Not Feline Well? 12 Common Signs Your Cat Is Sick

by Team eLocal
Veterinary doctor examining a sick cat with stethoscope in a vet clinic

If your cat isn’t feeling well, the telltale signs a cat is sick can help you figure out what’s wrong. Some subtle signs are harder to pick up on than others, though, especially since cats are notorious for acting completely normal even when they’re ill.

Here’s a primer on what symptoms to look for to tell if your cat is sick so you can be ready to help your feline friend when they’re feeling under the weather.

What Are Some Telltale Signs Your Cat Is Sick?

For cat owners, learning the signs a cat is sick can be important because cats are normally silent about their health problems. However, an attentive owner can pick up on the cues kitty is leaving behind, which is good because early detection may mean a more successful outcome with some illnesses in cats. Left untreated, some problems can get significantly worse.

So, what are some signs a cat is sick that you can look for?

1. She’s More Antisocial Than Normal

Cats are not exactly known as social butterflies, but if yours is acting less sociable than she usually does, something could be amiss. She might have an infection or even a disorder of the endocrine system, for example. If this behavior continues, take her to the vet ASAP.

2. Your Cat's Breath Stinks

Bad breath is a sign of illness in cats and can indicate everything from diabetes to liver, respiratory, kidney and periodontal diseases.

3. He’s Vomiting

Occasional vomiting is completely normal and usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes, it’s because they’re throwing up a hairball. But if your cat vomits for more than 48 hours, a vet’s intervention is needed to keep him from dehydration. He could have an underlying problem such as liver disease or an intestinal blockage that must be addressed.

4. Her Grooming Isn’t What It Used to Be

Cats groom so much you might begin to wonder if yours is really that vain. The truth is, though, that if your cat slacks off her grooming routine, it can be a sign that she’s sick. If your cat is old, it could be arthritis that’s causing her to be more complacent about her hygiene. Ask your vet what help can be offered for an arthritic cat.

5. She’s Grooming too Much

On the flip side of letting herself go is spending too much time licking herself and grooming. Over-grooming can be a sign your cat is sick. Although it can be a psychological condition, it may also be due to an allergic reaction, allergies and even fleas. Let your vet make the call.

6. He’s Experiencing Difficulty Breathing

Trouble breathing may indicate asthma, lung disease, pneumonia or even lung cancer. If your cat seems to be having difficulty getting air into his lungs, see the vet immediately.

7. Her Fur Is Falling Out or She Has Skin Issues

Ringworm can cause both of these signs in your kitty. Get your cat to the vet quickly, and be sure that other pets that were exposed to your cat are checked. Remember, ringworm in cats is also transmissible to humans.

8. He’s Getting Skinnier

A 10-pound cat that sheds a few pounds is definitely sick. A few pounds is a lot when you just weigh 10 or 12 pounds to start with. Dental problems or internal diseases can be to blame.

9. She’s Extra Thirsty

Almost as a rule, cats aren’t big water drinkers. Your cat likely only takes in around a cup of water for every 10 pounds of body weight per day. However, if she’s emptying her bowl and looking for extra fluids elsewhere — such as from the kitchen faucet or even the toilet bowl — this can be a sign of sickness. She may have feline diabetes or hyperthyroidism. If your cat's drinking continues to be excessive, see a vet, as this is a sign that your cat is sick.

10. His Appetite Has Decreased

Cats who have underlying infections or even cancer may experience decreased appetite. Your cat might also have a dental problem. See the vet to find out what’s happening to keep her from eating as he should.

11. She Has a Runny Nose and Eyes

Nasal discharge, fever, coughing, sniffles and sneezing can be signs of different problems. The most common is a feline upper respiratory disease — a “kitty cold.” Still, report any discharge — clear, green or yellow — to the vet to rule out something more ominous.

12. He’s Vocalizing More

If your cat appears to be vocalizing more than usual, and this behavior continues for more than a day, this may be a sign your cat is sick. Vocalizing may be a way of letting you know he’s in pain and needs help.

What Symptoms Signal It’s Time to Take Your Cat to the Vet?

In addition to the signs above that indicate your cat is feeling poorly or could even be seriously ill, there are other signs of sickness in cats that indicate a visit with the vet is imminent. These include:

  • When your cat is in obvious distress and is acting out of character or hiding, crying or howling
  • Your cat’s litter box habits change
  • Your cat appears to have become sedentary and seems extremely fatigued
  • Your cat drags her back legs when she walks
  • You feel an unusual lump or growth on your cat’s body

This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible reasons your cat may need immediate veterinary attention. Let instinct guide you — if you have a strong feeling something is wrong with your cat, it may be. Err on the side of caution and always defer to your vet’s advice.

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