Speaking for the furry ones on this earth...

Is My Cat Sick?

Learn how to tell if a cat is sick.

Part of being a cat owner is knowing how to identify signs of illness and get your kitty to the vet as early in the process of an illness or disease as possible. But cats aren't always forthcoming about how they're feeling physically. In fact, they're evolutionarily conditioned to hide signs of illness. Therefore, it's crucial that you know what to watch for, so you can act quickly.

Here are some of the most common signs of illness in cats.

Change in Appetite

This is often one of the first changes to occur when a cat is sick. Most of the time, the appetite change is a decrease or absence of eating. But for some conditions, like hyperthyroidism, a cat's appetite might increase.

If your kitty suddenly isn't as interested in food before, take note, and if it doesn't correct itself in a day or two, get to the veterinarian.

Change in Behavior

This is a vast category, and it requires that you watch and know your cat's regular habits well. That way, you can pick out anything unusual that starts to occur.

The most common behavior changes seen in sick cats are hiding or aloof behavior or clinginess and new vocalizations (extra crying). However, any behavior that is out of the ordinary could indicate a medical problem and should be checked out.

Inappropriate Behavior

When cats feel stressed, they often engage in things humans consider to be inappropriate behaviors like urinating outside the litter box or scratching inappropriate household items. Stress can include medical conditions.

A cat that is sick or in pain might also become aggressive toward humans or other pets in the home. Any sudden behavior change in your kitty should be checked out by a vet.


A kitty that is suddenly just lying around, uninterested in playing or doing things she usually loves, could be sick. If your cat isn't as active as usual and that lasts for more than a day, have her looked at by a vet.


Gait changes of any kind, including holding up a paw or being reluctant to jump up onto or down from things can indicate a problem.


Cats don't usually drool much. Occasionally, you will come across a cat that drools when she is thrilled, such as when she's receiving human attention, but other than that, most drooling in cats is caused by illness, injury, or exposure to a toxic or irritating substance.

Increased Thirst

A sharp increase in the amount of water a cat is drinking is the hallmark of several serious medical conditions in cats, including diabetes and kidney disease. If you notice your cat sitting by the water bowl and drinking more than usual, and that lasts for more than twenty-four hours, she needs a thorough exam.


It can be difficult to tell if a cat has a fever without taking a rectal temperature, but fever does indicate illness in cats. Remember, just having a dry nose doesn't indicate fever, but if you're familiar with the way your cat's ears and tummy usually feel (they will feel warm to us anyway because cats' normal temperature is higher than ours), you might be able to develop a suspicion that your cat's running a fever.

Fever will cause a kitty to act lethargic and have a decreased appetite.

Straining to Urinate

Urinating small amounts often, getting in and out of the litter box and straining to produce urine, or having blood in the urine all indicate a medical problem. In fact, if your cat is straining to urinate or crying in the litter box and not producing urine, it is a medical emergency, especially for a male cat. These signs can indicate that something is blocking the cat's urethra, the tube from the bladder to the outside world, and that needs to be relieved, or the cat will die.

Breathing Changes

Any change in breathing rate or character in your cat needs to be checked out by a vet right away. That includes panting, which is rare in cats unless they are seriously ill.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea are common indications of illness for many feline conditions. If your cat vomits more than once or twice, has diarrhea for more than two days, or has vomiting and diarrhea associated with other signs of illness like lethargy and decreased appetite, you should get in to see a vet right away.

Sneezing and Coughing

Sneezing and coughing are signs of illness in cats. In fact, coughing is often a sign of a serious illness.

This is not an exhaustive list. If you notice something about your cat and wonder if it's a sign of illness, call your veterinarian for specific advice and instructions.

Bad Breath

Foul breath can be an indication of dental disease, another disease of the mouth, or even internal organ dysfunction.

Changes in Grooming Behaviors

Cats that aren't feeling well often stop grooming, and you might notice their coat becoming dull, dirty, or matted.

Alternately, stressed cats sometimes develop obsessive licking and chewing habits, so a sick cat may overgroom certain areas of the body, especially the front legs. Cats with urinary tract issues often overgroom their tummies or rear ends, and those with arthritis might lick more at the area over the painful joint.

Neurological Changes

Cats with neurological conditions may develop signs such as a head tilt, wobbliness, stepping on the top of the paw instead of the bottom, circling, or pressing the front of the head into an immovable object such as a couch or the wall. These all indicate a serious condition and the cat should be looked at by a veterinarian immediately.

Weight Loss

When you see your kitty every day, a change in weight can be hard to notice right away, but if you do look at your cat and think to yourself that it appears she seems smaller, and you haven't had her on a diet, get her to the vet for a check-up.

Lumps, Bumps, and Wounds

Any lump, bump, redness, or wound on the skin can indicate a problem in a cat. Make a habit of running your hands over your cat at least once a week, so you'll notice a new issue right away.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at CatScratching.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.