Most of us don't spend much time studying our cat's mucous membranes. Perhaps that's because the gums, tongue, and the roof of the mouth aren't immediately visible. It takes some work to pry open your cat's mouth and have a peek inside. Yet attempting this feat regularly, say, once a week, or when you brush your cat's teeth, is worth the effort. Should you notice white, yellow, grayish, or bluish membranes, you can be sure your cat's not well. Pale to white gums and oral membranes, as opposed to pink ones, are a result of anemia. Anemia develops when the concentration of hemoglobin or the number of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, becomes diminished.
The sign that describes blue or gray gums and mucous membranes is called cyanosis, but in order to recognize it, you first must know the normal color of the inside of your cat's mouth. The blue or gray hue is due to a lack of oxygen being delivered to the body's tissue, for example, if the cat's lungs or heart are diseased or the animal is choking. If the lack of oxygen is severe or prolonged, the skin can also appear bluish or grayish.
Lack of nourishing, oxygen-rich blood can be blamed on a number of ailments: a heart condition, heartworms, a pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, heavy flea infestation or a disorder of capillaries. The specific cause of the signs must be identified and treated. Blue cyanotic and white anemic gums are both a result of poor oxygen flow to the tissue, but result from different causes. Anemia typically develops over a period of time and is brought about by anything that lowers the body's blood cell count: diet, environmental toxins, and prescription drugs. If you suspect that your cat is anemic, take him to the vet. Ridding the body of parasites, changing the diet, or treating an illness may be enough to up the red blood cell count. In severe cases, blood transfusion and oxygen therapy might be necessary.