As caring pet owners, we need to be observant of changes in our cats’ behavior or appearance that could indicate an underlying health issue. While cats are masters at hiding signs of illness, paying attention to their habits and knowing what to look out for can help catch problems early. In this article, we’ll discuss some common signs that your cat may not be feeling well and might need a trip to the veterinarian.
Changes In Activity Level
A sudden change in a cat’s energy level or activity can signal an illness. Cats that are usually energetic and playful may become lethargic and sleepy. On the other hand, a normally laidback cat that suddenly seems anxious, agitated, or more active than normal could be responding to feeling unwell. Changes from their baseline behavior should raise suspicion that your furry friend may need medical attention.
Changes In Appetite Or Thirst
In the same way fluctuations in activity could indicate sickness, changes in appetite or thirst levels in cats may signify an underlying health problem. A normally enthusiastic eater who refuses food or seems uninterested could have an upset stomach, injury, or other medical condition. On the flip side, excessive drinking of water beyond their normal intake could point to conditions like kidney disease. Take note if your cat’s appetite or water consumption changes.
Changes In Grooming Habits
A cat that suddenly stops grooming themselves or seems unable to properly groom parts of their body may be experiencing pain or discomfort that is interfering. Common grooming areas like the face, paws, or undercoat that cats suddenly neglect could mean they don’t feel well. Changes in formerly fastidious grooming routines in cats could signal issues like arthritis or dental problems.
Respiratory Or Nasal Issues
Sounds involving coughing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing in cats are red flags that should not be ignored. Cats prone to developing respiratory diseases like asthma may exhibit chronic sneezing or wheezing. But new onset or worsening of these types of symptoms could point to infections like feline herpes virus, feline asthma flare, or other more serious conditions. Runny eyes and nose with discharge may indicate viral or bacterial infections as well.
Weight Loss Or Gain
Excessive, unexplained weight loss in cats over a short period is concerning and warrants attention from their vet. Underlying causes like hyperthyroidism, cancer, gastrointestinal, or other illnesses need to be ruled out. On the flip side, weight gain in cats without dietary or lifestyle changes could arise from things like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or other endocrine abnormalities. Keep track of your cat’s weight and report shifts.
Changes In Bowel Or Urine Habits
Unusual stool consistency, color, frequency, or presence/absence of urine spraying in cats needs to be investigated. Diarrhea, blood in stool, or constipation beyond occasional incidents could arise from things like bowel obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, or other issues. Changes in urination patterns like straining, blood in urine or not using the litter box may signal problems like urinary tract infections or kidney disease.
Changes In Skin Or Coat
Unexplained changes involving a cat’s skin, coat, paw pads, or areas around their eyes and ears deserve attention. Issues like itching, scratching, hair loss, scabs, redness, swelling, or foul odors could point to things like allergies, parasites, fungal infections, or skin irritations that need treatment. Take your veterinarian’s experience in feline dermatology issues to diagnose underlying causes.
Changes In Mentation Or Behavior
Changes in mental function or behavior beyond an individual cat’s baseline personality may indicate medical issues affecting mood, cognition, or mental stability. Things like unusual aggressiveness, anxiety, fear, disorientation, or changes in social interaction behaviors could signal pain, neurological problems, or other illnesses like hyperthyroidism in aged cats. Seek veterinary guidance.
Pain Or Lameness
Difficulty jumping, impaired mobility, or lameness in cats warrants prompt examination. Issues like arthritis, injuries involving bones or joints, muscle strains, or neurological problems often manifest as a reluctance to move normally or show obvious signs of discomfort with certain movements. Determining how to tell if a cat is in pain can help identify medical causes requiring treatment. Look for vocalization, guarding, tail twitching, or aggression if touched in certain areas as signs of pain.
Uncharacteristic meowing, crying, yowling, or other vocalization in cats beyond normal greetings or communication could signal distress arising from medical problems. Cats in pain from issues like injuries, flare-ups of arthritis, or infections may cry or yowl more than usual. Take note of any changes in the tone, volume, or frequency of vocalization from your cat.
Dullness Or Lethargy
Cats normally live life at their own pace. However, lethargy or decreased alertness beyond normal rest periods could indicate systemic infection, anemia, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, and other illnesses. Lack of responsiveness, uninterest in environment/play and just seeming “off” may signify that medical evaluation is warranted.
Changes In Eyes Or Ears
Take special care to check your cat’s eyes and ears regularly. Cloudiness, redness, discharge, or swelling in or around the eyes could signal things like infections, allergies, or glaucoma requiring medical management. Ear pain from infections, mites, or foreign bodies in the ear canal may cause head shaking or pawing at ears. Seek veterinary input for any eye or ear abnormalities.