10 Subtle Signs of Illness in Cats

Signs of illness in cats can be subtle, so even the smallest thing may turn out to be significant. Here are 10 small, subtle signs of illness in cats. Each is a "paws-up" to see us.

  1. Cat at the Veterinarian's OfficeChanges in interaction. A previously clingy cat acting uncharacteristically aloof, or a more independent cat that suddenly turns into a "Velcro kitty" are examples.

  2. Changes in activity. A decrease or increase in activity and/or change in the cat's daily routine can be a sign of a medical condition.

  3. Changes in chewing or eating habits. Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not finicky eaters. Is your cat suddenly eating less or more? Eating less can be a sign of several disorders, ranging from dental and kidney problems to cancer. Eating more can be caused by diabetes or hyperthyroidism.

  4. Changes in water intake. Drinking more or less water can signal a health problem such as diabetes or kidney disease.

  5. Unexpected weight loss or weight gain. Weight doesn't always go up or down with a change in appetite. Cats with diabetes or hyperthyroidism can lose weight even if they are eating more.

  6. Bad breath. If those pearly whites don't smell sweet as a daisy, there may be a dental and/or gum issue. Bad breath may also be related to a digestive disorder, infection or kidney disease.

  7. Changes in grooming habits. Fastidious groomers who let themselves go and over-groomers may have health problems related to stress, pain (60% of our older cats suffer from debilitating arthritis) or skin conditions.

  8. Changes in sleeping habits. From catnapping more often to awaking in the middle of the night, the explanation may be illness associated with aging.

  9. Changes in vocalization. Wallflowers that begin to vocalize or cats that howl in the night may be doing so as a result of a medical problem. Feline cognitive dysfunction, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure or anxiety are among the possible explanations.

  10. Signs of stress. Cats dislike change more than anything. Changes in your family's schedule, new pets coming or going, or even rearranging the furniture can cause stress. A cat that isn’t feeling well may be anxious as a result. Geriatric cats may be particularly prone to stress. Anxious cats may exhibit behavioral changes (such as missing the litter box) and physical changes. Anxiety requires the same professional attention as diabetes or a heart condition.