Heart disease in cats can be the "silent killer." Learn how to spot the symptoms.READ MORE >
It can be hard to tell if your cat is sick because our notoriously independent feline friends tend to mask their symptoms. Cats may also hide when they’re not feeling well. That’s a trait they may have inherited from their big cat ancestors who need to lay low to avoid predators when they’re ill. However, there are signs you can watch out for that can indicate cat diseases.
How to tell if your cat is sick
If you notice any of these five signs your cat is sick, be sure to reach out to your veterinarian to see what might be causing the issue.
1. Unkempt or Over-groomed Coat
The condition of your cat’s coat can be revealing. If your cat is under grooming, over grooming, or shedding more fur than usual, there may be a health issue underfoot.
Sick cats may stop taking care of their fur because they’re too tired or uncomfortable to tend to their coat. When they’re not taking proper care of their fur, it can become dull, oily, and even tangled or matted.
If you notice cat bald spots or red and irritated skin, your cat may be grooming too much. This behavior can be a sign of a number of common cat diseases or skin problems, such as an allergic reaction. Anxiety may also cause over-grooming. Feline anxiety occurs when cats are faced with stressful situations, like a shift in routine or a new pet in the home. If your cat is anxious, it’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian. Your cat may just need time to adjust, but medications or other treatments can be useful in some cases.
Anxiety may also cause over-grooming. Feline anxiety occurs when cats are faced with stressful situations, like a shift in routine or a new pet in the home. If your cat is anxious, it’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian. Your cat may just need time to adjust, but medications or other treatments can be useful in some cases.
If the fur is flying more than usual, your cat may be sick. An increase in shedding can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism or other common cat diseases. It could also be the result of a skin allergy. Visit your veterinarian to find out what’s going on and what you can do about it—aside from extra brushing!
2. Drop or Gain in Weight
Cat weight loss, which can happen quickly or over a more extended period of time, and rapid weight gain can be signs your cat is sick.
Loss of appetite and weight loss can indicate common cat illnesses from simple tummy aches to more serious problems, like cancer or kidney disease. With some illnesses, like hyperthyroidism, cats may drop weight in spite of having a hearty appetite.
If your cat balloons up, it could be from bloating or abdominal swelling rather than added pounds. Other causes of rapid weight gain include pregnancy, tumors, parasitic infections, hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s disease. In any case, you should check in with your veterinarian about what’s going on.
Your veterinarian should also keep track of your cat’s weight at annual wellness exams.
Your veterinarian should also keep track of your cat’s weight at annual wellness exams. Obesity is a growing problem for cats and can result in a number of health issues, such as feline diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. An annual exam is covered by our wellness options, which can be added to any plan (learn about important wellness coverage).
3. Issues with Eyes or Ears
A healthy cat should have bright, clear eyes with pupils that match in size. A cloudy film or varying sized pupils can be signs your cat is sick. Discharge from the eyes can also indicate common cat diseases or issues, like infections or parasites.
Your cat’s ears should be free of any discharge. In addition, they shouldn’t show any signs of redness, discoloration, or inflammation. If you notice any problems with your cat’s eye or ears, have your veterinarian take a look to figure out the cause.
4. Bad Breath
While your cat’s breath won’t smell minty fresh, it shouldn’t make you gag. Bad breath in cats can be a sign of common cat illnesses, including kidney disease. Your cat’s mouth and gums should also appear healthy with no discoloration or inflammation.
Foul breath and mouth issues can indicate gingivitis or tooth decay, which can cause an infection that can lead to heart issues. That’s why it’s so important to keep your cat’s mouth and teeth in top shape by brushing regularly and scheduling an annual dental cleaning.
5. Changes In Behavior
Has your usually friendly and outgoing cat suddenly become a shy and anxious mess? Or your typically energetic and happy furball turned into a tired and touchy grouch? Changes in behavior can be signs your cat is sick.
Another change in behavior you should note is problems using the litter box. Cats who stop using the litter box, urinate more frequently or seem to be in pain while going may have a urinary tract infection or other common cat illness.
If you notice any of these signs of common cat diseases or less subtle signs like diarrhea or vomiting, you should contact your veterinarian sooner rather than later. Early detection can help make treatment easier and improve your cat’s outcome.
Even with early detection, the costs of treating feline diseases can get expensive, which is why it’s smart to cover cats even if they’re indoor-only kitties. Find out about cat insurance.