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Recognizing Illness in Cats


By Jenny Andersonsick-cat

Special to Today’s News-Herald

Cats are masters at masking illness.  Sometimes we have to recognize some pretty subtle signs.  We should watch for any changes, including changing sleep patterns, decreased food or water consumption, signs of less grooming, or changes in activity and social interaction.  Sometimes new physical symptoms may show up, too, such as weight gain or loss.  Often these take place so gradually, we may miss them.

One of the more common sign of illness is inappropriate elimination.  It is not normal when a cat refuses to use the litter tray. This behavior can indicate urinary tract issues, diabetes, or possible arthritis, which makes getting into the litter box difficult.  Urinating inappropriately should never be ignored.  A veterinary consult can help identify underlying causes.

When a feline decreases its activity, this is often due to a systemic illness, depression, or arthritis.  It is never good when a pet slows down too much.  Cats tend to get about 16-18 hours of sleep a day while “catnapping”, but if one sleeps more than what is normal, check it out with a veterinarian.

Weight gain or loss, changes in eating or water consumption and lack of grooming all may be due to diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and other diseases.  A hyperactive thyroid may cause a sudden, unexplained weight loss.  Diabetes also prevents proper metabolism, and will cause weight loss.

Fear, anxiety, and pain will sometimes cause stress, which in turn is exhibited in new behaviors: hiding more often, spending more time awake, increased vocalization, and constantly scanning the environment for imaginary dangers.

Sometimes a cat develops gum disease as early as age 3.  This may show up as bad breath or a change in eating habits due to tender gums.  The thing is most felines are masters at hiding health issues, so we need to be sensitive when there is a slight change in behavior or appearance.

Most wellness issues, however, usually show up when a cat is a senior.   We can prevent or delay chronic, underlying ailments with good health practices and regular checkups.  Keep your animals at a healthy weight and groom them regularly. Read labels carefully and use high quality litter and foods.  We will enjoy many more years of quality feline companionship with preventative health care.

The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at


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