Posted: 03 Sep 2011 12:28 PM PDT
Cats are remarkably robust animals that are often much hardier and healthier than dogs, if vaccinated regularly and cared for properly. But they do get sick and because of the feline temperament they're inclined not to show it. So how do you tell if your cat is sick?
All cat owners should know what their cat is like when in tip-top health. The coat is glossy and well-groomed, the appetite is good and the eyes are bright and clear. If not, these are physical signs of illness that most owners will pick up easily – if they look.
The occasional sneeze, the odd cough and occasional vomiting to eject a hairball are nothing to worry about, but any departure from the norm requires you to keep a watchful eye on your pet. Loss of appetite could mean that your pet is dining out elsewhere, or it could be the sign of a disease that needs veterinary attention.
If your cat uses a litter box, make a habit of checking it. Loose stools could be owing to something unsavory they ate or a sign of something more serious. Infrequent or copious urination is an important sign of a common older cat affliction, kidney disease. Catch it early and your chances are improved. If you suspect your cat is not well, it's a good idea to keep it inside with a litter tray so you can observe its output.
Often an ill cat will show few obvious physical signs. Behavioral changes are something to be on the alert for. A sick cat will often withdraw, choosing obscure places to sleep and spending more hours than usual and being inactive. Stressed cats may exhibit a sudden preference for high places, like closet tops or high shelves. Cats are creatures of routine, so unusual activities or behavior that is out of character (such as reticence or aggression) is always worth monitoring closely.
When playing with your cat, use the opportunity to do a close inspection on a regular basis. Check that the ears are clean and free of mites. Check the mouth for tooth and gum infection and the eyes for discharge or inflammation. When stroking your cat check for fleas and ticks, as well as any lumps or growths. Outdoor cats (especially toms) are prone to developing nasty abscesses at injury sites if they get into a fight.
If you know exactly what your cat is like when it's in peak health, the signs of illness will be that much easier to detect. If you think something is wrong, don't be indecisive. The sooner you get to the vet the better and the higher your chance of something being able to be done about it. It's the least we can do for them…
For general cat care, check out our Cat Care page!
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