Cat Care Cat Behaviour

Is my cat sick?

Cat being checked by a vet

Cats are both predators and prey by nature, and signs of illness make them a target for predators. This leads many sick cats to become quiet and withdrawn and makes it hard to tell when your cat is sick.

As per Cats Protection guidance, if your cat has been healthy, look for changes in:

  • 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

If you suspect that your cat is sick, ask yourself: What am I noticing now that I didn’t notice before?

Is my cat sick?

If you have concerns about the health of your cat, take your cat to the vet immediately. Do not try to diagnose the symptoms yourself. A vet is the best person to tell you if your cat is sick, what is wrong and the best way to resolve that problem.

Otherwise, read the follow guidance and monitor your feline friend closely and keep your kitty healthy.

Five signs that your cat is sick

Food and water intake

A sick cat might eat less or eat more, or drink more water. Don’t assume that a hearty appetite means that the cat is fine. Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are often accompanied by symptoms of excessive appetite.

Bodily fluids

Look for changes in the litterbox. Have your cat’s bowel movements changed in consistency? Is there diarrhea or constipation? Has the cat started urinating more?Other discharges are also not normal. Does the cat have a runny nose, goopy eyes or gunk in his ears? Is he salivating excessively or is there blood in the urine? Have you noticed any odd odors?Is your cat’s hair falling out or does he have flaking skin? Is there swelling or pus draining from a wound?

Movement and activity

What has changed about your cat’s movement? Has his activity rate decreased or increased? Is he reluctant to jump onto things that used to be easy or has he altered how he jumps? Is he shaking his head or scratching his ears a lot?

Overall appearance

Sometimes there isn’t any one thing, but the whole picture that looks off to you. Your cat might be sitting hunched up. There might be an expression of pain on his face. His coat might have lost its luster and pliability.

Sudden changes

In general, any abrupt or severe change is cause for immediate concern. For example, a cat that suddenly becomes unable to use his hind legs needs to see his veterinarian right away.

cat checked by two vets

Recognize an emergency

Once you decide to seek veterinary care, you might have to choose between seeing an unknown emergency veterinarian after hours or waiting until your cat’s regular veterinarian is back on duty.

Here are some signs that always warrant immediate care.

  • Any trouble with breathing, seizures, protracted vomiting, paralysis, hemorrhage, or straining to urinate may represent life-threatening emergencies, says Julie Levy, DVM, assistant professor at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • More subtle signs include jaundice (yellow tint to the gums, eyes, and skin), pale gums indicating anemia or shock, [and] abnormally high or low body temperature, Levy says. Delaying treatment for these disorders, if even for a few hours, can make the difference between recovery and death.

What should I do next?

There is much to be said for an attentive cat owner’s instincts. Sometimes you can’t identify what is wrong, but an alarm bell goes off inside you. This is also a good time to see a veterinarian, who is trained to put the medical puzzle together.

“No one knows your cat better than you do. You are the best judge of your cat’s attitude, activity, and behavior”, says Alice M. Wolf, DVM, professor at Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine in College Station, Texas.

Because signs of an illness can be very subtle, if your cat does not seem right to you, then it is best to err on the side of caution and to make an appointment to take him or her in for a veterinary examination as soon as possible.

Even though our cats can’t talk to us, they have many ways of telling us when something is wrong and they need our help. We just need to give them our full attention using sense and all our senses.


About the author

Kacper Jednorowicz

Hi, I'm Kacper! I have a four-year-old female Bengal cat, called Coco. She's an active and friendly indoor cat that lives with us in the UK, but also enjoys several hours a day in the garden. Just like any responsible and loving cat owner, I want to ensure that she's a happy and healthy cat! My articles cover guides and reviews based on professional vet advice, our own experiences with Coco and plenty of research!

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Meow Guide's Coco
Our furry friend is an 8-year-old Bengal called Coco – she’s crazy, has plenty of energy and is VERY noisy! More about us.