Wednesday, September 30, 2009 2:25 PM

How Can You Tell When Your Cat is Feeling Ill?

Cats, just like people, have off-days. Most of the time, it's nothing to worry about. Since cats don't malinger, however, it is sometimes difficult to know when they are really ill and in need of medical attention. Here are some common symptoms you may notice from time to time and ways to differentiate between "quiet" days and true illness.

Lack of Appetite: If your cat usually consumes his food with gusto, you will surely notice when he picks at it with little interest or refuses food entirely. Some cats, particularly when they are younger (I've noticed that this tendency seems to wane as they get older) will fast for a day or so. This is not a sign of illness as long as it doesn't last more than a couple of days and the cat seems fine otherwise. Usually they will make up for lost time when they go back on feed.

Vomiting and/or Diarrhea: For the short-term, give the gut a break by feeding meat baby food with a little chicken broth. Adding a little slippery elm bark tea will soothe an inflamed gastrointestinal tract, putting kitty back on the road to good health in short order. You don't want him to become dehydrated, though, so if this doesn't work pretty quickly, call your veterinarian. If you see blood, call the vet right away.

Lethargy: Also part of "quiet" days, not a concern as long as it doesn't last more than a day or two.

Hiding: Usually always a sign of trouble. If she is also not cleaning herself and starting to look unthrifty, you should probably take a trip to the vet.

Non-Receding Third Eyelid: An apparent nictitating membrane (third eyelid) could mean eye irritation or something more serious. Eye irritation probably won't affect both eyes, however, and the cat will otherwise act fine, except for rubbing its eye, etc. Otherwise, your cat needs to see the vet, as this symptom is usually the harbinger of something serious.

Limping/Pain: If your cat is an outdoor one, this could mean an injury. Gently check him over; be careful, though--a cat in pain may lash out. A tender bump, along with symptoms like lethargy, hiding and lack of appetite may mean your cat has an abscess. Never attempt to treat this yourself; kitty needs medical attention. Once again, lots of blood means a trip to the vet, pronto.

Straining in the Litter Box: Almost always a sign of urinary problems, less often a symptom of consitpation. If the cat is male, don't delay--Feline Urological Syndrome ("plugged cat") can be fatal in just a few hours!

Shaking/Crying: Yep, to the vet. Don't try to puzzle this one out!

Our pets count on us to make sure they are happy and healthy. A tall order, to be sure, and vigilance is key. It's the least we can do for them, am I right?


Salman Says:
October 1, 2009 at 12:32 AM

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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