Spotting Signs of Illness in Cats

Spotting Signs of Illness in Cats

Do you know how to spot the first signs that your cat may be in pain or unwell?

Whilst illness like respiratory virus’ are relatively easy to spot due to discharge from the eyes, nose and lots of sneezing, not all conditions are the same.

Cats in particular are very adept at hiding signs of illness, to ensure they do not appear ‘weak’.


Possible subtle early warning signs you should look for include;

  • staying indoors more
  •  increase in vocalisation
  • more demanding of attention
  • increase or reduction in appetite
  • aggressive behaviour
  • soiling outside litter box
  • waking in middle of night for attention
  • depressed or withdrawn
  • drinking excessively
  • eating ‘pica’ (objects)
  • increase or stopping grooming.

Any change in your cats behaviour, toileting or eating habits over a prolonged time are worthy of a check up with your vet to ensure your cat is not unwell.

Cats are very good at hiding illness and so by ensuring you know your cats routine, personality, likes and dislikes will help you to see when or how illness or pain may be affecting them.

A cats temperament doesn’t change for no reason, typically changes are linked to either an emotional or physical change.

Food quality can also play a key part in the temperament and health of your cat and we see all too often physical signs due to a poor nutritional diet. This can include skin conditions such as dermatitis, as well as urinary tract infections and blockages and rotten teeth.

The importance of all round care, like we do ourselves, has to be taken into consideration with your cat too. This should include healthy nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, love and understanding and a well balanced, non stressful home environment.

Like humans, severe anxiety and stress can manifest itself in physical form. It is common for cats to suffer urinary and skin conditions due to stress & anxiety alone.

In such instances a joint approach to treat the physical symptoms as well as identify possible causes of emotional upset is required.

A good place to start is by identifying any changes that may have taken place at home.

Often people look for large things like renovating a room or a new house guest and overlook the small things. Believe it or not changes in diet, routine and even visits to the vet more frequently can all effect your cats mental well being.

A recent example seen by Sunny Harbour was a young female cat who had always been very clean at home. A typical dark tortie female she was a little highly strung, but had been away from home before with no problems.

On getting her home only two days she started messing in the house. Puzzled at what could have caused it, we discovered that the cattery she stayed at this time had a dog kennel attached. The noise of the dogs barking had triggered stress and anxiety. This was further confirmed by reports on her behaviour at the cattery by staff.

Completely out of character and with no physical health problems, stress was identified as the cause of her soiling.

With the help of basic homeopathic remedies, our advice and a little reassurance we got this cat back into her normal routine before any further physical symptoms manifested.

So, if your cat is behaving oddly, ensure there is no physical illness, then begin a process of elimination to find a source.

Where to Get Help

Your veterinary practice should always be your first port of call if you think your cat may be unwell or in pain.

If a thorough medical examination cannot get to the root of the problem try considering emotional triggers for their behavior and if necessary seek a behaviour referral from your vet, which is typically covered under most reputable pet insurance.

To find your nearest veterinary practice, please consult the RCVS website.