Is your cat not their usual playful, rambunctious self? Are you concerned they may be sick, but you're not sure what to look for? Any behavior that's not typical for your feline friend could indicate a problem, but some signs are more likely than others to indicate a health problem that might be cause for a vet visit.
While it’s true that cats are pretty lazy and love their naps, there are times when your cat’s lack of energy is a symptom of illness. Adult cats typically sleep anywhere from 16–18 hours per day, but they'll wake up when their humans enter the room, if they hear a loud noise, or when it’s dinner time. If your cat suddenly stops waking up in these situations, it could be cause for concern.
If you notice your cat is lying around a lot more than normal, and they can’t seem to stay awake as long as they usually do, it could be a sign that something is wrong with their health. Take them to the vet for a check-up, just to make sure.
If your cat is thirstier than normal, it couldbe a sign of kidney disease or diabetes, especially in cats entering their second decade. Cats have a tendency to get dehydrated, and they should have fresh water available at all times, even if visits seem few and far between. If you suddenly notice your pet lapping at the water bowl frequently, drinking from the faucet or toilet, or sticking their nose in your drink, it could be time to call your veterinarian.
Noticeable weight gain or weight loss without diet or activity change is always concerning in cats, and it's often a sign of underlying illness. Weight loss is typically more concerning than weight gain, as weight gain usually accumulates over time, while weight loss tends to occur rapidly and is more acutely dangerous to the cat's health.
Is your cat not eating much even after you try some new food brands or give them their favorite treats? Sometimes cats will only graze, but if you notice they won’t eat for a few days, you should call the vet ASAP—lack of food can lead to a serious feline health problem known as fatty liver or hepatic lipidosis.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if your cat seems ravenous and is constantly meowing at you for food, they may have hyperthyroidism. Never ignore a cat with a sudden appetite increase. Even if it’s not hyperthyroidism or another serious condition that needs immediate care, this habit will eventually lead to obesity, diabetes, and other related health concerns.
A cat with diarrhea could have a dietary sensitivity or allergy, parasites, or any number of other problems. When diarrhea is not treated immediately, your cat may become dehydrated, and their intestines can become inflamed. Also, nobody—even your cat—enjoys having diarrhea, and you surely don’t enjoy cleaning it up from your carpet! So give the vet a call STAT, and bring a stool sample to your appointment.
Cats are prone to kidney and urinary tract issues. That's why it’s critically important to address any changes in urination as soon as you notice them. Keep an eye out for a difference in the frequency or quantity of urine, a strong smell, blood in the urine, or sudden spraying around the house.
If you notice your cat going to the litter box to pee, but nothing is coming out, call the vet immediately or take them to an emergency vet hospital because this might be serious, especially if your cat is male.
Irritated skin and fur that’s falling out or missing can be signs of parasites, allergies, or other skin conditions. This is also uncomfortable and itchy for your cat. Your vet can recommend special shampoos and treatment options to ease the discomfort and pain.
A healthy cat's breath shouldn't have a noticeable odor unless they just ate. If your cat's breath smells bad or strange, they could be suffering from a dental issue or another problem in their mouth or digestive system. If drooling or bleeding accompanies the bad breath, take your cat to the vet—an oral infection can quickly spread to the rest of the body and cause serious problems.
A cat’s personality changing a little as they age is nothing to worry about. But if your feline has suddenly gone from sweet and playful to aggressive or afraid, it’s time for a check-up with the vet.
When cats are sick or emotionally distraught, they may seem depressed, withdrawn, overly quiet, or anxious, or they may become more vocal than normal. They might also act unusually aggressive toward you and other members of the family and household pets.
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