Having a sick kitten on your hands is never fun. Often times it's something that can be dealt with at home, but sometimes an issue can be serious, and when you're dealing with something as helpless as a kitten, it pays to know what you’re looking for, and what each symptom might mean. Depending on your kitty's lifestyle (i.e., indoor or outdoor) and their typical behavior, it can sometimes be tough to decipher whether or not their symptoms are serious.
Here are nine common warning signs of a sick kitten, what they might mean, and a few helpful tips for dealing with each.
1. Eye Gunk
Anyone who has owned a cat knows that they get eye crusties just like the rest of us. However, sometimes the goop in their tear ducts can be a sign of a sickness on the horizon. If your cat has a clear, tear-like discharge, or a thick, yellow discharge coming out of their eye, these could be signs of an eye infection, allergies, eye trauma, or irritation.
When dealing with your kitten's eye gunk, first try wiping it away from the eye with a damp towel and see how long it takes to return. If the problem keeps coming back, or if you notice that it is starting to obstruct your kitten’s vision, take them to the vet.
2. White gums
If you notice that your kitten’s gums are white, take them to the vet immediately, as this is most likely a sign of anemia, which is a condition that requires medical treatment. Healthy kitten gums are a light pink.
3. Swollen stomach
If you notice that your kitten’s stomach is starting to form a visible bulge, start by more closely moderating your kitten’s meals, as this could be a symptom of over eating.
Try giving them more frequent, smaller meals at routine intervals throughout the day, rather than a large breakfast and dinner. If that does not produce results, consider the possibility that your kitten has intestinal worms.
While the thought of worms inside your precious kitty is disgusting, the treatment for them is fairly simple if caught early enough. You can talk to your vet about getting a dewormer.
Kittens are supposed to be inquisitive and constantly bouncing around. While they also require a lot of sleep, there is a noticeable difference between a kitten who is tired and a kitten that is lethargic: a lethargic kitten sleeps the whole day away, and when they aren’t sleeping, they are disinterested in playing or anything that isn’t looking for another place to fall asleep.
If you suspect your kitten is lethargic, make an appointment with your vet, as it can be difficult to find the specific cause of your kitten's lackluster behavior.
Loose stool is a condition that plagues us all sometimes, kittens included. If you notice your litter box filling up with this nasty stuff, first consider the fact that it could be a dietary thing. Have they been put on a new cat food? Have their meal times changed? If you answered yes to either of those questions, give it some time and see if they get used to the changes.
Diarrhea can be the result of a dietary deficiency, intestinal worms, anxiety, or a number of other causes, making it tough to pin down. If it becomes a growing concern, take them to the vet, as it could potentially be something serious.
6. Loss of appetite
Kittens can be picky eaters, but they should still be eaters. If you notice your kitten is not eating anything you put out for them, this could be a sign of something wrong. It could just be an upset tummy, in which case try giving them some boiled chicken or something else mild (unseasoned rice is ok too) to help get them eating again. Again, if nothing is working, take your kitten to the vet.
If you notice that your precious kitten is having trouble keeping their food down, first consider giving them smaller portions, as the primary cause of vomiting in kittens is eating too much too fast. Spread their meals out across the day, and see if that helps.
If the vomiting persists, consider changing their diet. If all else fails, head to the vet, as vomiting (especially if they are vomiting blood) could be a sign of something more serious.
8. Coughing, Sneezing, Panting, Wheezing
If your cat is panting occasionally or coughing, it could be that they are either overheated or overexerting themselves, which can be dealt with fairly simply at home by calming them down and cooling them off.
If they are sneezing, wheezing, or repeatedly coughing, you should see your vet as soon as possible, as it could be a problem with their respiratory tract or something else that might require immediate medical attention.
9. Trouble Urinating
If you notice that your kitty is making frequent trips to the litter box with little to show for it, it could be that they have a block in their urinary tract, and should be taken to the vet.
If your kitten is urinating, but the color if the urine is darker than normal, verging on orange, red, or even brown, this could be a problem with their kidneys, or possibly that they are dehydrated. They should be taken to a vet immediately, as this might be a serious complication.
While it may sound like the answer to dealing with most of these symptoms is a trip to the vet, keep in mind that it generally helps to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Don't fall into the trap of being an alarmist, but remember that you're dealing with a pet who cannot tell you specifically what is wrong. It could very well be nothing more than an upset tummy, or a mild case of the sniffles, but why chance it? If you suspect something is wrong with your kitty, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your vet, if for nothing else but the peace of mind that comes with it.
More on Sick Kittens
Tips To Avoid Your Cat's Stomach Upsets
When To Take a Cat to the Vet
How Much Do Cats Sleep?
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.