How To Tell When A Cat Is Sick

How To Tell When A Cat Is Sick


Cats are incredibly stoic and independent, which often makes it hard to tell if they’re in pain or sick. That’s why pet parents need to know what signs to look for and how to react. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of cat health so you can help your feline friend live a long and happy life.

A change in eating habits.

Most cats are creatures of habit, so if you find that your cat is eating less or more than usual, it could be a sign of illness.

It’s also important to monitor your cat’s weight. If you notice that your cat has lost a lot of weight, this could be indicative of something serious such as cancer or diabetes. It’s always better to have the vet check out any dramatic change in weight immediately rather than waiting until it’s too late!

Not using the litter box.

You may notice that your cat is not using the litter box. Cats are clean animals and will not use their litter boxes if they are sick and cannot walk to it, or cannot cover their waste. They also may not be able to get up on top of the counter if they are too weak.

Excessive grooming.

Excessive grooming is often a sign of stress or anxiety. In some cats, excessive grooming can be a sign of skin irritation. If this is the case, it can lead to hair loss and self-inflicted wounds that can become infected. Excessive grooming may also be a result of other health problems such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), which affects the way your cat’s body functions and how it processes energy from food; hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which causes an overactive metabolism; or kidney failure or liver disease, both of which affect how well their organs work.

Vomiting and diarrhea.

Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common cat illnesses. If your cat is vomiting, it is likely due to an illness or food poisoning. On the other hand, diarrhea may be a sign of a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. There are several other causes for these symptoms including:

  • Parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Kidney disease

If you suspect that your cat might have either vomiting or diarrhea, there are some steps you can take to help them heal faster:

Shaking and trembling.

You may notice your cat shaking, trembling, or shivering. This is a sign that your cat is experiencing pain and/or has a fever (as in, her body’s internal temperature is abnormally high). Shaking can also be a sign of an impending seizure—though if this happens to you or someone you know, please seek help immediately! One last thing: some cats are more prone to shaking than others due to certain genetic factors. If you notice shaking behavior from your kitty on a regular basis, it could mean something serious like brain tumors or even FIV infection—so make sure you see the vet ASAP!

Loss of appetite.

When your cat stops eating, it’s important to take notice. Cats are often picky eaters, and this is especially true of kittens. They can be finicky about the specific flavor or texture of food and may not be interested in anything except for treats or a specific type of food (you know you’ve been there). But if your cat has never had an issue with their appetite before, it’s likely that something is wrong if they suddenly stop eating altogether.

It may seem obvious—when your cat stops eating for any length of time, something must be wrong! Some cats will continue to eat despite being sick; others won’t feel hungry even when they’re healthy (and some will do both). If you think that something isn’t right with your pet’s health, then talk to your vet right away!

Lethargy and depression.

Lethargy and depression. If your cat is lethargic, it will not have the energy to do anything other than sleep. It may also be depressed, and may not even want to get out of bed or move around much at all.

If your cat has an eye infection, it could have conjunctivitis or uveitis which causes redness in the whites of their eyes. You can check for this by looking into their eyes with a flashlight or penlight—if you see redness then they might have an inflamed iris (the colored part) due to inflammation from an eye infection.

Coughing and sneezing.

If your cat is coughing and sneezing, it could be a sign of a respiratory infection. Respiratory infections are common in cats, especially as they get older. In fact, about 80% of cats will develop some sort of upper respiratory infection at least once during their lifetime. Cats can have a variety of different respiratory infections:

  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV-1), which causes flu-like symptoms including fever and conjunctivitis (red eyes). This virus can also cause sneezing fits similar to those caused by allergies;
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV) or feline enteritis coronavirus (FECV), both viruses that cause upper respiratory inflammation;
  • Rhinotracheitis virus (RTHV) and feline viral rhinotracheitis virus (FVRHV), which lead to runny noses, sneezing fits, nasal discharge and eye irritation;

Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing.

Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing. If your cat is making a noise when he breathes, it could be an indication that something is wrong.

Here are some examples of these types of noises:

  • Panting – This can be normal in kittens, but if your adult cat pants excessively, this may indicate an underlying problem such as heart disease or hyperthyroidism.
  • Wheezing – This indicates airway obstruction from inflammation in the throat and lungs. It’s common during upper respiratory infections like kennel cough (a type of pneumonia).
  • Coughing – A healthy adult cat doesn’t normally cough unless she has a respiratory infection such as feline herpesvirus (FHV-1), distemper virus (panleukopenia), parainfluenza virus (herpesvirus 3), calicivirus (caliciviruses 4 & 5) or rhinotracheitis virus (Rhinoviruses 1 & 2).

Lots of changes can mean that your cat is sick so it is important to pay attention and seek proper care for them

  • If you notice that your cat is having significant changes in behavior, it is important to contact your veterinarian.
  • If the changes are not severe enough to warrant a visit to the vet, take note of them and offer warmth and comfort for your sick pet.
  • If you notice changes in breathing such as heavy panting or wheezing, take note of this as well and head straight for the vet’s office before it becomes worse.


Here are the main signs you should look for any time your cat is behaving slightly differently than normal:

Section: Changes in eating habits or bathroom routines

Section: Signs of physical pain, like mewling or limping

Section: Lack of grooming can indicate illness

Section: Behavioral changes can mean illness, as well.

Takeaway: A cat’s health can change rapidly and many diseases progress quickly. If you suspect something is wrong with your kitty, then contact your vet as soon as possible to make an appointment. The sooner they are diagnosed, the sooner they will be on their way to recovery!

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