6 signs of a sick cat

If only they could talk! How often have you found yourself thinking that when it comes to interacting with your companion animals? Even more so when concerns arise around their wellbeing. Cats are difficult to read at the best of times, so it becomes even more of a challenge to interpret their behaviour when trying to discern whether Felix is feeling under the weather, or not. A good place to start is to make a mental note of what is normal for your feline friend.

1. Sleepy Joe

Many a moggie spends an inordinate amount of time parking off, so inactivity is not a sure sign that there is trouble brewing. However, if you know her normal routine, it will be easier to pick up if there is a change in her activity levels.

2. Lack of grooming

Often a sure sign of trouble is a lack of personal hygiene. Cats spend a significant part of their awake time grooming themselves. A sick cat will invariably stop grooming, and her coat may appear dull or dishevelled. More loose hair than normal will come off in your hands when you handle her. You may even see a build-up of dander on her coat, almost like fine dust.

3. No appetite

A sick cat will usually have no interest in food and may even refuse water. If a cat is experiencing nausea, or oral pain because of dental issues, she may sit at the food bowl because she is hungry but will not eat.

She may even take in a mouthful of food and then suddenly step back. Almost 80% of adult cats have some degree of periodontal disease, so familiarise yourself with what a ‘normal’ mouth looks like.

4. Grumpy

A normally friendly feline may suddenly display aggression towards other pets, or even towards the humans in the family. This could be a sign that all is not well. A normally affectionate cat could be driven to uncharacteristic aggressive behaviour because of pain or nausea. A grumpy cat could be a sick cat.

5. Weird toilet behaviour

Sometimes, cats who usually have impeccable and discreet toilet habits will suddenly forget their toilet training and start to urinate in the house, or in full view of their owner. This appears to be a behaviour intended to notify their significant others that all is not well with the water works. It is not uncommon for these little ‘accidental’ piddles to be blood-tinged.

Often, a cat with a urinary tract infection will urinate in a basin or a bath, or even on a light tiled floor, as if to deliberately raise the alarm. A cat with a urinary tract infection may squat repeatedly without any significant result. This can be a sign of an inflammatory condition of the bladder, called cystitis.

As urine flows into the bladder from the kidneys, the kitty experiences a burning sensation that causes a sudden urge to urinate. This produces a small amount of urine at every attempt.

Similar behaviour can occur if the urethra is blocked, and often a cat will vocalise when trying to ‘go’, because this is very painful. The bladder becomes overfilled and this is a medical emergency. If in doubt, seek veterinary assistance, because this is a life-threatening condition.

This should be differentiated from inappropriate urination, which is a result of a behavioural disturbance. This is a mental health issue – also an important aspect of pet health and welfare. Sometimes, a cat who is being bullied by a neighbourhood stray will be too afraid to go outside to do her business, and may take to soiling in the home, on carpets or even on clothing lying on the floor, or on soft furniture, like beds or couches.

6. Stressed cat

Urinating in inappropriate places can also be a sign that your cat is highly stressed. Cats are naturally solitary animals, and it is only because we desire multipet homes that cats have to live in close quarters with other cats, and even, heaven forbid, with dogs. Some cats will adapt and take this in their stride, but some do not cope well. They internalise their stress and can resent being made to live in a multipet household.

So, if you learn to read your cat’s normal body language, these tips may help you to be on the lookout for any signs of trouble.

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