I spend a lot of my time wondering ‘is my cat sick, or is he just playing with my mind?’ I may possibly be the slightly paranoid, over-protective mother type. Maybe. I do have a furry little special-needs child though, so I think I can be excused. Sometimes. He doesn’t make things easy for me, with all the yelling and the hunger strikes and the coughing and wheezing not knowing how to breathe properly. I know, I shouldn’t be making this about me. Sparrow does have some genuine problems – freaking asthma, for example – and being a cat, he is predisposed to acting like everything is ok when he’s actually quite unwell.
In the wild, cats are both predators and prey, so their instincts tell them to act cool or keep out of sight when something’s not right. Being in tune and knowing your feline friend well will mean you can detect early on when he’s not well before a slight problem turns into a massive one.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Sick
Your intuition is probably the best guide you have when it comes to kitty’s health. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Keep an eye on your cat if you suspect something is up, and watch out for these things:
- Change in appetite – Any change in appetite is significant and should be addressed as early as possible. Loss of appetite can be an indication of dental disease, kidney problems or even cancer. An increase in appetite is not necessarily a good thing either – this could be an early sign of diabetes or hyperthyroidism. If your cat stops eating for more than 24 hours or eats in excess for more than a couple of days, a trip to the vet is in order.
- Bad breath – a foul odour in your cat’s mouth could be caused by something as simple as tooth decay or gum disease, which you can keep at bay by regularly brushing kitty’s teeth. Other causes of stinky breath include kidney problems or diabetes, particularly if his breath smells of ammonia or has a fruity tang.
- Vomiting – a one-off spew is probably nothing to worry about, but if your cat vomits for more than a couple of hours or vomits repeatedly it could be due to poisoning or a range of other stomach problems. You should seek medical attention, particularly if vomiting comes along with lethargy, diarrhea or a reluctance to move.
- Problems in the litter box – a change in the colour, smell, frequency or volume of your cat’s waste product is often an indication of illness. Likewise, if kitty starts making strange noises while toileting or starts going somewhere other than the litter box you need to tell your vet. Increased urination could mean kidney problems and straining to urinate is a common sign of lower urinary tract disease.
- Coughing, wheezing, sneezing or panting – breathing issues are always serious concerns. If your cat has trouble catching his breath or breathes heavily or rapidly any number of conditions could be to blame, including hairballs, parasites, allergies, asthma, heart disease, lung disease or an infectious illness. If your cat is coughing repeatedly, struggling to breathe or has bluish gums you need to get to the vet immediately.
- Weight change – rapid weight loss could be a symptom of thyroid issues or other serious illness. Obesity in itself is a serious condition which is detrimental to your cat’s health, but even minor weight gain can indicate a problem, particularly if it is not accompanied by an increase in appetite.
- Grooming change – cats tend to over-groom when they are stressed or have skin conditions, parasites or fleas. Sick cats can sometimes neglect to keep up their appearance because they’re not feeling well, so any change in your cat’s coat or grooming habits should be addressed with your vet.
- Vocalisation – if your normally quiet kitty starts to talk a lot, he is probably trying to tell you that something isn’t right. Of course, this could just be belligerence or attention seeking, but you should rule out any medical conditions before you assume all the noise is an attitude problem. Likewise, if your chatty cat suddenly goes quiet, this could mean trouble and warrants a checkup with the vet.
- Behaviour change – lethargy, sleeping more than usual, bouncing off the walls more than usual and generally acting out of sorts is usually a sign that something is up. Pay attention to your cat’s behaviour – if he’s acting out of character this is likely due to an underlying issue.
Trust Your Gut!
I can’t stress this enough – if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. As the person who knows your cat best, you are the best defence kitty has against all manner of health issues. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment with your vet and describe in detail what’s going on. It’s better to be a little bit over-protective and paranoid than to assume everything is ok and run the risk of your cat’s health getting worse. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. If you have any doubts, make an appoint with your vet as soon as you can.
How do you tell when your kitty is sick or when he’s just being a drama queen? Head to the comments below and tell us your stories…