In an ideal world, our feline companions would remain happy and healthy their whole lives. A reality of caring for a living creature is that they get sick or need a check-up from time to time. Caring for our feline friends can be challenging at times because cats, by nature, are adept at hiding anything that may make them seem like easy prey. They can’t tell us what’s wrong, so we need to watch for physical and behavioural indicators that something may be off.
Appetite Changes | Any changes to your cat’s appetite could be a red flag. If they are suddenly eating minimal amounts or nothing at all, call your Vet, it is urgent they be seen. Cats need to eat consistently and at least once in a 24 hour period, or they risk developing hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver). Sometimes, a gradual change in appetite can be due to dental discomfort, systemic issues or stress.
Weight Loss or Gain | Your cat’s weight shouldn’t fluctuate too much in either direction. If your cat is eating normally, weight loss can indicate their body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly and can also be a sign of an overactive thyroid in older cats. Weight gain could be as simple as eating too many calories per day, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes to determine exactly what is causing the weight changes, your doctor may want to do bloodwork. This will help them determine the difference between too many calories and a medical issue.
Coughing | If your cat has a persistent cough or has episodes where they sound like they’re vomiting, but nothing comes up, they should be checked by your Vet for an airway disease, like asthma. It is typically never as simple as your cat having a tickle in their throat or them having inhaled too much dust.
Discharge from Eyes or Nose | Any discharge from your cat’s eyes is something you should see your vet for. Runny or goopy eyes, with or without green/yellow discharge, are a sign something is not quite right. It can range from a simple eye infection to a scratch on their cornea to a Feline Upper Respiratory Tract infection. It is best to see your veterinarian as these ailments can become uncomfortable quickly.
Litter Pan Problems | This can be an obvious, and unfortunately, an unpleasant sign that your cat may be ill. Cats that are suddenly peeing or passing stool outside of their litter pan should be checked over by their Vet. They may have a urinary tract infection, intestinal parasite or mobility issue that does not allow them to get into the pan in time. Also, if your cat starts producing a lot more or a lot less pee or stool, your doctor will want to know. Certain medical conditions and infections can cause this to happen.
Changes in Mobility | A common problem for our furry friends is orthopedic pain, like arthritis, as they age. This one can be tricky to spot. Watch your cat curl up; Do they take longer to find a comfortable spot? Do they move gingerly on stairs or hop like a bunny down or up to them? Can they jump up onto the same surfaces (couch, counter, table, bed) they once did or are they getting onto a lower chair or step-like surface first? While this is not urgent, your cat should be seen by their Vet if you notice these behaviours. The Vet can assess their discomfort level and may prescribe food, supplements or medication that can help your cat be pain-free and enjoy activity again!
Changes in Behavior | You know your cat better than anyone, and if you start to notice changes in their behaviour, subtle or overt, you should note them. You may not need to call your vet clinic every time, but anything that stands out from your cat’s normal day-to-day habits should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. Changes in social behaviour, temperament, grooming habits and sleeping patterns are a few examples.
Not every change in your cat warrants a visit to your veterinarian, but if anything occurs that concerns you, call your vet clinic. They can triage the issue you’ve observed, add notes to your cat’s medical history (that way, the changes you noted are on their file for your next visit), and they can also pass along questions to your doctor if you need further reassurance or guidance. No matter how small or silly you may feel, the question is, we are here to help and want to offer the best care and peace of mind to you and your fur family.
Written by Erin Dauphinee