Cat Illness

Cat Illness -- The Early Signs and Symptoms

Our cats are very important to us, they are a big part of our lives. When our cats become unwell, which can happen to even the best cared for cats, we are naturally concerned and do what we can for them.

Often it is vital to take a cat to the veterinarian when he or she is sick.

Sometimes the vet is able to treat the animal very effectively and easily -- and your pet is back home and back to her old self in no time at all.

Unfortunately at other times the treatment is more prolonged, more complicated, and your cat may have to stay in veterinary care.

It is often the case that the earlier that you recognize that your cat is unwell, the quicker and less complicated her treatment is.

By knowing the early signs of cat illness you have a better chance of getting professional help before the ailment or disease is in an advanced state.

Likely you already know some of the early signs of feline illness, others you may not know.

This page does not claim to list all possible symptoms and signs, but it may help you in knowing what to look out for.

Food, Water and Cat Illness

A cat refusing to eat her food could mean a lot of things. It could possibly mean the cat is bored with the same old, same old and, by refusing the meal, is hoping that you will supply him or her with something new and interesting.

But generally once cats are used to a certain brand or type of food, they will happily consume it day after day.

The 'refuse it to see if I get something better' tactic, is not likely to last long. Hunger usually kicks in and the cat capitulates.

Pet food manufacturers sometimes make a small, unannounced, change to the formula of cat food. If the change is small, but enough for your cat to notice, she may refuse to eat it at first, but likely tuck into it after a short time.

If your cat goes outside, it is possible she has snacked somewhere else.

orange catKeeping a check on your cat for early signs of cat illness will help you get veterinary help in time to make a difference.

Yes, there are many reasons a Cat Will Not Eat, but remember there is always the possibility she is not eating because she is sick.

There are a large number of feline illnesses that will stop your pet from eating.

If your cat has been refusing food for over a day, don't take chances, consult your veterinarian without delay.

On the other hand, overeating can also be a problem and an early symptom of your cat being unwell.

Just as it is with humans, if a cat takes in too much food and does too little exercise, he or she is likely to become obese. Overweight Cats.

Obesity is not good for cats, not good at all, it can cause many health problems.

But what if your cat is forever hungry, and also thirsty, but does not gain weight?

Could this be an early sign of cat illness?

Eating and drinking a lot could be a symptom of Feline Hyperthyroidism (thyrotoxicosis.) This is a disease that is more common with older cats, but possible with younger ones too. It is caused by an enlarged, over productive thyroid gland and can lead to heart failure if not treated.

A sudden increase in the amount of water that your cat drinks could also be a symptom of a couple of other conditions, Feline Diabetes, or Feline Kidney Disease.

Likewise not drinking enough water is not a good sign and can rapidly lead to your Cat Becoming Dehydrated. Dehydration goes hand in hand with many cat ailments and is to be avoided.

How much water a cat drinks can depend a great deal on the type of food she eats.

Canned cat food contains a lot of water and dried food virtually none, so a cat on a diet of canned food will drink quite a bit less. Your cat's size, age, activity level and the season of the year can also make a difference.

Oh dear! Not eating enough – eating too much – not drinking enough – drinking too much! If all of these can be indications of a cat being in ill health, what is a cat carer supposed to do?

It may seem a little confusing, but there is no real need to be perplexed.

Remember two things, firstly nobody knows your cat like you do and secondly, it is changes in your pets eating and drinking habits that could be a sign of cat illness.

Keeping in mind that a cat is unlikely to eat and drink the exact same amount every day, if you notice a marked change that you can find no explanation for – then seek the advice of your veterinarian.

Early Signs of Cat Illness or Cat Diseases

Although technically there may be differences between a cat illness and a disease, we tend to use the words interchangeably, as we do with words such as, sickness, infection, ailment etc.

All of these words can be defined as a state of ill health. So this page covers some of the early symptoms and signs of cat diseases, infections and anything that effects the health and well being of your cat.

The sooner you find out that your pet is unwell, the sooner something can be done about it and your cat will have a better chance of successful treatment.

Cuddle and Pet Your Cat and Give Her a Health Check

Cats are cuddlesome!

Do you pet or cuddle your cat at least once a day? Petting is good both for you and for your cat.

It's also the perfect time to check her over for any lumps, wounds and any indication of Cat Fleas or other parasites.

tabby cat

A grooming session is also a good time to examine your cat for those things and to examine her for any Coat and Skin Problems.

Your cat will also spend time grooming herself of course. Cats know how important their coats are to them, you are probably aware that a cat neglecting his or her coat could be a sign of health problems.

Are you also aware that if a cat grooms too much, not only could it lead to bald patches but it also could be a sign of health issues. ( See also Cat Grooming Excessively.)

When you have your kitty up close and you notice he has bad breath it is a sign of gum disease or tooth decay.  If the cat's breath smells like ammonia, it is often a sign of kidney disease.

Cat Illness Symptoms in the Litter Box

Not a pleasant subject, but all cats are almost certain to have a bout of diarrhea at some time. Not of course a disease or ailment itself, but the condition can be a symptom of cat illness, particularly if it is persistent.

Most times the diarrhea will be mild and temporary, perhaps your cat ate something she shouldn't, like food meant for humans, or she killed and ate some prey that upset her stomach.

However, if the diarrhea persists, movements are abnormally frequent or are in anyway bloody, there could be cause for concern.

Also if your Cat is Lethargic, has difficulty breathing or is vomiting along with the diarrhea, consult your vet right away.

Wouldn't you know it, the opposite condition can also be a sign that all is not well with your cat. If your cat is middle-aged or elderly and you observe that he is a lot more active than normal, he could be suffering from an overactive thyroid.

There are many things that can cause a cat to become constipated. Some need attention like lack of fiber in the cat's diet, or the swallowing of too many Hairballs, but are relatively easy to rectify.

Some of the more serious causes, are are the cat having swallowed a solid object, or swallowed string, rectal or anal disease, pelvic fractures, or a tumor possibly caused by Cat Leukemia.

Keep a check on your cat's bowel movements, if constipation should last more than a few days get professional attention for your pet.

It is not necessarily a behaviour problem when a cat suddenly begins urinating outside of the litter box.  It could be a sign of a bladder infection or a urinary blockage. 

The Third Eyelid

What! My cat doesn’t have a third eyelid! Yes she does and if you don't see it then that's a good thing.

Many animals, including felines, have what is commonly called a third eyelid ( nictitating membrane.) It is a thin cloudy layer, usually hidden out of the way, in the corners of cats eyes.

Cat Third EyelidThis cat is possibly sleepy and that's why she is showing the third eyelid. If the membrane was covering more of the eye it could indicate illness.

If the third eyelid is clearly visible partly across the eye, it could be an indication of certain ailments.

Some cats may show a glimpse of the third eye when they are sleepy. But the membrane clearly showing for any length of time could mean your cat needs a check up.

Other eye problems to look out for are :

Any discharge, either watery and clear, or a thick greenish yellow.

Pupils of uneven size.

An eye that is bloodshot for any length of time.

Enlarged eyeballs.

Your cat showing signs of unusual sensitivity to light.

See also Cat Eye Health.

Early Signs of Cat Illness in Your Cat's Behavior

Occasionally your cat will behave in a way that vexes you, it's inevitable.

Humans and felines are beasts of differing nature, so your cat will at times behave in a manner that seems perfectly reasonable to him or her, but unreasonable to you.

A marked and continuing change in your Cat's Behavior or personality however, will have a cause.

That cause could be something that is upsetting your cat causing Stress, or your cat is injured or is sick.

You know your cat, you know her personality and her behavior traits.

She cannot tell you that something is causing her stress, or that she is unwell – but a change in her behavior can.

If it is your cat's normal habit to seek affection from you, but she is acting out of character and shying away from you, that could be a sign that something is wrong. A normally social cat that suddenly becomes antisocial is a sign that the cat is not feeling well.  It is normal for a cat to try to hide an illness because in the wild, ill cats are easy prey for predators. If your kitty suddenly starts hiding in a closet or under the bed, it could be she is not feeling well.


If your feline friend is normally well behaved, suddenly becomes an Aggressive Cat, or starts peeing outside the box, or Crying or Yowling Uncharacteristically, or ripping the drapes with her claws, she could be trying to tell you that she is not well.

Other Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Any cat is likely to vomit occasionally, perhaps she may have eaten too quickly or eaten too much. Frequent or prolonged vomiting however is a cause for concern. Bringing up vomit tinged with blood, or a bout of vomiting along with a bout of diarrhea is cause for great concern.

Anything other than occasional light vomiting, consult your vet.

Any sign of lameness, or holding a paw at an awkward angle, could be a result of injury or a symptom of cat illness.

Staggering, unsteadiness, circling, falling or flopping over, inability to stand, any difficulty breathing or unexplained breathlessness all need the urgent attention of your veterinarian.

So too does, prolonged coughing or sneezing, excessive drooling, shaking, shivering, convulsions and being in a state of confusion.

This cat illness page was not written by a veterinarian. It is intended to help you recognize early symptoms of cat illness and not as a substitute for professional advice.


Cat Illness