LifestyleRecognizing signs your cat might be unwell: What every caregiver should know

Recognizing signs your cat might be unwell: What every caregiver should know

How to recognize that your cat is seriously ill?
How to recognize that your cat is seriously ill?
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1:06 PM EST, December 11, 2023

Cats are enigmatic creatures, often not displaying when they're unwell. However, careful observation can reveal signs that your pet may be experiencing difficulties. Let's consider a few of these indicators.

Despite being domesticated, cats retain a part of their wild nature. Their independent streak usually means they go their own way, and it's challenging to force them to do anything. This trait extends to masking sickness. Unlike dogs, who typically make it obvious when they are unwell, cats can hide their symptoms until the very end. Therefore, it's essential to closely monitor your pet and note any deviations from their normal behavior.

A full bowl might be a sign of illness, as sick cats often lose their appetite

One of the more noticeable signs that a cat is suffering or ill is a change in eating habits. If your feline friend starts eating less or significantly more, it's prudent to consult a vet. A lack of appetite can often coincide with dental issues, a common problem in many cats. Sometimes, the issue might be severe enough to necessitate tooth removal. Additionally, changes in drinking habits can be concerning; excess drinking or a lack of thirst can suggest conditions like kidney problems.

If your cat is eating normally but suddenly losing weight, schedule a vet appointment promptly. This symptom is unusual and could indicate a disease such as diabetes. Early diagnosis provides a better chance for effective treatment and potentially longer lifespan.

Watch for unusual behaviors: How your cat may be calling for help

Any change in your cat's behavior should immediately alert you. Should your pet become apathetic, aggressive or excessively sleepy, it could be in pain or fighting an illness. Elimination outside the litter box is another indicator that something is not right. Difficulty urinating or defecating could mean urinary or digestive diseases, respectively.

Hair loss or color changes can be another sign of illness; for instance, malnourished black cats often start to turn reddish. The primary causes of these symptoms are usually hormonal problems or allergies. Changes in the color of the mucous membranes or gums, particularly blue or red, are clear symptoms of illness such as circulation problems, under oxygenation, or gum disease.

Impaired senses call for prompt action

Cats are renowned for their agility, speed, flexibility, and keen senses. However, any impairment in these areas, like issues with vision, hearing or balance, should prompt a quick call to the vet. Sometimes it might be a result of age, but it could also indicate a serious illness. The owner should also be mindful of unusual wheezing or coughing, signs of a debilitated respiratory system.

Feline agony is often accompanied by serious symptoms, such as severe diarrhea and vomiting. In such instances, immediate action is essential because it may indicate your pet's end-of-life stage, where help might already be too late.

Hiding in final moments: A cat in hiding denotes a serious problem

Cats instinctively hide illness and weakness to avoid becoming a target for stronger predators. When they feel their end is near, they'll seek a well-hidden, safe place. If your pet starts behaving this way, hiding in unusual spots unlike their preferred places, a health check should be immediate.

Changes in a cat’s interaction with humans can also raise concerns. If a typically quiet cat suddenly starts meowing often and loudly or makes strange sounds— squeaks, howls, whines — they could be in pain and seeking help.

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