Detecting illness in a sick cat can be tricky, simply because
they can't talk and their bodies are (usually) covered with
fur. Because of the difficulties, cat owners should take their
pets to the vet at least once a year for a check-up. If the cat
is a senior (over 7 years old) or has known health issues, your
vet will probably recommend more frequent visits. There are
also signs of a sick cat to watch for in between visits to the vet. These can be signs
your cat is sick:
1) Litter box issues in Sick Cats
If your cat has always been perfect about using the litter box,
and then suddenly starts making messes outside the box, there's
a problem. Health concerns that can cause litter box issues
include kidney disease,
urinary tract infections, and
bladder stones. This is especially true once you've ruled out
such obvious concerns as cleanliness. (Cats won't use a dirty
litter box any more than a human would use a dirty toilet.)
If your cat appears to be straining to urinate and/or defecate,
get them to the vet immediately. If the cat is trying to go to
the bathroom and not producing anything, they could have a
blockage somewhere, which could be fatal if left untreated.
This is especially true if the cat also seems to be in pain,
like crying out while trying to go to the bathroom.
2) Unexplained weight gain or loss
If the cat is losing or gaining weight for no obvious reason,
it's time to take them to the vet. This is especially true if
the weight change seems sudden. Because of their small size, a
cat's gaining or losing a single pound is roughly comparable to
a human gaining or losing 10 pounds. Some weight loss in older
cats is normal as they lose muscle mass, but extreme gauntness
can point to something serious like cancer.
Marked weight gain can result in obesity, which will lead to
many health problems. An obese cat
can develop many of the same health problems that an obese
human will, like diabetes or
3) Blood in urine, stool, or vomit
Blood in the urine can indicate a urinary tract disorder, especially if
accompanied by straining while trying to urinate and/or
increased visits to the litter box. Blood in the stool can
indicate a variety of illnesses, some relatively minor. Others,
like certain parasitic
infections, are more serious. Vomiting blood, however, is always a
sign of a serious illness. In some cases, the cat will vomit what looks like coffee grounds,
and this is actually partially digested blood. A cat vomiting
blood needs to be taken to a vet immediately.
4) Diarrhea or constipation
Untreated diarrhea can result in
dehydration, which can be fatal. Diarrhea is caused when too
much water is expelled with the stool, thus creating a loose or
watery stool. Diarrhea is also associated with an increase in
frequency of defecation.
With constipation, the cat produces small, hard, and infrequent
stools. A cat typically defecates once or twice a day.
Constipation is most commonly caused by hairballs, and can lead to weight loss
and anorexia. The occasional watery or hard stool won't hurt a
healthy cat, but persistent diarrhea or constipation should be
treated by a vet.
5) Changes in appetite or drinking habits
If the cat refuses to eat or drink, get them to the vet.
Refusal to eat or drink often means the cat is in pain or is
otherwise feeling poorly. Increased thirst, especially when
accompanied by increased urination, can point to issues like
diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism. Increased appetite can
also indicate disease.
6) Repeated vomiting
If the cat vomits up the occasional hairball, that is probably
normal. If they vomit several times a day, get them to the vet.
If they vomit blood, get them to the vet immediately.
7) Mobility problems
Stiffness, limping, and the like indicate problems, especially
in a young cat. In an older animal, they can indicate a
condition like arthritis. In any
event, have the vet examine your cat, so they can rule out the
more serious problems and/or recommend ways of making your cat
8) Behavioral changes
Sudden changes in behavior also indicate trouble in a sick cat.
For example, if a normally outgoing cat suddenly starts hiding
all the time, this may mean that they are sick or in pain.
Similarly, a cat in pain may become aggressive, especially if
you unwittingly touch a sore place.
In short, be attentive to your cat's behavior and habits; these
are your clues to determine the health and happiness of your
9 Signs of a Sick Kitten - And What to Do
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.
Is Your Kitten Sleeping a Lot?
Have you noticed that your kitten is sleeping a lot? Kittens
are supposed to be inquisitive and constantly bouncing around.
While they also require a lot of sleep, there's a noticeable
difference between a kitten who is tired, and one that is
lethargic. Lethargic kittens sleep
the whole day away, and when they aren’t sleeping, they’re
disinterested in playing (or doing 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
More on Cat Care
When to Take a Cat to the
How to Treat a Cat's
All About Cat Hairballs
How to Wash a Cat