Cats rarely enjoy veterinary visits that are required for pet health. You know your cat best, so it’s up to you to recognize any warning pet symptoms including behavior changes. Kittens and senior citizen cats are at highest risk for illness, but cats are experts at hiding symptoms of distress. Be a pet detective and stay alert to these top signs you have a sick cat.
Top 4 Signs You Have A Sick Cat
1. Appetite Loss (Anorexia)
While dogs tend to gulp, cats are intermittent feeders and normally eat multiple mouse-size meals each day. That can make it hard to keep track of appetite loss, especially in multi-cat homes.
Missing one meal or even a day snubbing the bowl won’t hurt healthy adult cats. Warming up the food may tempt the appetite. But appetite loss in kittens and old cats gets serious quickly. Kittens should see the veterinarian if they refuse to eat for longer than 12 to 18 hours.
Adult cats and especially chubby kitties should see the vet if they snub the bowl longer than 36 to 48 hours. These cats are at risk of life-threatening liver problems (hepatic lipidosis or “fatty liver disease”). Hepatic lipidosis cats may require force feeding through a veterinary-implanted tube, and can take weeks to get their appetite back.
2. Runny Nose & Eyes
Many cats become sick from upper respiratory infections (URIs). They often are exposed during kittenhood even before vaccinations designed to help prevent URI. Viruses and other “bugs” like bacteria can cause kitty cold symptoms including runny eyes and a stopped up nose, or sores on the eyes and inside the mouth. Once infected, cats may have flare ups of URI symptoms the rest of their life, especially during times of stress.
URI symptoms not only make cats feel miserable, the sores can lead to blindness. Because smell sense prompts kitty appetite, a stopped up nose also can make cats refuse to eat.
3. Litter Box Issues
Most of us automatically consider missing the litter box to be a behavior problem. In fact, a “whoops” episode from an otherwise faithful cat points to kitty illness.
Constipation or diarrhea that creates painful elimination can result in cats blaming the litter box or its location for discomfort. These cats may look for outside-the-box options even after the constipation resolves.
More dangerous signs are straining in the litter box without any result. Cats are prone to bladder inflammation (cystitis) that may include crystals or mucoid plugs that literally stop up the system. Painful urination may contain blood, and cats often signal their illness by squatting right in front of you, or posing in the bathtub or sink. Maybe the coolness feels soothing. A urinary track blockage is a life threatening emergency that requires veterinary help immediately.
Increased urination accompanied by increased thirst and water intake can be a sign of diabetes, hyperthyroid disease and/or kidney problems. These most often develop in old cats. The kitties simply can’t get to the potty on time and the first sign often is missing the litter box.
The feline body contains 60 percent water. Vomiting, anorexia and excessive elimination can lead to dehydration. Cats suffering metabolic diseases like kidney failure or diabetes lose more water through urination than the cat can replace.
Normal cat skin hugs the body, and is quite elastic. But water loss diminishes skin elasticity. You can check your cat’s dehydration level with a couple of easy tests.
Tenting the skin gently lifts the scruff (loose skin over the shoulders or neck), then releases it to see how quickly it returns to position. Normally hydrated kitty skin immediately snugs back into place. Returning to position slowly indicates moderate dehydration. Skin that remains “tented” after release indicates severe dehydration that requires immediate veterinary care.
Capillary refill time also measures cat dehydration. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels near the skin surface that give the gums (above the teeth) a normal pinkish tone. Press the flat of your finger against the gum, to temporarily push blood out of the tissue. When you remove your finger, the normal color returns with the blood flow. A normally hydrated cat’s gum color returns in less than 2 seconds. A delay of more than 304 seconds indicates dehydration that needs a vet’s care.
You can often treat your cat’s minor health problems at home, or even address some emergency situations with first aid. For cats who demonstrate one of these top But when your dog shows one of these top 4 dangerous cat symptoms, please get your cat seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comment section below if you have another symptom to indicate that you have a sick cat.