Cats are notoriously independent creatures who tend to hide their discomfort, so it can be hard to tell if your kitty is sick at times. Here, our veterinarians share some signs and symptoms of sickness in cats and when you should take them to the vet.
How can I tell if my cat is sick?
Just like humans, cats can contract illness from other cats or develop it seemingly randomly. The best defense against this is to bring your cat for a physical exam once a year to catch and diagnose any issues early on.
Below are some common signs of sickness in cats that owners should be able to recognize.
- Constricted or dilated pupils
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Sudden change in mood
- Much less or much more vocal than usual
- Sudden changes in appetite, drinking, or eating habits
- Gaining or losing weight
- Changes in breathing (rapid breathing or shortness of breath)
- Bad breath
- Discharge from eyes or nose
- Hair loss or skin irritation
- Neglecting grooming or over-grooming
- Improper use of litter box
- Limping or injuries
- Wounds or swelling
- No inclination to play or appear lethargic
If you notice any of this behavior in your cat, don't risk it, seek veterinary attention.
Potential causes of illness in cats
The symptoms above can be caused by any number of conditions or issues. Though it’s normal for cats to change over time as they age, the sudden appearance of litter box issues could indicate anything from a urinary tract infection to bladder stones or kidney disease.
Extreme weight loss could be due to cancer, while noticeable weight gain can result in obesity, which may cause many long-term issues such as diabetes and cancer. These diseases reduce your cat’s quality of life, and can even cut it short, so it’s imperative to get them medical attention.
Other issues may be caused by dental diseases. Upper respiratory infections can cause breathing problems, while arthritis or injury can result in a drop-off in your cat’s acrobatic activities. Keep an eye on their fur while you’re petting them. Any abscesses that are hot to the touch or aren’t healing are also cause for concern.
What to do when your cat is sick
It can be distressing to see signs that all is not well with your cat, but the sooner you can get them to a vet, the sooner you can get them back to feeling healthy, happy, and limber. Because some illnesses or injuries require urgent medical attention, veterinary surgery, or even emergency care, it’s imperative to seek professional advice.