How Can I Tell if My Cat is Sick?

Shelley Wenger
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Cats can be sneaky when they aren’t feeling well. They often hide and mask their symptoms, until it is too late. For this reason, it is important to keep a close eye on your cat and his or her health.

What are the symptoms that you should be watching out for?

Vomiting. Though many cats vomit occasionally, if your cat vomits regularly, it may be a sign of a bigger problem. If it continues, your cat may also struggle with dehydration.

Diarrhea. Just like vomiting, occasional bouts of diarrhea can occur. Your cat may have eaten something that didn’t agree with his or her stomach. That being said, if the diarrhea continues, there may something more complex going on.

Issues with the litter box. Once a cat has been housebroken, you shouldn’t have to worry about your cat not using the box, unless there is something wrong with your cat.

Changes in weight. Any time that your cat gains or loses weight quickly, you need to investigate. One pound on a cat would be several pounds on a person, so it can be quite significant.

Increased drinking. Most cat owners barely notice that their cat is drinking. They may refill the bowl every few days, without giving it a second thought. So, if you notice that you are refilling his or her water dish regularly, or you even notice your cat drinking, there is a good chance that your cat is drinking more than normal.

Breathing issues. Breathing problems should never be ignored. If your cat is struggling to catch his or her breath, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible or even visit the local emergency clinic.

Eye problems. You also should never wait if your cat is having trouble with his or her eyes. Depending on what is going on, if it is not taken care of, your cat may lose the ability to see out of that eye.

Nasal discharge. Cats can get colds and allergies, just like people can. Like people, these diseases can be contagious to your other cats.
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If your cat is dealing with any of the above symptoms, you will want to make an appointment with your regular veterinarian. However, they may be booked up for a few days or even weeks. You may be unsure about whether or not you should wait for an appointment. There are times when you should go to the local pet emergency room.

How can you tell if you shouldn’t wait to see your veterinarian?

Though some of the above can wait a few days or even weeks, there are times when you shouldn’t wait to get an appointment. If you are unable to get in within a day or two, you may want to visit the local emergency clinic. There, your cat can get the care that he or she needs.

If you notice any of the following, your cat needs to be seen right away.

  • Severe pain, such as crying or aggression
  • Any bleeding
  • Gums that aren’t pink
  • Fever or chilled
  • Exposed to anything poisonous to cats
  • Any trauma, such as being hit by a car or gotten in a fight with another animal
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unconscious

What should you expect when you take your cat to the veterinarian?

If your cat is sick, you may be unsure about what to expect.

After you check-in, you will be able to talk to someone to tell them exactly what is going on. Even if you don’t think it is important, you should tell them everything that you can think of. The receptionist or technician that you talk to will likely ask you a lot of questions to help the veterinarian figure out what is going on with your cat.

Your veterinarian will do a thorough examination. At this point, your veterinarian will look your cat over from head to toe. He or she will also listen to his or her heart and lungs, as well as feel your cat’s abdomen.
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At this point, your veterinarian may give you his or her recommendations. Though your veterinarian may have a good idea what is going on, he or she may recommend further testing to investigate what is wrong with your cat. He or she may recommend X-rays and blood work to figure out what is going on. He or she may also give you a few options to determine what you are comfortable doing.

You will be able to decide what you are willing and able to do at that point. You may want to pursue diagnostics, though you may also decline them. Some of these diagnostics can be done while you wait, while others may be sent out to a laboratory. These may take a few days to get the results.

Whether you do a further investigation or not, your veterinarian will be able to give you medications that should help your cat. Make sure that you give everything as labeled, for as long as you should. Follow up when recommended so that your cat has the best recovery possible.

Because cats can be so sneaky, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your cat. They are really good at hiding their illness until they are really sick. You should keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, and willingness to eat. You also may notice that he or she isn’t using the litter box. Any time that you notice anything off, it is time to make an appointment for your cat to be seen.

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Shelley is a small town farm mom of two boys. She is a veterinary technician, so she is proud to write about all kinds of animals and their care. She also loves to write about writing, running a business, working from home, and much more.

Glenville, PA

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