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5 signs your cat is sick

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Cats won’t tell you they’re sick. In fact, as an innate protective measure, cats often hide illness. Showing such vulnerability in the wild could leave them open to attack from predators.

Your home might be free from predators, but cats might not believe it. With that in mind, keep an eye out for the following telltale signs of cat illness. Think to yourself: What am I noticing now that I didn’t notice before?

5 signs of cat illness

1. Eating Habit Changes
Sick cats could eat less or eat more, or drink more water. A hearty appetite, which seems like a sign of health, could actually indicate illness. For instance, hyperthyroidism and diabetes are often accompanied by symptoms of excessive appetite.

2. Litterbox Changes
Keep an eye on your cat’s excretions. Have your cat's bowel movements changed in consistency? Is there diarrhea or constipation? Has the cat started urinating more?

Some other discharges are also abnormal. Does your cat have a runny nose or eyes or gunk in his ears? Is he salivating excessively or is there blood in the urine? Have you noticed any odd odors?

3. Energy Changes
See if your cat’s movements have changed. Has your cat’s activity rate decreased or increased? Watch out for changes in ability to do things like jump up, and notice whether your cat is shaking her head or scratching her ears a lot.

4. Appearance Changes
Sometimes, no one thing will signal cat illness, but the whole picture could look amiss. Your cat might sit hunched up, possible change expression. Your cat’s coat might have lost its luster and pliability; your cat’s fur might have begun to fall out excessively.

5. Abrupt Changes
In general, any abrupt or severe change in your cat 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

When you decide to see a vet, 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.

Immediate care needs include:

  • 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

If you have a gut feeling that something could be off with your cat, look to your instincts to guide you. You know your cat the best, and are the No. 1 person to be her health advocate.

"Five Signs Your Cat Could Be Sick" is provided by with permission from I-5 Publishing, LLC, publishers of Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy publications. For the latest cat news, photos, entertainment and tips, check out

All statements and opinions in "Five Signs Your Cat Could Be Sick" are the sole opinions of the I-5 Publishing, publishers of Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy publications and not those of CareCredit. The content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical provider with respect to any professional advice presented. Your participation in the presentation constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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