Subtle signs of illness in cats

Contrary to popular belief, it can sometimes be a real challenge knowing whether your pet is suffering from an illness or not. Sometimes, we have a sense that something is ‘not quite right’ but aren’t sure if we may just be imagining things or not. Often, in this situation, it can be practical to take a wait and see approach. You should monitor closely to see if your cat develops any symptoms or seems to deteriorate in any way. If unsure, a vet check is always a sensible idea.

Many owners find they have a ‘sixth sense’ when their cat is under the weather and will bring them to the vet, explaining there is something going on, but they’re just not quite sure what! As vets, we are used to this and know the more common culprits that need to be checked for.

What are some subtle signs of illness to watch out for?

When a cat is poorly, they may give us some clues as to what is going on including:

  • A reduced appetite
  • A change in thirst levels
  • Increased lethargy (sleeping more or being less active)
  • Hiding away
  • Walking slowly or more tentatively
  • Spending more time indoors than might be expected
  • Breathing quicker or more shallowly
  • Growling or tensing when being stroked.

What should I do if I notice something?

If you have picked up on the fact that something is going on with your four-legged friend, a vet visit would be appropriate. There, your cat will be checked from nose to tail and the vet can determine if any tests are needed such as a blood test, urine analysis or imaging.

How long should I wait?

As mentioned before, if a cat seems generally well but there is something a little ‘off’, we may decide to watch and wait. However, this should only be done if your cat is still eating, drinking and being social and active. We also need to exercise caution in the case of kittens and seniors, who can go downhill quickly. Similarly, if your cat has a history of being unwell and is prone to disease such as pancreatitis, cystitis or fatty liver, they should be seen sooner rather than later.

So, if your ‘Spidey sense’ starts tingling, there is probably good reason for it. Unless your kitty perks up quickly, have them examined, so any required treatment can be started promptly.