One thing cat owners will all tell you: cats are notoriously good at hiding when they’re feeling sick. Some theories suggest that, having started in the wild, cats developed this habit of hiding because they needed to conceal any weaknesses that might reveal vulnerability and increase danger from predators.
Whatever the reason, even domesticated cats don’t always allow their discomfort to show. And sometimes, when it finally does become evident, the signs come so late in the illness that it may in fact be too late to treat them.
An observant cat owner can still detect other signs that may hint that there’s something going on that ought to be checked out. Here are a few of them.
Change in eating habits
A change in eating habits is often a real giveaway. A cat will occasionally go off its food for a day, since it gets the same iffy stomach once in a while that any human does. But if this lack of appetite goes for two days or longer, it could indicate a problem. The same applies to a sudden increase in hunger. This can often hint at something like diabetes. Any change lasting longer than a couple of days needs to be looked into.
Lethargy and lack of grooming
Lethargy and lack of grooming is another clue. Most cats abhor being disheveled or dirty. If your cat has been a regular groomer up to this point, and you begin noticing that it’s looking distinctly scruffy, this too can signal some kind of problem. In the same way, if its general lack of interest is accompanied by lack of energy and increased sleep, it may be time for a visit with the vet.
Noticeable changes in weight
Significant changes in weight can be another hint. Even one pound makes a big difference, when it’s 7-10% of the cat’s entire body weight. Weight loss, especially if the cat continues to eat normally or has even increased its appetite, is a sign to get in to the vet as soon as possible. Weight gain may just indicate that the cat needs switching to a diet food, but it could also be a sign of a tumor or other problems. It may be hard to detect these changes in weight, but if you engage in regular petting and grooming, you will notice them more easily. It’s hard to miss when the ribs and spine start becoming more prominent under your hand.
Unusual lumps can be detected with regular petting and grooming as well. If you notice a lump or bump where there has never been one before, get to the vet. It could be just a fatty deposit or a little abscess, easily dealt with. Or it could be the indication of a tumor. If caught soon enough, it may be removable with no further danger to the life of the cat.
Change in litter box habits
A change in litter box habits might also indicate a problem. You will know what is normal and what isn’t, as far as litter box behavior, because cats are creatures of habit here. So if your pet suddenly starts going outside the box, it could indicate a digestive problem. Straining could hint at a blockage. And if this unusual behavior spreads to other parts of the house, say, where the cat defecates somewhere else than the litter box, this could be another hint. Changes in urination and defecation habits need to be checked out immediately, because something like a blockage could be very dangerous.
Even though your cat may naturally hide its discomfort when it’s sick, if you keep an eye on some of these basic things, you may still be able to detect the signs of illness. Taking care to look for the small indicators will help you keep your cat healthy.