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When to Call the Veterinarian

You and your cat have gotten to know each other pretty well by now, and hopefully you’ve had one vet trip together just to get her overall health checked. But what if she’s not feeling well? Will you recognize the signs? The better you know your cat, the more likely you’ll notice when something is wrong.

Be observant as you care for your cat each day. When you fill her water and food bowls, take mental note of how much she ate or drank since the last time you filled them. When you scoop her litter box, check how much waste is in it. An average adult cat urinates at least 2-3 times a day and has a bowel movement at least once a day.

Watch for signs that your cat is not acting like herself. Changes in behavior, like a change in activity level, grooming or sleeping habits, are often one of the first indicators of a medical problem. For example, if your normally social cat is suddenly lethargic and withdrawn, something’s probably up.

When your cat suddenly starts acting or looking different, it may be time to seek medical help. Here are signs that you need to call your veterinarian:

  • Inappropriate elimination/”going” outside the litter box
  • Infrequent urination or constipation lasting more than 24 hours
  • Vomiting (digested food or bile, not hairballs/undigested food), diarrhea or blood in urine or stool
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of appetite or sudden weight loss
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Bleeding, tenderness, redness, swelling or open sores
  • Atypical vocalizing, such as loud yowling
  • Fever of 103°F or higher
  • Inability to walk or persistent limping
  • Excessive water consumption and frequent urination, which could be a sign of diabetes or kidney problems
  • Dry, sticky mouth, loss of skin elasticity, slow capillary refill time, sunken eyeballs, muscle twitches, or cold paw pads, which indicate dehydration

If something is wrong, it’s best to catch it early so it can be treated right away. Your veterinarian helps to identify potential health problems at your cat’s annual exam, but it’s also very important to do your part at home between visits. During weekly grooming sessions, carefully look over your cat’s body. Become familiar with the signs of normal health, and you’ll know when something doesn’t look right.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Body should have a healthy weight: the ribs should be felt but not prominently seen.
  • Skin and coat should be free of odor, grease, dandruff, lumps, bald spots, cuts and irritations.
  • Eyes should be bright and clear, with no discoloration, cloudiness or heavy discharge, and the third eyelid should not be noticeable or inflamed
  • Ears should be clean, pink and odorless.
  • Mouth should contain white teeth, pink gums with no redness or swelling, and no bad breath.
  • Nose should be clean and not runny.
  • Paws should be free of any cuts or scrapes, and nails should be trimmed.
  • Under the tail should be clean, with no redness, bumps or colored discharge.

No one knows your cat better than you. Trust your gut. When she’s not acting like herself, give your veterinarian a call. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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