Diseases, Pet Care Basics, Shelter and Rescue Resources

Is My Cat Sick? How to Tell if Your Cat is Sick

How do you know if your cat is sick? Cats are unique creatures. They have many quirks and idiosyncrasies that endear them to the people with whom they share their lives. They also don’t like to read the textbooks when it comes to their health, which can make figuring out when they are ill a real challenge to their caretakers and even veterinarians. Even though cats are predators, they are also considered prey. It is this for this reason that cats will tend to hide the fact that they are sick or injured to avoid being singled out as being weak by predators in the wild. This is a deeply ingrained behavior in all cats, even those that reside in perfectly safe houses where predators are nonexistent. The consequence can be that a feline companion may end up very ill before their caretakers even realize there is a problem and are able to seek veterinary care.

Sick Cat Symptoms

It is true there are some obvious symptoms that cats can display to indicate they are not feeling well. Not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and limping are all very telling signs that a cat is sick or injured; however, when cats exhibit these signs openly, it can mean that the cat is extremely ill or injured and require emergency veterinary care and can even sometimes be beyond the point that veterinary intervention is effective.

But fear not! There are some more subtle behaviors that the astute feline caretaker can learn to recognize and get their feline friend to a veterinarian where treatment can be started and hopefully get them back to their feline best. Changes in feeding behavior can be one of the first signs that something is not quite right with a cat. A cat dropping food when eating or eating more predominantly on one side, grinding teeth, excessive drooling or vocalizing while eating can point to a painful mouth or tooth. Cat drooling can also be a sign of nausea which can point to problems in the gastrointestinal tract or other organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Why is My Cat Not Grooming?

Cat grooming changes can also indicate there might be an issue. Cat overgrooming, hair pulling and even a cat not grooming can all be signs of dermatological problems and pain. Changes in daily routine can indicate your cat is feeling under the weather. So if you’ve noticed your cat stopped grooming, you’ll probably want to give your vet a call.

My Cat is Acting Different

Seeking isolated areas away from their regular sleeping and interaction spots, especially if they are warmer can indicate your cat may be running a fever or is having pain. A cat personality change or drastic changes in behavior can also indicate illness. Sudden aggression toward other pets in the house or humans or new vocalizations during the night can be a definite sign of your cat being ill, in pain, or having cognitive dysfunction.

It may seem a daunting chore trying to decode subtle feline signs that point to illness; however, it can be done. The main thing to remember is that if you, as the person that sees your cat every day, have any feeling that your cat may be feeling sick, talk to your veterinarian. It’s better to be proactive and have a healthy cat than to wait and have a very sick kitty. A very small change in your cat’s behavior or everyday routine can be a big sign that your cat needs help.

If you have more questions on how to help a sick cat, call a Revival Pet Care Pro at 800.786.4751.

Picture of Amy Hanson with a kitten

Written by: Amy Hanson, DVM

Amy Hanson, DVM

Dr. Amy Hanson is an associate veterinarian at the Cat Clinic of Lawrence in Lawrence, Kansas. She is a 2010 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her special interests include felines, acupuncture and dentistry. Her hobbies include showing cats and she is a judge for the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA).

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.