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8 Warning Signs That Your Cat May Be Sick

8 Warning Signs That Your Cat May Be Sick

Cats get a lot of flack for acting like Prima donnas, but as any cat lover knows, it’s mostly an act. Cats are extremely resilient, strong, and stoic: Which means they’re very good at hiding signs of sickness.

In order to keep their furry friends healthy, cat parents must be able to pick up on the warning signs of sickness. If you wait for an illness to manifest itself physically, or in an obvious way, like vomiting, you run the risk of serious damage (and a painful vet bill).

Much like humans, the key to a healthy cat is consistency. Make sure to interact with your cat often and pay attention to her habits and routines. (Hint: this is why it’s best to keep cats indoors where you can monitor all activity and there is less risk of exposure!) In this case, no news is good news. If everything proceeds as usual, you can be fairly certain your cat is in good health. It’s when things start to change that you should be concerned.

CatChannel points out that noticeable changes in any of the following could indicate that you should take a closer look:

  • activity
  • appetite
  • weight
  • behavior
  • frequency of litterbox use
  • stool consistency
  • urinary output
  • time sleeping
  • interactions with you
  • coat
  • breathing rate
  • mobility
  • the sound of his voice
  • the sound of his breathing
  • the way he smells

But what is it specifically about these behaviors that you should be watching for? Check out the list of specific warning signs below for more information.

8 Warning Signs That Your Cat May Be Sick

cat sickness warning signs

1. Gorging or Fasting

Most people assume a feline who’s constantly asking for food is just a fat cat, but that’s not necessarily true. If your cat is on a fairly regimented diet, and they begin eating much more (or less) than usual, it’s a warning sign. Feline hyperthyroidism and diabetes are often accompanied by symptoms of excessive appetite. Conversely a sudden decrease in food or water intake can be a sign of several health problems, from dental issues to kidney disease to cancer. The rule is: 24 hours of no eating or drinking means a trip to the vet.

2. Lack of Grooming

In case you haven’t noticed, your cat likes to be clean. Very clean. My kitty Runa cleans herself after every time she eats, before naps and after, and sometimes after I’ve petted her (as if to say, “Ew don’t touch me Mom you smell!”). If you notice your cat grooming less than normal or not at all, it may be a sign of dental disease or arthritis.

3. Bad Breath

OK so a cat’s breath is never minty fresh, but if you notice a particularly foul odor, it could mean trouble. “Stinky breath can indicate kidney problems and serious dental disease in your cat — and sweet or fruity-smelling breath can be a sign of diabetes,” PetFinder advises.

4. Abnormal Litter Box Activity

Cleaning the litter box isn’t exactly something cat parents look forward to, but doing so on a regular basis give us a chance to keep tabs on their health. Changes in the frequency, color, smell, or volume of your cat’s waste should be reported to a veterinarian immediately. The same thing goes for behavior in and around the litter box: if your cat suddenly starts straining or crying in the litter box, or pooping and peeing outside the litter box it could indicate lower urinary tract disease, bladder infection or urinary blockage. Make sure to eliminate these things before treating it as a behavioral problem.

5. Strange Sounds

“If your cat starts “talking” to you more than usual or suddenly becomes very quiet, it may be because of a medical condition. Anxiety, feline cognitive dysfunction, high blood pressure, and hyperthyroidism are all reasons behind a change in vocalization,” explains

Related: 7 Sounds That Cats Make and What They Mean

6. Too Much (or Too Little) Activity

Feline activity levels can fluctuate normally depending on age, but if the change is rapid and obvious, it’s a warning sign. “A sudden increase in activity level in a middle-aged to older kitty can indicate an overactive thyroid. If your kitty seems less than enthusiastic about moving around or playing, it may indicate arthritis or other issues,” says Pet Health Network.

7. Sleep Pattern Changes

This can be a difficult one to pinpoint because cats spend a lot of time sleeping and we’re not always home to watch behavior during the day. But if “your cat seems to sleep all day when he used to be active,” or “is up all night roaming the house, vocalizing, or seems overactive during the day, there might be an underlying cause.”

8. Clinging or Shunning

“A previously clingy cat acting uncharacteristically aloof, or a more independent cat that suddenly transforms into ‘Velcro kitty’ are examples” of subtle signs of illness, according to the CATalyst Council’s handy downloadable guide, “CATegorical Care: An Owner’s Guide to America’s #1 Companion.”

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Pet Health, Pets, , , , , , , , ,

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.


+ add your own
10:52AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014

Thank you for the info.

9:57AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014

And your anteater?

3:57AM PDT on Aug 29, 2014

I have 6 little fur balls at the moment and try to keep an eye on each of their behaviors.
I spend at least an hour with each of them every day or night.

12:26PM PDT on Aug 9, 2014

Knowing your pet is the best way to notice if they are ill. Great points to watch for...TY

4:39PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

Thanks for the advice. I will keep a close eye on my cats.

10:06AM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

This can also apply to feral cats that you are overseeing if one of them has become pregnant. The changes in their behavior should signal you to take a good look.

6:18AM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

Good information, thanks for sharing.

4:05AM PDT on Jun 20, 2014


10:37PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

Good reminders for us all. Thanks.

10:05PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

Ppl WHO got pets, ned to keep a "better eye" on them. and how the act on dayli bacis.

t can go wrong so quick if ppl jut let them go and must take care of themselves, as TO "many pets sadly does".

Tyfs. I mean it a great article, but i am afraid that it is the wrong pp WHO are readig these news,
ppl in here will do anything for their onw and others animals, it is all those ppl WHO prefere to save a few dollars and let their pet "act weird" than take it to a vet becauseit cost mony "whic it DOES when ppl own a pet..
As ppl in here would do.

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