It also means knowing how they are doing both inside and out. Knowing your cat’s body is not only beneficial to their health, but also to the relationship and bond you share with them.
If you’re like me, then you probably don’t have an x-ray or other fancy imaging equipment in your own home. The good news? Regularly examining the exterior of your cat’s body will teach you a lot about how they are doing overall.
This process is called a body scan.
What Is a Cat Body Scan?
A body scan is the practice of examining your cat’s body from head to toe and nose tip to tail with 4 of your 5 senses: touch, sight, sound, and even smell. But, don’t worry! Taste is not involved in this one.
The body scan practice allows cat parents to get to know their cat’s body and to identify body changes and potential health problems early. The earlier these problems are identified, the faster we’re able to act to remedy or treat them.
Monthly self breast exams are recommended for all adult women to find breast cancer early. This is the same idea except for the entire body of our cats!
We recommend performing a cat body scan at least once a month and we believe in this so much that we created Pet Health 5 as a monthly reminder. Adding something new to your routine or creating a new habit can often seem overwhelming, but we think it’ll be a little bit easier when you’re joining in with other pet parents.
If you join us in the Pet Health 5 movement, you’ll receive an email each month reminding you to check five vital stats on your cat including a body scan. And before you know it you’ll be performing a quick body scan each time you’re snuggled next to your cat on the couch.
What to Look For During a Cat Body Scan
Each time you perform a body scan on your cat, you’ll want to look out for several things. Some things you find will be information only, but others might require in-home care or veterinary treatment.
While checking over your cat, record observations and notes in your Pet Health 5 log about the following:
- Lumps, bumps, and warts (what’s the difference?)
- Matted hair
- Dry skin
- Scrapes, cuts, and abrasions
- Fleas, ticks, and mites
- Broken or cracked nails and teeth
- Any redness or discoloration of the eyes
- Strange smells from your cat’s ears, mouth, or paws
- Reaction to touching or moving certain parts of their body as a possible sign of pain
- Weight (by determining your cat’s body condition score)
When making your notes and observations, be sure to pay attention to change over time. Did anything change shape, size, or color? Take a picture and make a note that you can easily refer back to during your cat’s next body scan.
Performing a Cat Body Scan: A Step by Step Guide
Each time you perform a body scan on your cat, you’ll start from one end and slowly move over their entire body to the other end. We recommend starting at the head and moving to the tail. As you go, be sure to check each part of their body along the way.
Check Your Cat’s Face & Head
Place your hands on their face and head. How do they react? If this is one of the first few times that you’ve done a body scan on your cat, then they might be startled or uncomfortable with this contact. With time and practice, you’ll be able to see if your cat reacts to pain or discomfort.
Look at their nose. Do you see any cuts, discharge, dryness, or roughness?
Look in their mouth. How does it smell? Do you see any color changes on their gums, teeth, or tongue? Do you see any cracked, broken, or missing teeth? Do you see any lumps, bumps, or warts? When you run your fingers along their teeth and gums, do they pull away or snap in a sign of pain?
Now is also a great time to brush your cat’s teeth!
Look into your cat’s eyes. Do you see any redness, discharge, scratches, or other discoloration? Is your cat squinting or scratching at their eye? Do their eyes follow you as you move?
Look at your cat’s ears. How do they smell? Do you see any redness, dirt, discharge, or excessive ear wax? How does your cat react when you touch them?
Now is also a great time to clean your cat’s ears!
Touch and move your hands around your cat’s head, moving through their fur. Do you feel any lumps, bumps, warts, scratches, or abrasions? Do you see any fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your cat show signs of discomfort?
Check Your Cat’s Neck
Continue moving your hands down your cat’s neck. Do you see any signs of hair matting, abrasions, or scratches? Can you feel any lumps, bumps, or warts? Are there any signs of fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your cat show any signs of pain?
Check Your Cat’s Legs & Paws
Move your hands over each of your cat’s legs down to their paws. Are there any lumps, bumps, warts, or abrasions? How does your cat react? Do you see any ticks, fleas, or mites?
Spread your cat’s toes on each paw and touch each of their paw pads. Are any of their nails cracked or broken? Are their nails a good length? What about their dew claws? Is there anything stuck between their toes? Are their paw pads smooth or rough? Any signs of cuts or scratches? How do their paws smell?
Now is also a good time to trim your cat’s nails.
Check Your Cat’s Body
Move your hands back up to your cat’s torso, running your fingers through their fur. Be sure to examine their entire torso. Are there any signs of hair matting, abrasions, or cuts? Do you feel any lumps, bumps, or warts? Are there any signs of fleas, ticks, or mites? Does your cat react in pain to any touch?
Examine your cat’s weight by determining their body condition score. Can you feel their ribs? Do they have a pronounced waist?
Now is also a good time to brush or use a de-shedding tool on your cat.
Check Your Cat’s Rear End & Tail
Move your hands along the entire length of your cat’s tail. Do you feel anything unusual? Does your cat react from pain or discomfort?
Lift your cat’s tail and examine their rear end. Are there any changes in color or smell? Can you observe any swelling or excessive redness?
Now is also a good time to check your cat’s temperature!
Each time you run through this process, both you and your cat will become more and more familiar with it. The first few times may take up to 15-20 minutes, but it will get quicker as you both get more comfortable.
Another added benefit to performing monthly cat body scans is that this will make vet visits easier! Your cat will become more comfortable with human hands touching their body and even looking in their mouth.
Do you perform a monthly body scan on your cat? Have you ever found anything that needed veterinary attention?
Body scans are one of the five important health checks that we encourage you to perform each month to stay on top of your cat’s health. Not only will body scans help you to identify possible health concerns early, but they will also help you build a better relationship with your cat.
Join us in our Pet Health 5 Movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. Then, all you need to do is take 5-15 minutes each month to check your cat’s health stats and log them.
Cat health is an important aspect of helping our cats live long and happy lives. You can start today by doing a complete body scan on your cat and signing up for Pet Health 5.