Did you know that not all cats will express signs of sickness or illness in the same way? Different cats may show their illness in different ways, so it is important to know the signs of a sick cat. No cat owner wants their cat to be sick, because a healthy cat is a happy cat! This is why regular visits to your veterinarian are really important. In between visits, however, it is important for you to keep an eye on your cat and notice any changes or symptoms they may be exhibiting. This will help you to spot any type of sickness sooner and make the prognosis that much better.
The most common sick cat symptoms
Vomiting, Diarrhea and Upset Stomach
Vomiting and diarrhea are not always a problem in and of themselves, but they can indicate signs of serious illness. If your cat seems pretty healthy and just has diarrhea or vomits every once in a while, it’s pretty normal. If they have an upset stomach, it is always a good idea to feed them a bland diet until their stomach settles. If their stomach is still upset after eating a bland diet, it may be time to call the vet. Here are a few signs that urgent medical attention is necessary:
- feces with a strong foul odor
- blood in the feces or vomit
- abdominal swelling
- signs of pain or distress
Chewing, Licking and Scratching
Cats that chew, lick and scratch typically have some type of parasite, whether it is fleas, ticks or something else. This is typically a pretty quick fix, if you use the right products. Getting rid of parasites is really important, because if you don’t, serious illness could be right around the corner! Typically over the counter flea and tick medications are effective at getting rid of fleas, as long as you choose the right one. There are some that may not work as well as you would like for them to. If you don’t notice a difference once you treat the parasites, then it may be time to contact your vet. Here are a few signs that you don’t need to delay in getting medical care:
- if the chewing, licking and scratching becomes so severe that it is causing skin lesions
- inflammation and hair loss
- it the behavior is accompanied by other symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, pain, coughing, problems with mobility, lethargy or other behavior changes
Coughing and Panting
Sometimes it is normal for your cat to cough or pant, especially if they have overexerted themselves or gotten too hot. If this happens, it is a good idea to try to calm them down and get them cooled off and out of distress. If it is severe or goes on for a long period of time, however, it may be a sign of something more serious. Here are a few of the signs that will alert you that it is time to see the vet right away:
- choking or distress
- shallow and labored breathing
- passing out
- discolored gums that appear pale white or pink, or even yellowish
- coughing up blood, foamy liquid or pus
- nasal discharge
- eye discharge
Pain or Mobility Issues
If your cat seems like he or she is stiff and is having a hard time moving around, you need to first take a look for any physical sign of injury. Look for warmth, bruising and cuts. Also, make sure that you check the bottoms of their paw pads. Sometimes they will get something stuck in their paw pad and it will make it hard for them to move around. This is usually a quick fix, but it isn’t always that simple. If your cat appears to be in pain, don’t give them pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These medications can be toxic to felines. Baby aspirin is about the only over the counter pain reliever that is safe for cats, but you must talk to your vet about it before you give it to them.
Here are some signs that the issues will require prompt medical attention:
- a lack of balance or coordination
- stiffness that comes on all of a sudden
- light and sound sensitivities
- any sign of paralysis of the limbs
- not putting weight on one leg
Bowel and Urinary Issues
Cats are prone to urinary and bowel problems, so it is important to keep an eye on this. If your cat is straining to pass feces, they may be constipated. This is typically something that will require medical attention. Also, keep an eye on how frequent they are urinating. If you see any differences with their typical regular urination or bowel movements, talk to your vet.
Here are a few other signs that a trip to the vet is in order:
- straining to urinate or only being able to pass drops of urine
- vomiting along with urinary and bowel issues
- blood in the feces or vomit
- dark colored urine (red, orangish or brown)
Ear and Eye Problems
Typically any issue that you see with your cat’s ears and eyes requires medical attention right away. Here are a few signs that there may be a serious eye or ear problem going on:
- bleeding from the eyes or ears
- discharge as a result of infection, allergy, irritation or trauma
- cloudiness that could be caused by glaucoma, cataracts or other lens issues
- dry and bloodshot eyes
- failing vision
- tumors or cysts
- yellow discharge
While these are not the only sick cat symptoms, they are typically the most common. If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure that you keep a close eye on your cat. Behavior changes are also really important to keep an eye on, because typically behavior changes mean that something is out of the norm with their body.
They say some people are ‘dog people’ and others are ‘cat people’. I’m a cat person! I got my first cat when I was in the 2nd grade. I had to beg my mom to let me keep him. He was an orange tabby, and I have been partial to them ever since! We currently have three cats.
Being a cat person, I am always trying to learn more about why cats do the things they do. Cats are such loving animals, but they can be so fickle. I guess I can kind of relate to their behavior, and that is probably what attracts me to them.