Warning Signs of a Sick Cat Issues that Could Mean Your Cat Is Sick

BY | July 31 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
Warning Signs of a Sick Cat
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Illness in your cat may not always be easy to detect and early detection often requires prompt treatment. Read about warning signs your cat may be sick.

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 heart disease.

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 more comfortable.

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 feline friend.

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 youโ€™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 arenโ€™t sleeping, theyโ€™re disinterested in playing (or doing anything that isnโ€™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 kittenโ€™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 kittenโ€™s stomach is starting to form a visible bulge, start by more closely moderating your kittenโ€™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.

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 infectionallergies, 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 kittenโ€™s vision, take them to the vet.

5. Diarrhea

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.

7. Vomiting

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, donโ€™t hesitate to make an appointment with your vet, if for nothing else but the peace of mind that comes with it.

More on Cat Care

When to Take a Cat to the Vet
How to Treat a Cat's Wound
Antibiotics for Cats
All About Cat Hairballs
How to Wash a Cat

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.
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