AFVC_iStock_000045883022_Large (1)Since the moment your cat’s paws padded softly into your life, you probably started cataloguing the many traits that not only make him or her a true individual, but the special cat you love and care for. Paying close attention to your cat’s personality, behavior, and appearance is undoubtedly a satisfying experience for you, but astute observations of any changes could even save your pet’s life.

Because of the numerous facets of feline health, and the mysterious ways a cat masks illness, we’ll try to answer a very common question: How do I tell when my cat is sick?


A healthy cat is a balanced cat, meaning all the body’s functions are in a natural state of equilibrium, or homeostasis. When you notice changes in one system, say your cat’s fur coat, it’s likely that there is one or more systems at risk for changes in overall health status.

You are your cat’s best defense against preventable illness, and your ongoing observations (paired with regular routine visits to see us) can bring feline health back into fine balance.

Visible Changes In Feline Health

If your cat is sick, you’ll most likely see changes in the following areas:

  • Appetite and thirst – We are generally concerned about both increases and decreases in food and water intake. Reluctance to eat and drink could be associated with a range of internal illnesses or mouth pain, while overindulgences can be caused by metabolic diseases, diabetes, or an overactive thyroid. Watch for how much water and food (if any) is left in the bowl, discourage begging for food, and eliminate snacks to ward off dangerous weight gain. Dehydration is very dangerous and is often seen with vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • Energy level – Lethargy is a common side-effect of obesity or age-related illness, and even though many cat owners expect a cat to sleep most of the day away, sleeping too much can indicate joint pain or arthritis and should be checked out.
  • Respiratory – Feline health includes normal breathing, and any changes in this department could warrant an examination. Asthma is a serious illness and any injuries to a cat’s diaphragm or chest can make it hard to breathe normally. Any respiratory changes will result in possible hiding, major reduction in meals, labored breathing (panting is normal in an active feline), and lying outstretched.
  • Gums and lips – Pink is the color you want to see in a healthy cat’s mouth because this indicates proper levels of oxygen in red blood cells flowing through the bloodstream. Yellow, blue, white, or red gums should be looked at immediately. Inflamed, swollen, or odiferous areas around your cat’s face, chin, and lips also indicate significant shifts in feline health.
  • Skin and coat – Excessive scratching can be indicative of parasites, mats, allergies, or infections, whereas swollen, lumpy skin can be a result of abscesses, tumors, allergic reactions, or burst blood vessels. Regular grooming of your cat’s fur coat will allow you to catch any injuries or infections early on.

Caring For Your Sick Cat

Cats and dogs share some of the same symptoms when they are ill, but pet owners typically notice a dog’s symptoms earlier. Cats are secretive and elusive, and will try to hide any symptoms from even the most dedicated owner. Rest, comfort, and warmth is necessary for a full recuperation. We will do everything we can to help you administer medication and offer pet first aid to your special friend.

Feline health can be baffling at times, especially when you’re not sure if your cat is sick. We are here for your cat and hope you’ll call with any questions about your kitty’s wellness.