Cats instinctively to hide illness. As such small creatures in a big animal world, they don’t want to show weakness and become prey for a larger creature. Unfortunately, this means that they also hide illness from their human companions who want to be sure they stay healthy. To help catch your cat’s illness early, watch for the 10 signs that your kitty needs a visit to the vet for a diagnosis.
1 . Going outside the litterbox
There are a lot of reasons that your cat might be going outside the litterbox. But adding litter boxes, changing litter, and scooping more often doesn’t help if your kitty is going elsewhere because she isn’t feeling well.
Keep in mind that the ailment may not have anything to do with being “sick.” Cats with arthritis may find it difficult to “assume the position” do do their business on the shifting material of cat litter and choose to go on firm flooring instead.
2 . Changes in activity
Is your senior cat suddenly playing with toys like a kitten for the first time in years? A senior experiencing what seems like a second kittenhood can be so delightful it is hard to look past it to realize it might be due to a metabolic problem.
If your kitty is less active than before, this could be a sign that something is wrong, too. For example, to jump up onto furniture to look out a favorite window can be a sign of arthritis.
3. Changes in social interactions
Most of us are familiar with cats who become withdrawn when they don’t feel well. This makes it easier to overlook ailments that can make formerly-timid cats suddenly seem more outgoing. If your kitty who never spent time in the living room with the family is suddenly climbing onto everyone’s lap when you sit down in front of the TV, it’s easy to think she has had a breakthrough, and maybe she has! She could also have hyperthyroidism making her seem more outgoing than before.
4 Changes in sleeping habits
Maybe your cat is sleeping all the time, not just her usual 18 hours or so. There’s a reason that kitty is “slowing down” that’s worth looking into.
If your kitty who used to sleep with you every night now restlessly roams the house during the dark hours, something has changed. It might be a new neighbor cat, or it could be the onset of an illness that is making her seem restless at night.
5. Changes in food or water intake
A cat who was a moderate eater and is now always hungry probably has something going on that needs attention. So does a cat whose formerly healthy appetite vanishes and now picks at her food.
If your kitty suddenly stops at the water bowl to drink much more frequently, that should also get your attention. Get her checked out so that you can intervene early in case it is diabetes or kidney disease.
6. Weight loss or gain
A cat who eats just as much as before but now loses weight has had some kind of a metabolic change that requires attention. Don’t think, “Thank goodness that diet finally worked!” if the exact same diet didn’t work for the last six months. Something is going on!
Similarly, a cat who is eating the same amount but seems to be suddenly gaining weight can be a sign that something is going on that needs attention. Your vet can help identify what is happening.
7. Changes in grooming
Does your kitty look unkempt? Maybe she isn’t bathing as often as she used to or isn’t bathing certain areas like further down her back. There could be lots of reasons for this, including arthritis making it painful to bend around into those catlike pretzel shapes needed for complete grooming.
On the other end of the grooming scale, cats can overgroom to the point of causing bare spots. This can be be a sign of anxiety, pain, or even allergy.
8. Vocalization changes
Some cats, like Siamese, are just talkative, but be on the lookout for changes from your kitty’s normal behavior. If a talkative kitty suddenly doesn’t meow, something is going on.
Does your cat’s meow sound different? Maybe the pitch is different, or she meows much more frequently or sounds hoarse. Any of these changes are a sign that something is going on with your kitty’s health.
9. Bad breath
Your cat isn’t likely to have that just-brushed fresh breath unless you brush her teeth yourself, but bad breath can be a sign of a variety of issues as obvious as dental disease or as not-so-obvious as kitty having anal gland problems and grooming herself.
10. Behavior changes
Other behavior changes not already covered above, like sudden signs of fear or aggression may be neurological but are easy to mistake for behavior issues. Keep in mind that all behavior issues have a cause, and the cause could be medical rather than your kitty being a “bad cat.”
Research and further reading:
Cat Healthy, When is it Time to Go to the Vet?
flickr creative commons/Pamela B