Fluffy as a dandelion gone to seed or soft as silk; shimmering like satin in the sun or seemingly illuminated from within—few things in this world are as soft or beautiful as the fur of one’s favorite cat. Stroking her irresistible coat is certain to calm even the most jangled nerves on the most horrible day—but it’s also good for more. In fact, careful observation of pet fur and underlying skin can tell you a good deal about her health.
Consider the following observations. Should your special kitty exhibit any of them, make an appointment to visit your veterinarian for further diagnosis.
Dandruff – Flakes of skin cells in her fur may be the result of dry weather or her diet. However, it can also be caused by the contagious Cheyletiella mite.
Sudden, constant itching – If it’s not caused by flees, a sudden bout of itchiness can be caused by Cheyletiella mites, an inhaled allergen or a food allergy.
Obsessive grooming – If you notice your pet grooming one area constantly, Cheyletiella mites may be to blame. Inhaled allergens, food allergies and flea allergy dermatitis could also be the culprit.
Scratching ears – Itchy ears can be caused by a variety of mites, as well as a yeast or bacterial infection.
Bald spots – A cat with allergies may make an area bald by licking or pulling out hairs. However, hair may also fall out due to disease.
Rough, bumpy skin – A case of the bumpy may indicate military dermatitis. This can be caused by flea or food allergies, mites or a bacterial or fungal infection.
Acne on the chin – Acne may occur due to an allergic response, mites, bacterial or fungal infections.
If you want to keep your cat’s fur looking its best, brush it regularly—even if she is a short-haired breed. Not only will a good brushing help to remove dirt, grease and dead hair, it will also exfoliate and stimulate blood circulation (and as any lady knows, that’s essential for supple, glowing skin). Aim for one or two brushing sessions a week, possibly more if she’s shedding heavily.
A metal comb works well on cats with short hair. Brushing in the direction her fur grows, work the comb through her coat from head to tail, including her chest and abdomen. A rubber brush will also work for removing dead hair. Long-haired cats require a little more finesse. You may need to work on small sections at a time, combing fur upward. If you encounter knots, remove them with a mat-splitter.
While you’re brushing your cat, check out her skin as well. Look for wounds, bumps, ticks, fleas and flea dirt (the dried specks of blood fleas leave behind).
Does your cat enjoy being brushed? Have you ever discovered anything unusual while examining her fur or skin? Share your special stories in the comments.