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10 Signs and Symptoms of a Sick Cat

Cats are infamous for disguising illnesses. 

Unfortunately, this implies that sick cat symptoms go unnoticed by pet parents until they have gotten out of hand.

sick cat symptoms

However, you don’t need to be a veterinarian to know when something is wrong with your Fluffy Friend.

This blog post will make you more attuned to spotting a sick cat’s top 10 common signs and symptoms. 

Additionally, the easier the treatment will be if you spot these subtle signs early on. 

Let’s get started!

1. Changes in Appearance or Weight

When a cat isn’t feeling well, they may appear a little “off.” 

Watch out for signs of illness like your feline friend's hunched over, moving less gracefully, tilting their head awkwardly, or carrying their tail differently. 

You may notice subtle changes that may not even stand out.

When a cat is sick, dehydration is the typical issue. 

The VCA Animal Hospitals recommends the following steps:

(1) gently grab your cat’s skin at the shoulder blades 

(2) pull it away from their body, and 

(3) release it and observe. 

If the skin immediately snaps back into place, then your cat is not dehydrated. 

But if the skin seems “tented up,” this usually suggests dehydration. 

You need to consult a veterinarian immediately.

Cats with chronic illnesses may experience gradual weight changes, only noticeable when you run your hands over the ribs and spine. 

If you think they have extreme weight loss, especially if they were overweight before, this may be a sign that your Fluffy Friend has a metabolic disorder such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.

2. Changes in Personality

sick cat symptoms

Although it depends on each cat’s personality, sick felines typically become reclusive and may even hide from their cat parents. 

Some cats get angrier than usual or clingier, while others get needier. 

An unwell kitty typically has a reduced energy level.

Your cat may sleep more, play less, or be restless. 

Also, if your cat seems to increase their activity level, this may be a sign of hyperthyroidism. 

Cats with hyperthyroidism can’t sleep at night and may wake you up with their yowling.

Tabbies with joint issues or arthritis may find it challenging to move around, cease jumping up onto tables or other higher surfaces, or may change the way that they jump. 

If your fluffball suddenly can’t use its hind legs, seek medical advice immediately.

Though it may be common for older cats to have arthritis, it’s essential to make them comfortable with an orthopaedic pillow.

3. Changes in Excretion

Constipation and diarrhoea are both serious symptoms of illness in cats. 

Constipation can be harder to spot in the litterbox than diarrhoea. 

Small, dry, hard stools are abnormal and can signify kidney disease.

If there’s more pee in the litter box than usual, this suggests that your kitty’s body can’t conserve water and may signal that it is developing kidney, liver, or diabetes mellitus issues.

Less urine can also be a sign of a kidney or bladder issue. 

If you notice your feline frequently entering and exiting the box or strains to pee, they may have urinary tract issues. 

A feline with a urinary tract infection excessively licks their genitalia. 

You should seek immediate veterinary care if you observe a sudden appearance of litter box issues.

Related: 10 Cat Breeds That Get Along With Dogs

4. Changes in Appetite or Thirst

sick cat symptoms

Any sudden change in thirst or appetite is always a cause for concern. 

Kitties with dental disease will be picky with their food. 

However, cats suffering from metabolic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism, may be too hungry or too thirsty.

Additionally, cats with liver or kidney issues typically have increased thirst but may experience a loss of appetite.

It's a good idea to set a vet appointment immediately if your cat hasn’t eaten or drank water properly within 24 hours. 

Anorectic cats are more likely to develop hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, which causes them to lose their appetites for long periods. 

If diagnosed with fatty liver syndrome, your cat will need emergency care for weeks to months.

5. Hair Loss or Skin Issues

When your tabby is not feeling well, you might notice that they’re not grooming themselves well. 

As a result, you may frequently see an unkempt or oily coat, fur matting, or masses of loose hair. 

Sometimes, you might notice a change in the coat’s sheen or dandruff.

On the other hand, excessive self-grooming in cats is also not a good sign. 

If you think your cat is grooming more than usual, it may be a response to stress, a skin issue like allergies, a parasite like fleas, mites, or ringworm, pain from an ailment like arthritis, or a problem with the bladder. 

Always remember that cats that excessively lick one place too much may have rashes or other skin issues. 

When you take your kitty to the vet, bring their travel bag with you so you can carry them comfortably.

6. Unusual Eye, Nose, and Ear Discharge

sick cat symptoms

Discharge from the eyes or nose indicates upper respiratory infections. 

As a result, your furry pet can become ill and lose their appetite. 

Health issues like these may be contagious to your other pets at home. 

In this case, seeking professional veterinary advice is highly beneficial as the vet can recommend medication to treat the infection.

If your cat has ear discharge or debris, they may have ear mites or an ear infection. 

If left unattended, the eardrum may be affected. 

Ear problems are very uncomfortable and may cause your feline to shake their head frequently.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Your First Puppy

7. Swelling, Lumps, or Bumps

It’s crucial to pay attention to any swelling in the body. 

For one thing, it can be an abscess developed from a wound or it could be a tumour. 

Observe the area and schedule a veterinary appointment if your cat shows signs of pain if you touch the lump, if it's hot to the touch, or if there’s no improvement within a few days.

8. Breath Issues

sick cat symptoms

Bad breath may indicate dental concerns. 

Though mild halitosis may not be an emergency, your cat’s teeth must be examined the next time you visit the vet. 

Still, severe halitosis should get urgent veterinary care.

Additionally, keep an eye out for excessive drooling and mouth bleeding. 

If your cat gets an oral infection, the bacteria may spread throughout the body. 

The heart and other organs may be affected.

Wheezing, shallow breathing, panting, or abnormal breathing difficulties are very serious. 

Cats with breathing issues frequently sleep with their neck and head extended or may have problems sleeping normally. 

Sneezing or coughing fits that recur frequently are also indicators of illness.

9. Vomiting

A cat vomits occasionally— a hairball here and there, or they may throw up right after eating. 

Frequent vomiting for more than a few days is not normal. 

Also, remember that dehydration could result from vomiting that lasts longer than two days.

Observe how often your feline vomits and what it looks like when it does. 

If you notice that the vomit has blood, looks unusual, or is too frequent, a trip to the vet is necessary. 

Keep in mind to keep your tabby in a car travel box to avoid messy clean-ups.

Frequent vomiting may indicate:

  • Cancer
  • Liver issues
  • Infection
  • intestinal obstruction

    Related: How to Introduce Cats to Dogs

    10. Increased Vocalisation

    Cats may be trying to communicate with you when they suddenly become too noisy. 

    Increased vocalisation may mean that your feline is in pain, is experiencing gastric discomfort, or possibly has a neurological condition. 

    A cat that meows more frequently than usual for longer than 24 to 36 hours can have a serious problem. 

    Then again, it could signal something entirely innocent, like their favourite toy is missing or they’re hungry.

    sick cat symptoms


    You are the only person who truly knows your pet as a cat owner. 

    It's always advisable to trust your instinct and seek immediate veterinary attention if you see behavioural or physical changes in your pet or simply get the feeling that something isn’t quite right. 

    Even the slightest indication of cat disease might result in serious issues if not addressed immediately.

    Pet illness may cause anxiety, and an anti-anxiety pet bed is a great solution to help your Fluffy Friend be more comfortable during recovery.



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    • I was searching for something on this topic on PetCareRx, but your article covers this in great detail. Thanks for sharing.
      MrFluffyFriend™ replied:
      Awesome! Glad to hear that you found our blog post helpful. Keep on subscribing for more useful tips! :)

      Zoey Samson
    • My cat is 14. We moved a year ago. She ran off, but found her way home due to my tshirt & her bed being outside. This year has been a year of adjustment for all of us. She lost 2 1/2 lbs in a year. Her blood work is showing early kidney failure. So now I’m debating over foods. I want her to enjoy her life. Lots of the foods, people comment their cats don’t eat. I’m testing different foods that are low in phosphates that Purina has, as we can not afford the actual diet the vet is recommending. I want her to enjoy her food & have as low a phosphorous diet as we can provide. Do you have a suggestion for low phosphorus cat foods less than $2/can? Thanks!!!
      MrFluffyFriend™ replied:
      Hey Marsha,

      We’re so sorry to hear that your senior cat is showing signs of possible kidney failure. We understand that you’d like to give her the best quality of life. Were you able to ask the vet if there are home made recipes you can try instead of canned food? There are some options like Dave’s Pet Food Kidney Support that costs about $2.5 per can. Or Hill’s costing about $2.42/can. Maybe you can try alternating her food between home made and canned to help with the cost?

      Hope this helped!

      —From Your MrFluffyFriend Team!
      MrFluffyFriend™ replied:
      Hey Marsha,

      We’re so sorry to hear that your senior cat is showing signs of possible kidney failure. We understand that you’d like to give her the best quality of life. Were you able to ask the vet if there are home made recipes you can try instead of canned food? There are some options like Dave’s Pet Food Kidney Support that costs about $2.5 per can. Or Hill’s costing about $2.42/can. Maybe you can try alternating her food between home made and canned to help with the cost?

      Hope this helped!

      —From Your MrFluffyFriend Team!

    • For the past 3 days my cat has been sick at first straight away but down staying down a lot longer we have 3 cats in total but did not no which one at first but now we no some advice please thank you
      MrFluffyFriend™ replied:
      Hey Sandra,

      Were you able to sort out your cat’s health issues? Please book an appointment with your vet as we can’t be sure if the illness is contagious.


      — Your MrFluffyFriend Team!

      Sandra adams
    • My daughters cat has thrown up the past 2 days. He is not eating and seems to be meowing more. Help
      MrFluffyFriend™ replied:
      Hey Johanna!

      We’re sorry to hear that your daughters’ kitty is not eating and meowing more. This usually indicates that he may be feeling sick or has eaten something that didn’t agree with his digestion. Please consult with your vet so your cat can get tested.

      Lots of luck!

      —From Your MrFluffyFriend Team!

      Johanna cobb
    • My cat was staggering, his eyes were kinda rolling around twords the back of his head and wouldn’t eat, do you think he was poisoned? He lived 3 days he pooped a little blood just before he died, I couldn’t get him to a vet

      Christene Hensley

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