How to know when a cat is sick (2023)

Cats can be excellent hunters and predators, but not everyone knows that cats can also be considered prey by some larger animals. To protect themselves, cats have evolved the ability to hide injuries or illnesses very well. They are doing so well that you may never know something is wrong until they are in great pain.

However, if you know which signal to look out for, you can identify sooner when something is wrong.

Symptoms of a sick cat

Pet parents often notice that their cat is "acting weird," which can refer to a number of different behaviors or habit changes. Here are some of the ways your cat might be telling you he's not feeling very well.

Suddenly eat more, less or nothing at all

One of the first signs you may see in a sick cat is a change in appetite.

  • Increased appetite can be caused byGastric and intestinal parasites,hyperthyroidism,Diabetes, or a gastrointestinal disease causing malabsorption of nutrients.

  • Decreased appetite can be caused by nausea, fever, food aversion, gastrointestinal disease, or mouth pain (due to dental disease, mass, foreign object, or trauma).

drink more

There are many possible causes of increased thirst in cats, including:

  • Diabetes

  • kidney disease

  • hyperthyroidism

  • increased calcium

  • Less common endocrine disorders such as acromegaly orhyperadrenocorticism

  • Certain prescription urinary diets designed to increase thirst to encourage frequent voiding

Meow or vocalize more

Some cats meow more than others, and this also varies by breed. However, if you notice an increase in meowing or a change in the way your cat meows, she may be trying to express physical or emotional distress.

Cats may meow more when they are hungry or in pain. As some cats age, they develop cognitive dysfunction or senility, which can also affect how often they meow.

Suddenly not using the litter box

See a veterinarian immediately if your cat suddenly becomes unable to urinate (especially male cats). They may have an obstruction in their lower urinary tract, usually the urethra, and this is a medical emergency.

Cats may also stop using the litter box and start urinating or defecating elsewhere if they associate litter box pain. This can happen with a bladder infection, gastrointestinal infection, disease-causing diarrhea or constipation, or arthritis or other joint pain that makes getting in and out of the litter box difficult.

Another possible reason cats avoid the litter box in multi-cat households is that one cat is guarding it and preventing the other cat from using it.

vomiting or diarrhea

Possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea in cats include:

Do not maintain or over-maintain

Although it may seem counterintuitive, pain in cats can lead to an increase or decrease in grooming behavior.

For example, a cat with a painful bladder condition may exaggerate the appearance of her abdomen to the point of balding. SomeCats will exaggerate toothan self-soothing behavior when they are anxious.

However, pain in one or more joints can cause a cat to avoid grooming that area altogether, so you may notice matted or matted fur.

Obese cats also have a hard time grooming their hind legs and spine near the tail area, so you can see matted fur on these cats. If your cat is experiencing pain in its mouth, it may also not be able to clean itself comfortably.

bad breath

bad breathis usually caused by dental disease (e.g. tartar,gingivitis,Stomatitis, likeTooth with abscess, or a mass or tumor in the mouth), but it can also be a sign of internal conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes.

Mood swings/suddenly moody

A sudden change in your cat's mood, such as B. sudden irritability, can be caused by some underlying diseases:

  • Dor

  • Changes in vision or hearing that make your cat feel more vulnerable and defensive

  • hyperthyroidism

  • high blood pressure (high blood pressure)

  • brain tumors

  • Wut

Call your vet if you notice a change in your cat's mood.

Change in pupil size

Cat pupils should be the same size and respond to light in the same way as human pupils. In other words, the pupils should be smaller in bright light and larger in dim or dim light.

Uneven pupil sizeAnisocorie, is not normal in cats and can be a sign of:

  • A problem with one of the cranial or cranial nerves

  • Krebs

  • corneal injury

  • retinal disease

  • inflammation in the eye

  • Glaucoma

Persistently enlarged or dilated pupils (mydriasis) can be caused by high blood pressure, a retinal disease, or a tumor affecting a cranial nerve or the brain.

Persistently small pupils (miosis) can be caused by a brain disorder or Horner's syndrome.

Lethargic or unusually hyperactive (change in energy levels)

While a change in energy levels may seem like a very vague sign of illness, it can be a sign of certain health conditions.

For example, cats with an overactive thyroid are often very active, while cats that appear lethargic may suffer from arthritis and many other ailments. A change in energy levels can appear suddenly or be felt gradually over time.


Cats that are hiding are definitely trying to communicate something to their family. Your cat might be hiding because she's scared, but cats will also hide when they're stressed, in pain, or avoiding a feline or human family member who seems intimidating. Some pregnant cats also look for a private and quiet place to give birth to their kittens.

weight loss

A stable, healthy weight is a good indicator of overall health, while any significant change in weight could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Weight loss can be observed under many conditions including:

  • poor diet

  • Gastric and intestinal parasites

  • Diabetes

  • hyperthyroidism

  • kidney disease

  • dental disease

  • inflammatory bowel disease

  • irritable bowel syndrome

  • Malabsorption

  • disease of the pancreas

  • Krebs

  • Decreased appetite from nausea

Older cats can also lose muscle mass and appear leaner overall.

weight gain

Weight gain is most commonly caused by overeating, but it can also be seen in endocrine disorders such as hyperadrenocorticism or acromegaly, or in some cancer tumors. diseases likefeline infectious peritonitis (FIP)can cause fluid to build up in a cat's abdomen, resulting in a large belly or obesity.

Breathing problems (wheezing, wheezing, coughing)

Unlike dogs, cats don't usually pant. While cats may pant briefly after very strenuous exercise, they may also pant when they are stressed, have serious heart or lung conditions, or are overheated.

Panting in cats is usually caused by asthma.Coughmay indicate a respiratory infection, bronchitis,Herzwurm,Asma, or cancer.

Eye or auditory discharge

Normally, there should be little to no discharge from your cat's eyes or ears.

  • Eye discharge can be the result of irritation, a corneal injury, a bacterial or viral infection, or eyelid disease.

  • Ear discharge is most commonly caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, or ear mites.

hair loss

If your cat is anxious or has pain in a certain area, she may groom herself so much that she is causing bald spots. Hair loss can also be caused by a bacterial infection, fungal infection (such as ringworm), allergies, or parasites such as fleas.

Having a limp/difficulty jumping

Changes in your cat's gait or movement can be a good indicator that she is in pain. Cats often adjust the way they move when one or more of their joints is uncomfortable.

Normal aging can lead to painArthritisthat canSoften your cat. The limping or change in gait can be subtle - notice how your cat hops up and down surfaces and how she walks up and down stairs.

Extreme causes of an altered gait would be a broken bone or injury to a muscle, ligament, or tendon due to trauma.

Any changes, subtle or drastic, should be evaluated by your veterinarian.


Seizures can range from mild facial twitches to a full-body seizure (a grand mal seizure). Causes of seizures in cats includeEpilepsy, a disease or tumor affecting the brain or toxins.

Is my cat sick enough to go to the vet?

Knowing what is normal for your cat is the first step to recognizing when something is wrong.

An inability to pee, vomiting that won't stop, unresponsiveness, seizures, and difficult breathing are all emergencies and you should see a veterinarian immediately.

If you notice other changes in your cat's usual behavior or any of the signs discussed, call your veterinarian to set up an appointment. They can provide clues as to when they'll be seen based on the severity of the change and how long it lasts.

Here are some simple things to check at home:

  • Has your cat's urine changed color?

  • Does your cat urinate more or less than normal?

  • Is your cat's stool a normal color (not dark or light red with blood)?

  • Is your cat's poop solid?

  • Do your cat's eyes look sunken?

  • Does your cat have sticky or sticky gums?

  • Does your cat's fur fall out quickly after being gently lifted?

Cats can be experts at hiding signs of illness, but knowing what's normal for your cat can help you spot changes early, so you can act sooner to help your feline family member.

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