When it comes to illness, injury or pain, cats can be very stoic and not show obvious outward signs. Very often, the red flag that indicates your cat may have a medical problem might be related to a behavior change. And, when it comes to changes in behavior it’s not unusual for cat parents to miss those subtle signs or attribute the behavior to kitty being mad or upset at something or someone.
Here are some potential signs of illness:
Change in activity level
Change in interaction with human family members or companion animals
Atypical aggressive behavior
Increase or decrease in appetite
Change in water intake
Change in litter box habits
Change in urine amount, color or odor
Change in bowel amount, color, consistency or odor
Change in sleeping patterns
Increased or decreased vocalization
Change in coat appearance
Increase or decrease in weight
Discharge from eyes, nose, mouth or ears
Change in gait
Appearance of the nictitating membrane (third eyelid)
Changes in appearance of pupils (ex: pupils remain dilated regardless of light conditions)
Pay Attention to Changes in Behavior
While it’s easier to know that something is medically wrong with your cat when you see blood in the urine or there’s a discharge coming from the nose, it’s also crucial to recognize that behavioral changes can be the result of a medical problem. If your cat has stopped using the litter box don’t just assume it’s because he’s mad at you for coming home late; there could truly be a medical issue as the root cause. Prompt veterinary care can make a huge difference in whether your cat suffers needlessly.
Know Your Cat’s Habits and Routines
The more aware you are of how much your cat typically eats in a day, how much water he drinks, how often he uses the litter box, etc., the easier it will be to spot any early warning signs. If other family members are in charge of particular cat care responsibilities, make sure everyone communicates with you. Children who are put in charge of feeding duties, litter box care or even just playtime with the cat may not pay attention to important changes in habits.
Communicate With Your Veterinarian
You may not think that it’s worth mentioning that your cat has been sleeping more or that he seems grumpy recently but ANY change in normal routine or normal behavior should be discussed with your veterinarian. Catching something early could make a big difference in how quickly your cat recovers, the degree of pain he will endure and also the cost of the veterinary care.
Need More Information?
If you have questions about changes in your cat’s behavior or health, contact your veterinarian. For more information on cat health, illness and care, refer to the book Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.