11 Cat Health Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Book an appointment with the vet if you notice any of these abnormal behaviors in your pet.
“If you see anything abnormal with your cat’s eye, that is enough to warrant a visit to the vet,” says Evan Antin, DVM, a veterinarian with Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital. Watch out for blood, yellow or green discharge, excess tears, or a hazy, gray color change—any of those vision symptoms should be taken seriously, he says.
Loss of appetite
Just like humans don’t feel like eating when they’re sick, animals lose their appetites, too. Don’t freak out if your cat turns its nose at one meal, but going a full day without eating could be a sign of a slew of feline health issues, from stomach aches to respiratory problems to dental issues. Ashley Rossman, DVM, veterinarian with Glen Oak Dog & Cat Hospital, says a lack of eating is one of the symptoms owners are most likely to blow off for too long. “Don’t wait five days—after the first 24 to 36 hours, bring the cat in,” she says. “It’s not good for the cat to not it. They could get fatty liver disease.” The sooner you visit the vet, the sooner your cat can get healthy.
You recognize the sound of your cat’s normal noises, but listen up if its mews have turned to yowls. “If you have a cat that’s really uncomfortable and yowling nonstop, that should tell you something’s going on,” says Dr. Antin. “That cat is in real pain.” Bring it to the vet to get to the bottom of the issue. Here’s everything you need to know before signing up for pet insurance.
Sudden energy from older cats
No, your playful new kitten probably isn’t warning you of any health problems. But if your lazy aging cat is suddenly bouncing off the walls, you might want to ask a vet for some blood work. “If they’re hyperactive and losing weight and sometimes vomiting more, that would be a common thing to see with hyperthyroidism,” says Dr. Antin.
Blood in the litter box
Any time you spot blood in your cat’s litter box, call the vet for an appointment, says Dr. Rossman. Your pet might be dealing with anything from a UTI to bladder cancer, so getting a diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment. Learn about the 10 most expensive health problems your pet could face.
Dealing with hairballs is just part of being a cat owner, but don’t shrug your shoulders at a kitty that’s constantly vomiting. “If they’re vomiting more than two or three times a week, they need to seek professional help,” says Dr. Rossman. Your cat might have food poisoning, pancreatitis, or stress, and a vet can lead you to a diagnosis.
Extra clumps in the litter box
Take note if your cat’s water dish is emptying faster than usual; it could be the first clue that your cat is having kidney problems, says Dr. Antin. “Felines are carnivores and have very high-protein diets,” he says. “Protein is very demanding on the kidneys.” So if your cat is dealing with a UTI or chronic kidney dysfunction, it might need to pee more, then lap up extra water to make up for the dehydration.
Cats can be notoriously skittish, so you might not think twice if your kitty keeps disappearing under the bed. But if your cat is hiding more than usual, it could be a sign that your pet is in pain or isn’t feeling well. “They could feel more secure in their hiding spot than out in the open,” says Dr. Rossman. “It’s their safety net.” It’s easy to spot abnormal shyness in a more social cat, but the behavior change is harder to spot in a timid kitty, points out Dr. Antin. If your cat is hiding in different places or for longer periods and is displaying other symptoms, take it to the vet, he says. Extra hiding is particularly concerning in older cats, who could be developing cancer or metabolic issues, he says. Check out these other 17 things your cat wishes you knew.
A cat dealing with cognitive decline could show a host of symptoms, from meowing more to seeming disoriented. Yes, some cats will respond to treatment for senility, but that’s not the only reason to check with a vet. “There are other things that can cause that odd behavior that are not actually senility,” says Dr. Antin. “This other stuff might be treatable.” For instance, your cat might have eaten something toxic or be dealing with kidney disease, but you’ll need to rule those out before trying any medications for cognitive decline. Make sure you know these 11 subtle signs your cat is depressed.
Missing the litter box
A cat that’s stopped using its litter box might be sending a message by marking its territory, but you’ll still want to take it to the vet. What you assume is a behavior problem might actually be a medical issue, such as bladder cancer or a kidney stone, says Dr. Rossman. “It’s always good to rule out the medical things first because those are easier to fix than the behavioral ones,” she says.
“Most neurologic things a human would have, a pet can have as well,” says Dr. Rossman. Especially if your cat isn’t an epileptic, you should be concerned if you see it roll back its eyes, lose consciousness, or lose control of its bowels. Put it in a padded area without getting your hands near its mouth, then call the vet ASAP, she says. Avoid these other 12 dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.