Cats are like canaries – they don’t like to tell us if they are unwell. Cats will hide illness and this can lead to serious medical crisis. Remember the canary – will tweet until it falls off the perch. Careful and routine observation of your feline friend can lead you to understand when he or she does not feel well and allow you to seek early veterinary intervention.
Is your cat eating, drinking and urinating as normal?
Cats, like us humans, may not eat well when ill. If your cat misses a meal, keep a keen watch for the next meal. They usually do not go more than two missed meals if they are normal. Conversely, is your cat eating excessively? This can be seen in a number of disorders, from intestinal disease, to hyperthyroidism, to diabetes. Increased drinking may also be a sign of disease, including kidney problems and diabetes. If your cat is producing much more urine than normal, there may be a medical problem present. And if your cat is not urinating, or only producing very small urinations, he or she may have a urinary blockage and should be seen by us immediately – urinary blockage is a life-threatening emergency and can be fatal.
Are we acting normally?
Is the cat grooming as normal? If ignoring personal hygiene, we worry that the cat is not feeling well. The same can be said if the cat is hiding more than normal and not seeking attention from you. And if the cat is hunched, there may be breathing issues, abdominal pain or other problems. Is the cat vomiting? This can be a sign of a blockage or other problems.
Is kitten breathing abnormally or coughing?
Is breathing normal? Cats may purr when happy, but also when they do not feel well. Coughing is not normal in a cat, either. Coughing can look like sneezing or trying to vomit a hairball. If your cat is hacking, but does not produce a hairball, it probably is a cough. Coughing may be a sign of breathing distress, heart disease or asthma. We should see your cat immediately.
Does the cat have diarrhea or is he/she constipated?
Diarrhea can be caused by intestinal parasites, toxins, inflammatory bowel disease, and other illnesses. Untreated, diarrhea can lead to dehydration and severe problems. Constipation can be a sign of dehydration, kidneys disease or other illnesses. Severe constipation can occur in cats and may require hospitalization. Most cats defecate once to twice per day.
How are the gums?
Gum color can be an indicator of problems. Normal gums are a nice pinkish/red color and when pressed, they return to their normal color within 2 seconds. If the gums are pale to white or if they take a long time to return to their normal color after being pressed, the cat may have anemia, shock or very poor blood circulation. Yellow gums (jaundice) may indicate liver disease. Blue / purple gums can be a sign of low oxygenation and indicates a life-threatening emergency. Very red gums, if generalized, can be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning, another emergency. Redness around the teeth is usually a sign of dental disease. Excessive bleeding from the gums can be seen with clotting diseases and liver disease.
Does the cat have a fever?
Cat temperature varies from 100.5-102.5 degrees. You can take a cat’s temperature with a lubricated rectal thermometer used to manufacturer’s specifications. If the temperature falls outside of this range, give us a call. If below 99 or above 103, the cat should be seen as soon as possible.
Not all cats show signs of illness. If you feel that your cat is a bit off, we are happy to perform a physical examination and assess your friend. Caught early, may problems can be treated.
Dan Teich, DVM
District Veterinary Hospital