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 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 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 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell if a cat is not feeling well?
There are several signs that can indicate that a cat is not feeling well.If your cat is not eating or drinking as much as usual or is refusing food altogether, it may be a sign of illness. If your cat is sleeping more than usual or seems less interested in playing or interacting with you, it may be a sign of illness. If your cat is behaving differently than usual, such as hiding or becoming aggressive, it may be a sign of illness. If your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea, it may be a sign of illness or digestive problems. If your cat is not grooming itself as much as usual or is grooming excessively in one area, it may be a sign of illness or discomfort. If your cat is having trouble using the litter box, is urinating or defecating outside of the box, or is producing urine or feces with an unusual color or odor, it may be a sign of illness. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to take your cat to a veterinarian for a check-up as soon as possible.
How do cats lay when sick?
When cats are sick, they may change their posture or the way they lie down to help alleviate discomfort or pain. However, the way they lay down when sick can vary depending on the type of illness and the individual cat's personality and preferences. Some cats may lay curled up in a tight ball with their paws tucked under their body, as this position can help conserve body heat and make them feel more secure. Other cats may lay stretched out on their side or stomach, with their limbs extended, which may indicate they are trying to relieve pressure on a particular area of their body. Some cats may also lay in a hunched position, with their back arched and head down, which can be a sign of discomfort or pain. When a cat is sick, they may not feel up to grooming themselves as they usually do, which can result in a scruffy or unkempt appearance. Additionally, cats may purr not only when they are happy but also when they are anxious, or in pain, so excessive purring can be a sign that something is wrong. If a cat is having trouble breathing, they may also avoid lying on their side and instead keep their head raised to help them breathe more easily.
Why is my cat acting weird and sluggish?
There are many possible reasons why a cat may be acting weird and sluggish, including illness, stress, environmental changes, or a change in routine. If your cat is sick, they may show signs of lethargy, lack of appetite, and changes in behavior. If your cat is in pain, they may be reluctant to move or play, and may seem generally sluggish. If your cat is stressed or anxious, they may show changes in behavior, such as hiding or becoming aggressive, and may appear sluggish or lethargic. Changes in the home environment, such as a move or a new pet, can be stressful for cats and may cause them to act weird and sluggish. If there has been a change in your cat's routine, such as a change in feeding schedule or a change in who is caring for them, they may become stressed or anxious and act differently as a result. If you are concerned, it is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for a check-up to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
What is the most common illness in cats?
There are several common illnesses that affect cats, but one of the most common is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which includes a group of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra. Symptoms of FLUTD include frequent urination, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine. Tapeworms are also a common health issue that affect cats. Tapeworms are a type of intestinal parasite that can live in a cat's digestive system and feed off the nutrients in their food. Cats can become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas or other animals that are carrying tapeworm eggs.
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