Sick Cat Signs & Symptoms

By Mary Lougee

Observant cat owners can read the signs and symptoms that indicate their feline friend is not feeling well. Any change in a cat's appearance, intake and outtake or behavior is a reason to take your cat to your veterinarian for a checkup.

Physical Symptoms

A sick cat displays one or more physical symptoms to indicate he isn't feeling well. Changes in appetite and water intake are red flags. Refusal to eat or drink can indicate he is in pain. Increased thirst and urination are indicators of kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Vomiting several times a day can lead to dehydration and lethargy. A sick cat may have different potty habits such as diarrhea or constipation. Any coughing, sneezing or excessive scratching indicates your cat may be sick.

Physical Signs

Observing your cat's appearance can help you discover an illness quickly. When petting him, feel through his fur down to his skin for bumps, lumps or infected areas on the skin. Adelaide Animal Hospitals in Australia recommend checking the color of your cat's gums to detect illness. Healthy cats have pink gums; other colors point to illness. White gums are an indicator or blood loss or shock, red gums are a sign of elevated temperature or toxicity and blue or purple gums mean he is lacking oxygen. Gums that are tinged yellow are a sign of organ disease. Stiffness or limping could be a sign of pain from an injury or perhaps arthritis in an older cat.

Gradual Changes

A sick cat may have gradual changes over time, such as gaining or losing weight, or a dull coat with hair loss. Excessive hair loss near the ears can indicate fleas, ticks, ear mites or ear mange, all which cause scratching. Hair loss on the skin can point to staph infections, yeast or fungal infections or several other endocrine diseases.

Behavioral Changes

Sudden changes in your cat's behavior indicate something is not right. An outgoing cat who suddenly hides from you, displays aggression or fear, may be in pain. If your cat is litter box trained and starts to relieve himself in other areas of your home, he may have a urinary tract infection, kidney disease or bladder stones.

Emergency Situations

Your cat needs emergency care if he shows life-threatening symptoms such as blood in the stool or vomit, labored breathing, seizures, paralysis or a yellow tint to his gums and eyes. In this situation, especially at night, don't wait for your veterinarian to open the next day, take your pet to an emergency clinic.