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Fur Times | March 29, 2020

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How to Tell if Your Cat Isn’t Feeling Well

How to Tell if Your Cat Isn’t Feeling Well
Francisco DiPolo, DVM, CVA

Unlike dogs, cats have a tendency to hide their illnesses. This mechanism has evolved to make them appear less vulnerable in the wild. Unfortunately, though, this ability to conceal their discomfort makes it difficult to identify when your cat is not feeling well and you should take him to the vet. Here are some signs that your pet may have something going on internally that you should be concerned about:

Inappropriate elimination

Cats may urinate or defecate out of the litter box due to a variety of issues, including urinary tract infections or inflammations, renal disease, diabetes, etc. It can also be a sign of arthritic pain or difficulty getting in and out of the litter box comfortably.

Changes in activity

A decrease in your cat’s activity could be due to internal discomfort, illness or arthritic pain. Conversely, an increase in activity can also be related to some metabolic changes such as hyperthyroidism.

Changes in interaction

Cats are generally social creatures, so a change in the level of interaction with their owners or other pets can signal disease, fear, anxiety or pain.

Changes in food and water consumption

Most cats tend to have a very clear feeding pattern, so any consistent changes are usually due to some medical condition. We rarely see cats drinking water, so when it becomes obvious that they’re more interested in drinking it, it’s important to closely monitor how much urine they’re producing in the litter box. (Meaning, if you notice you’re cleaning your litter box more often, your pet is probably drinking more.) Changes in water in/output are often the first indication of many common diseases, including diabetes and kidney disease.

Changes in sleeping habits

Most cats will nap between 16 and 18 hours each day. Consistent changes from this pattern may indicate a variety of illnesses.

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Sudden weight changes can be signs of hyperthyroidism, diabetes, pancreatitis and many other conditions. Obesity, on the other hand, can cause an increased risk for diabetes and joint disease.

Changes in grooming patterns

Patches of hair loss or a greasy/matted appearance may suggest there is an underlying problem. Cats that have difficulty grooming often suffer from obesity and joint disease, while excessive grooming may indicate skin disease, anxiety and other compulsive behavior.

Signs of stress

Stressed cats may have difficulty socializing and may hide more, or spend more time scanning their environment. Sometimes this behavior can be related to physical diseases.

Changes in vocalization

An increase in vocalization can suggest hyperactivity, high blood pressure, pain or anxiety.

Bad breath

Bad breath is the earliest indication of dental disease. Current studies show that about 70 percent of cats over 3 years of age have gum disease or periodontitis. Gum disease is a source of inflammation and infection to the rest of the body, so it’s important to have your cat’s teeth cleaned regularly.

Now, I realize that this is a long list of warning signs and potentially very scary concerns.

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