What should I be looking for while brushing and combing my cat?

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Grooming is an excellent time to examine your cat for the presence of “passengers,” as well as for any abnormalities. Fleas and ticks like to congregate in warm areas of the body, in particular the armpits, around the ears, and in the genital area. Check these areas thoroughly.

Regardless of location, however, fleas leave behind “flea dirt,” which is actually excreted blood. It looks like small black flecks or tiny gravel, and in severe infestations is even visibly present in the bedding. It certainly shows up in the tines of a comb, and will be visible in the clumps of hair you clean out of the brush periodically during the grooming session.

As you run your hands and the grooming implements over the cat’s body, be aware of any bumps or lesions. While it is not unusual for cats, especially elderly cats, to develop fatty lipomas, never let any mass go assuming it is benign.

Many feline cancers appear suddenly and grow rapidly. Immediately take the cat to your veterinarian for an evaluation. There have been tremendous advances in the treatment of cancer in cats and survival rates are good in many cases with early detection.

If you have multiple cats who scuffle while they play, it won’t be unusual to find healing scabs, especially on the head. Cats play rough! One will get another down and merrily “rabbit kick” it in the head. Watch any such lesion you detect, however, as a spot that refuses to heal is a warning sign.

Also be aware of your cat’s reaction to being touched and handled, especially if he is allowed any unsupervised time outside. If the cat cries out when he is picked up, or when you are working with any part of his body, or becomes aggressive, consult your veterinarian. Cats, by their nature, hide their injuries and are often hurt far worse than we realize.

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