Is My Cat Sick?

Think your cat might be sick? Check for these signs.

Look out for changes in your cat. They might signify illness. Via Mikael Tigerström/Flickr

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 This leads many sick cats to become quiet and withdrawn, and makes it hard to tell when your cat is sick.

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?

5 Signs Your Cat Is Sick

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

Trust Your Instincts

There is much to be said for an attentive 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 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.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Article Categories:
Cats · Health and Care


  • My six year old male cat has not eaten going on three days. He does not even want to lick the butter knife which is usually a must for him-no treats either. He must be hungry as he sits by the cupboard where I keep his wet and dry food. He sniffs of food and walks away. Is that behavior something that happens to cats?

    Cleo Cieminski October 31, 2016 6:40 am Reply
  • Is he outside cat many he is eating food manor leaves out

    Ron miiller December 22, 2016 3:57 pm Reply
  • My cat is 12 years one day her behavior changed.didnt want to sleep in her bed anymore and couldnt get comfortable no matter where she went.her pupils are dilated and she is druling first her tail was bushy but now its not.shes drinking more then usual but eating less.

    Candis January 4, 2017 11:12 pm Reply
  • I have a kitten and usually she is you really wild and active and all over the place today when I came home she was laying on the bed not really moving much finally went to look over at her and pick her up and she seemed relieved than sergeant I usually shake a little bag of her treats and she comes running well it took her like 5 to 10 minutes for her to come out where she was and all she’s been doing all day sleeping not running around like a little wild cat kitten she’s not drinking very much I don’t even think she’s drink anything today or eating anything usually when she goes poop I noticed you didn’t even bury it and usually she does she still sleeping really nostalgic and I’m worried what do you think

    Raycheal June 23, 2017 12:43 am Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *