Cats are experts at hiding their symptoms. In the wild, this is beneficial because potential predators can’t easily tell when they’re sick or injured, but for domestic cats, this makes it much more difficult to notice when they’re not doing well. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to small changes because they’re often signs of an underlying illness. Note – The following list will provide you with some of these common symptoms, but the best way to make sure your cat is healthy is to take them to the vet for their routine exams and contact your veterinarian for advice whenever you notice something is wrong.
While vomiting in cats isn’t uncommon, it’s important to remember that it’s never normal. Vomiting can be caused by a number of conditions such as hairballs, diet, obstructions, poisons, parasites, constipation, diabetes, cancer, diseases/disorders of some of the major organs, and more. If there is blood in their vomit (often, this looks like coffee grounds), then this is always a sign of a serious problem, and they need to be seen by a vet right away.
2. Increased Thirst and/or Increased Urination
If you notice your cat drinking an excessive amount of water, especially if it’s coupled with increased urination, then it could be a sign of hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease, or another metabolic issue.
3. Loss of Appetite
If your cat becomes disinterested in food, this could indicate a variety of different conditions such as dental problems, obstructions, organ failure, etc. If you notice your cat has lost their appetite, don’t wait several days before calling your veterinarian. If it’s been 24-36 hours, and your cat still doesn’t want to eat, take them to the vet. Regardless of the cause, they could develop other problems such as fatty liver disease if it lasts for too long.
Cats that are obese have an increased risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more so if your cat is gaining too much weight, talk to your vet about creating a plan to get them back on track.
5. Weight Loss
Weight loss can be a sign of hyperthyroidism as well as other diseases like cancer. Did you know that a cat losing 1 pound is similar to a human losing 20 pounds? That’s why it’s so important to address any weight loss with your vet. Note – It’s often difficult to tell whether a cat has lost weight because unlike veterinary scales, home scales aren’t accurate enough to detect small changes. This is one the reasons why we recommend keeping your cat up-to-date on all of their routine exams. Even a small amount of weight loss is sometimes the first sign of an underlying problem.
6. Bad Breath
Bad breath is often a sign of gum disease and/or tooth decay. Brushing your cat’s teeth at home is the best way to prevent these issues, but most cats need to have periodic dental cleanings too, just like humans.
7. Straining to Go to the Bathroom
If you notice that your cat is unable to urinate or defecate, straining, or making frequent trips in and out of the litter box, then they need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately, especially if they are unable to urinate because this could indicate a potentially life-threatening blockage. If they are unable to defecate, it could be constipation, but it’s best to call your vet either way. Other signs to watch for are meowing while trying to use the litter box and licking the genitals.
8. Diarrhea or Constipation
Persistent diarrhea or constipation can have many negative consequences and should be addressed with your vet. For example, diarrhea can be due to something your cat ate, intestinal parasites, etc., but it can also lead to dehydration, which can be fatal.
9. Urinating or Defecating Outside of the Litter Box
While going to the bathroom outside of the litter box could be a behavioral issue or even a problem with your litter box set-up, it could also be a medical issue such as an infection, kidney disease, bladder stones, etc.
10. Blood in the Litter Box
Blood in a cat’s urine could indicate that they are dealing with anything from an infection to bladder stones to cancer, while blood in their stool could be a sign of a variety of different problems. Note – Blood in stool can sometimes appear black.
Cats feel more secure in enclosed spaces so they tend to hide when they’re in pain or not feeling well. While some cats are naturally more social than others, pay attention to changes from what is normal for your specific kitty (i.e. hiding in different places, hiding for longer periods of time, showing other symptoms, etc.).
12. Change in Grooming Habits
There are a variety of reasons why cats start grooming themselves too much or don’t groom themselves enough. Excessive grooming could be due to stress, fleas, an allergy, etc., and a lack of grooming could be due to obesity, arthritis, pain in their mouth, kidney disease, and more.
13. Mobility Problems
There are a wide range of problems that can accompany mobility issues such as stiffness, limping, etc. It could be due to an injury, or even arthritis (especially with older cats), but either way, you should get them examined by a vet to find the problem.
Lethargy is associated with many underlying disorders and should be examined by your veterinarian, especially if it lasts more than 24 hours. Signs to watch for are inactivity, drowsiness, weakness, and delayed responses.
15. Excessive Meowing
If your cat suddenly starts meowing more than usual, or if they sound different, then they could be in pain, but it could also be a sign of hyperthyroidism. As with all changes, it’s best to call your vet so you can get to the root of the problem and develop a treatment plan