If you’re a cat lover, you know that each feline has its own distinct personality. Yet, even in the most unique cat, there are some behaviors that remain consistent. Proper appetite, exercise, grooming, and litter use all indicate that your pet is likely healthy. Sudden changes in your cat’s daily behavior could be an early indicator of an underlying health problem.
So how can you tell when your cat’s behavior indicates an underlying problem? Here are a few signs to look for:
Changes in Appetite
A dramatic change in appetite or food consumption should always be taken seriously. The typical domestic feline weighs between 8 and 12 pounds. That means sudden loss of appetite can result in weight loss that your animal can scarcely afford. The time to act is before your pet’s weight loss becomes acute. Loss of appetite can be symptomatic of a range of conditions—from poor oral health to kidney disease, pancreatitis, hyperparathyroidism, or pancreatitis. If your cat displays a sudden, profound, or prolonged disinterest in food, see your vet. They’ll have the proper tools to refine the diagnosis and suggest treatment options.
Cats are typically adept at monitoring their water intake, so if you notice that your cat is “overdrinking” may include:
• Chronic kidney disease
Overheating and dehydration can also cause excessive thirst in cats. If your cat gets daily heat exposure, be sure it has an adequate supply of drinking water and a cool place to escape the direct sun. Cats don’t sweat to cool their bodies the way humans do. They rely instead on panting and hydration to maintain a safe body temperature. If your cat displays excessive thirst, check with your vet to rule out any potentially serious health issue.
Changes in Grooming Habits
Cats are known for being enthusiastic self-groomers, so if you notice a change in your cat’s self-grooming routine, it may be a sign of a problem. Potential causes of improper grooming may include
• Obesity. Some overweight cats have trouble reaching their full bodies when they groom.
• Arthritis. Joint stiffness can result in reduced mobility and pain, which may make your cat less likely to groom hard-to-reach areas.
• Oral pain. Mouth discomfort, caused by a toothache or gum infection, can make your cat reluctant to groom properly.
• Lethargy. Cats that experience a sudden loss of interest in daily activities such as grooming may be suffering from an underlying medical condition. If you notice that your cat’s grooming habits have changed, or if your pet suddenly stops grooming itself fully, make an appointment with your vet. While the problem may be minor, it’s worth checking out.
Changes in Litter Box Use
Litter box habits are also a good indicator of a cat’s health. Failure to use the litter pan, or defecating or urinating outside the pan, can be signs of a health problem. If you notice your cat either not using or going outside the pan, they may be suffering from a urinary tract infection or blockage (most common in younger males). Eliminating waste products is an essential function of living organisms. If your cat has sudden difficulty passing urine, vocalizes when urinating, exhibits excessive thirst without urinary output, or shows signs of lethargy, see your vet immediately. Urinary tract issues can become serious if left untreated.
Reclusiveness or Aggression
Another warning sign may come in the form of your pet’s affect, or mood. A genial cat may become reclusive or even aggressive if it is in pain. Aggression, for example, has been linked to toxoplasmosis, hyperparathyroidism, epilepsy, oral disease, rabies, and trauma. Even senility and other cognitive deficits have been linked to aggression in older cats. Some cats may choose to hide, shunning their usual human contact. This too can be a sign of physical discomfort or underlying disease and should be checked by your vet.
Sudden changes in your cat’s affect are always a cause for concern. A general check-up at your vet is recommended to rule out physical causes. If no physical cause is found, your vet may suggest an animal behaviorist to help you and your pet reach a more amicable arrangement. We hope these tips help you and your feline friends have a healthy, disease-free summer!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.