10 subtle signs of illness in cats
Steve Dale is the host of the nationally syndicated radio shows Steve Dale’s Pet World and The Pet Minute with Steve Dale. His column, My Pet World, is carried in more than 100
newspapers nationwide and his new column, The CATalyst (in which this post originally appeared), just debuted. Steve also serves on the board of directors for
the American Humane Association.
Dogs are more than twice as likely to visit the veterinarian than cats are. Here are some reasons why.
What can cat parents do? Familiarize cats early and regularly with cat
carriers, take cats to the vet for routine care and learn to recognize
subtle signs of cat illness. In honor of
Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, here are some subtle signs of illness to look out for:
Changes in interactions: A previously clingy cat acting uncharacteristically aloof, or an independent cat transforming into “Velcro kitty” are examples.
Changes in activity: A decrease or increase in activity, and change in the cat’s daily routine are red flags — of arthritis, for example, which is far more common in cats than previously thought. So a cat who jumps on furniture less often is a potential sign.
Changes in chewing or eating habits: Contrary to
popular belief, most cats are not finicky eaters. Look for changes, an
increase or decrease, in a cat’s food intake. Eating less can signify
several disorders, including dental problems. Increased appetite may
mean diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
Changes in water intake: Drinking more or less can indicate a cat health problem, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Unexpected weight loss or weight gain: Weight
doesn’t always go up or down with a change in appetite. Cats with
diabetes or hyperthyroidism, for example, may lose weight even if they
Bad breath: If those pearly whites don’t smell
sweet as a daisy, something may be rotten in the mouth, or perhaps
kidney disease or a digestive disorder.
Changes in grooming habits: Fastidious groomers letting
themselves go — even just a bit — is a sure sign of potential illness.
Over-grooming may be related to stress, pain or allergies.
Changes in sleeping habits: From catnapping more to
awaking in the middle of the night, the explanation may be pain and/or
illness, perhaps associated with aging.
Changes in vocalization: Wallflowers that begin to offer sermons or cat howling overnight may be
doing so as a result of a medical condition. Possible explanations
include hyperthyroidism, hypertension (high blood pressure) or anxiety.
Signs of stress: Cats dislike changes more than
anything. Changes in your family’s schedule, new pets coming or going,
or even rearranging the furniture can cause stress. A cat that isn’t
feeling well may be anxious as a result. Geriatric cats may be
especially prone to stress. Anxious cats might exhibit behavioral
changes (such as missing the litter box). Anxiety requires the same
professional attention as diabetes or a heart condition.
Twice-annual exams for preventative care make sense, particularly since
cats age far faster than people. If you your cat or your cats have not
seen the veterinarian in six months, I suggest you make an
appointment, even if your cats seem healthy. It’s the best investment
you can make.
Take Your Cat to the Vet Week blog posts:
More about taking your cat to the vet: