by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
A healthy cat is clean and well-groomed, ready to show off her beautiful coat of immaculate fur.
When she is frightened or alarmed her fur will stand on end to make her look larger and more frightening.
She may also fluff her fur out slightly in cold weather to keep more air in her undercoat; this will help her to keep warm.
If she is stressed she will tend to shed more hairs than usual; this should not be confused with the normal shedding of her winter coat when the weather – or the heat is turned up in the home.
The condition of her fur coat can tell a lot about her state of health. Usually the first sign of illness is a loss of texture or lustre. Both of these may be caused by a poor diet, stress, or an underlying health issue. Patchy texture changes can be as a result of not being able to reach certain areas of the body, often from being overweight or suffering from arthritis. All-over poor texture can be from under grooming for a number of reasons.
Licking is a big issue with many possible causes, the most obvious being fleas. Other causes include allergies, wounds, pain and stress. Licking is a calming technique used by many cats.
Over grooming can be spending too much time grooming or grooming to the point of not having any fur in places, only open skin. Stress, anxiety and allergies are the main reasons.
Excessively pulling out her fur is usually caused by stress, although insect bites or severe pain in one area should also be considered as possibilities.
Sometimes there are patches of open skin that are not caused by over grooming or fur-pulling. These may be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, excessive shedding due to stress, allergies, or underlying hormonal conditions.
Hot spots are open areas of skin that have been licked raw; they are often red and feel warm to the touch. The main causes are fleas, insect bites or allergies.
A greasy coat could be an indication of dental issues, bladder infection, diabetes, or other digestive issues.
Dandruff may be caused by ringworm, diabetes, or an excessively dry environment.
A cat’s coat can change colour too, as a result of deficiencies in their diet, chronic inflammation, or as part of the ageing process. Siamese, Himalayan and other Oriental breeds can change colour depending on the temperature of their bodies, becoming darker in cool area and lighter in warmer areas, typically due to reduced or increased blood circulation.
While we may admire our cats and their coats, they can also reveal many issues the secretive cat is keeping to herself.