Q: How do I know when any of my cats have behavior problems or is sick? One of my cats, Harold, suddenly became aggressive, biting me when I tried petting him around his head for no reason at all.
Is this a behavior problem or is there something medical going on? Please give examples of other cat behavior problems that might mean my cats are sick.
A: Sudden changes in cat behavior can indicate a medical problem with the cat. The first step toward resolving the situation is to have your veterinarian examine your cat thoroughly. Approach the problem as behavioral only after your veterinarian says your cat’s health is good. Do not wait for the problem to go away — have your cat examined as soon as possible. Some of the medical problems that cause behavior changes are life-threatening and painful.
In Harold’s case, he might have a painful dental or mouth problem that needs immediate attention. Skin sensitivities, allergies and abscesses are a few of the other problems that might cause Harold to bite when you pet his head.
Cat litterbox avoidance, fearful behaviors and various aggressions are examples of behaviors that can result from illness, injuries or painful conditions. Cats who avoid the litterbox might have urinary tract infections, bladder stones, diabetes, stomach problems, parasites, chronic renal failure or a number of other health-related problems.
Injuries, arthritis, seizures, tumors as well as a variety of other medical issues and painful dental conditions can cause cat aggression. Cats who suddenly become fearful can be sick or in pain.
Of course, cats with behavior problems might not have any health issues at all — the challenges might be strictly behavioral or a combination of medical and behavioral. Regardless, whenever a cat has behavior challenges, rule out any health issues first by having a vet examine the cat.