Feline Fine? How to tell if your cat’s unwell…

Cats are often known for being aloof and naturally stoic creatures who are adept at hiding how they feel. Part of this comes down to natural instinct – when their ancestors lived out in the wild, any signs of illness or weakness could lead them to being preyed upon, so if they were injured or ill it was necessary to be very poker-faced about it to avoid advertising any hint of vulnerability. Even though, for domesticated cats, showing signs of illness or weakness no longer means their life is going to be endangered, these natural instincts still kick in and your kitty will often make it their mission to hide the way they’re feeling.

The problem is, for pet owners, this makes it very difficult to notice if your cat is feeling unwell. You might not see any really obvious symptoms until they are actually quite ill. So, how can you spot the early signs that puss may be in pain? Well, you need to be really vigilant and learn to look out for the subtle indicators that may tell us that your furry friend is not feeling 100% fine.

Behavioural Changes

– Sudden change in mood

If Kitty’s acting out of character and, suddenly, they’re not enjoying the things they used to like (such as fuss or cuddles) they may not be feeling great. Likewise, if they are hanging around a lot more than usual when they’re naturally an explorer, then they could be trying to tell you something. You know your cat better than anyone so, if their behaviour has suddenly changed and the way they’re acting is unusual for them, then it’s worth having them checked out by a vet. Simply explain what’s changed and you can be assured we’ll conduct a thorough examination to get to the bottom of what’s causing your cat to feel not quite like themselves.

– Lethargy

Again, it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to spot in an animal that typically sleeps for 12- 18 hours a day, but if you notice your cat is particularly lethargic or not getting up or paying attention to the things that would usually pique their interest, then it could be a sign that there’s something wrong. Suddenly can’t be bothered to chase their favourite toy, or not rushing into the kitchen at the sound of their dish being filled? If your cat seems excessively tired or lethargic, this could indicate problems.

– Neglecting grooming or over-grooming

Cats are usually fastidious about cleanliness so, if they’re not keeping themselves clean that can be a red-flag. Perhaps the act of cleaning is causing them pain or they’re feeling too weak to keep up their grooming duties. Likewise, over-grooming (especially to the point of losing hair in a particular area) usually points to a problem and should be checked out by a vet.

– Noisy / quiet

If you’ve got a very vocal kitty who suddenly isn’t saying much or, if your usually quiet character is meowing a lot more than usual, then they may be trying to tell you something. Again, it’s about knowing what’s normal for your cat and spotting a change … of course, it’s not at all unusual for a cat to ‘meow’, but if they don’t usually do it, or if the sound they’re making has changed, then it’s worth having them looked at to rule out any issues.

– Hiding

As I’ve said, cats can be naturally aloof and will often have their own hidey-hole somewhere in the house where they regularly retreat for some peace and quiet. However, if they’re hiding a lot more than usual or if they’re stowing themselves away in strange places where they don’t normally go, then there could be a reason for it … particularly if they’re taking themselves off to very high or out of the way places like the top of cupboards or shelves, and if they’re reluctant to come down when called or coaxed.

– Changes to appetite

Is your cat suddenly ravenous, or are they turning their nose up at even their favourite foods? Just like with humans, sudden changes in appetite can be a symptom of illness so if your kitty doesn’t want to eat, or seemingly can’t be filled, then there may be something amiss.

– Drinking more than usual

A sudden, unquenchable thirst could be a symptom of illness so, if you’re constantly re-filling Kitty’s water bowl all of a sudden, have them checked over to eliminate any problems.

– Accidents in the house

If your perfectly litter-trained kitty or reliable outside-toileter has started having accidents or leaving deposits in the house, then something has changed with them and it could be a sign of illness. Get them checked by a vet for the sake of their health … and your carpets!

Physical Symptoms

In addition to any changes in the way your cat is behaving, you also need to look out for physical indicators of a problem. If you spot any of the following, pop Kitty to the vet for an appointment:

– Weight loss/gain

– Discharge from eyes/nose

– Excessively smelly breath

– Wounds/lumps/swellings

– Limping

– Vomiting or diarrhoea

– Noisy or laboured breathing

Many of these signs and symptoms are of very treatable illnesses or infections – for example, drinking more than usual could be a sign of a kidney infection, or smelly breath could indicate tooth decay. Toileting issues may be caused by a urinary tract infection, or breathing problems could be a respiratory infection. While the majority of illnesses in cats are easily treatable, it’s much better to catch things as early as possible to make sure the problem doesn’t spread or escalate. On occasion, the symptoms could indicate a more serious problem which again is always best treated as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns at all about your cat, please do get them checked out for the sake of their health and your peace of mind. We’d never, ever mock or judge you for having concerns, no matter how mild the symptoms or seemingly insignificant the signs may be. We’d much rather check over a cat that turns out to be fighting fit than not get to see one that has a health problem. A quick visit is all it takes to put your mind at ease and ensure Kitty is happy and healthy.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure and bringing your cat – or any pet – in for regular, routine health checks with a vet or veterinary nurse can highlight any potential health issues before they become a problem and help to keep your furry friend in tip-top shape.