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  • Sick as a Cat
    Because cats can’t speak to tell you how they’re feeling, you’ve got to be in tune to its behavior and appearance changes to detect illness. Any change in their normal habits may be reason to make an appointment with the veterinarian. Here’s what you should look for. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Sick as a Cat

Signs of illness in cats

They may not be known as man’s best friend, but cats come in a close second. Making wonderful family pets, cats are loved by many people. In fact, more than a third of American households own a cat for a pet.

Because they’re often independent, sleep a lot, and keep to themselves when they’re sick, it can be difficult to detect when your cat’s not feeling well. By the time you finally realize something’s wrong, the cat may be very ill.

Because cats can’t speak to tell you how they’re feeling, you’ve got to be in tune to its behavior and appearance changes to detect illness. Any change in their normal habits may be reason to make an appointment with the veterinarian. Here’s what you should look for.

Abnormal Behavior

Only you know your cat. Does he usually greet you in the morning, cuddle next to you on the couch, or like to chase his toys? When you notice changes in his typical behavior something may be wrong. Sick cats often hide away by themselves, lie in a hunched over position, purr when not being pet, or seem extra needy for attention. They may be low on energy, sleep more than usual, or have trouble moving around.

Decreased Appetite

A pet that normally loves mealtime but isn’t showing interest anymore may be sick. Take your cat to the vet if it hasn’t eaten much in the past 24 hours. A dog can be sick and not eat for a few days, but when a cat goes longer than a day or two without food it can quickly develop fatty liver, a potentially fatal disease if not treated promptly.

On the flip side, a cat that suddenly seems super hungry or thirsty all the time may also have a serious health condition. So don’t ignore this either.

Change in Bathroom Habits

Unusual activity in the litter box can be another sign of illness in your cat. A cat that frequently tries to urinate with little success and seems in pain, a cat that vomits up its food soon after eating, vomits frequently, or a cat with frequent diarrhea needs to be evaluated by the vet.


An occasional cough due to hairballs or allergies is normal, but persistent coughing can be a sign something’s wrong. Heart disease, foreign bodies, tumors, viruses, or lung disease could be to blame. A cat should be taken to see a vet if it has trouble breathing or a cough that lasts more than a day or two.

Problems with Appearance

Hair loss and itchy skin are common signs your cat may have fleas, mange mites, or ticks. Ear mites will cause itching, discharge, or a foul smell in the ears. Preventative medicines and regular vet check-ups are the best ways to keep your cat from dealing with these types of pests.

A cat with an undetected chronic illness may slowly lose weight. When you pet your cat and feel its ribs and spine more than you used to, make an appointment to see your vet. Weight loss may indicate diabetes or hyperthyroidism.

If something seems off but you’re not sure what, inspect the color of your cat’s gums. If they’re not a deep pink color that returns to pink after pressing on them, there could be an underlying problem. Pale, red, blue, yellow, or painful gums all signal health problems that require the expertise of a vet to diagnose.