How to Tell if your Cat is Unwell

It’s no secret that cats are often aloof, independent and nonchalant day to day, and these are often the traits that owners love the most. However, independence can sometimes become an issue when trying to assess your cat’s health, especially if you’re a new owner and are still getting to grips with your cat’s personality.

It’s important for any owner to understand the signs and symptoms of an unwell cat, as occasionally these symptoms can develop quickly into something more serious. If you’re unsure about where to start, here are some tips and advice on how to spot if your cat is feeling under the weather and what to do.

Sudden Weight Change

While a small amount of weight loss is completely normal for ageing cats, drastic changes in weight could indicate an underlying illness. If your cat is losing weight fast and it is unrelated to any dietary changes or additional exercise, you should see your vet for a consultation as it could be a sign of diabetes, hyperthyroidism, fungal infection, or several other issues. Your vet will be able to determine the root of the cause and suggest treatment as necessary. Any more serious issues can often be dealt with by a specialist vet if needed.

Equally, weight gain should be monitored, especially if there’s been no active change in your cat’s diet or exercise. Weight gain is usually less serious and is common under certain circumstances such as when a cat gets older or after neutering.  Obese cats can develop a variety of health problems such as heart disease or diabetes so it is important to monitor your cat’s weight regularly.

Becoming Less Active

Decreased movement, such as an inability to jump up onto high places or run around can indicate arthritis or joint pain. If your cat is old and only slightly less active, it could simply be a sign of ageing. Hiding and sitting hunched up for a prolonged period of time could also be a sign that your cat is in pain, as cats tend to hide their pain. This is because in the wild, this would generally paint them as an easy target for predators.

Issues with Stools, Vomit or Urine

Blood in the stool is usually attributed to a less severe variety of illnesses but should always be addressed as it can be a sign of more a serious issue like a parasitic infection. Diarrhoea or watery stools aren’t always a cause for concern, as they can often be due to an upset stomach caused by sudden dietary changes. This should always be monitored though, as it can result in dehydration if it continues for a long period of time. Small, infrequent stools are usually not a major problem unless they persist for a while.

If your cat is vomiting blood, they should be taken to the vet immediately, as this cannot be ignored. If there’s blood in their urine or they’re spending more time at the litter box than usual, it’s likely a sign of a urinary tract infection which can easily be treated with antibiotics provided by a vet. With any of these issues, it’s better to get your cat seen by a vet as soon as possible to rule out any underlying, more serious issues.

Breathing Problems

Shortness of breath, raspy breathing, wheezing or rapid breathing are all tell-tale signs of a potentially serious issue and should be monitored. Coughing should be addressed immediately, as it could be a sign of heart or lung disease, tumours, asthma or cat flu. A foul odour from their breath can be a sign of tooth decay, gum disease or even kidney disease – always take your cat to the vet if any of the above occur.


If your cat is experiencing any of these issues, your best bet would be to consult a vet immediately. It’s always a good idea to monitor your cat, especially if they’re new to the family. Once you start to understand and get used to their personality, you’ll easily be able to spot when something isn’t right and assess the situation to get your furry friend back on track.

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9 thoughts on “How to Tell if your Cat is Unwell

  1. Pingback: How to Tell If Your Cat is Unwell–a Katzenworld reblog | By the Mighty Mumford

  2. Lauren says:

    Our cats are pretty communicative when they are weary or uncomfortable. We catch on pretty quickly, and at that point we call our supervet. He is now open Saturdays and Sundays as well as all weekdays, and has a few more supervets. The whole team there tells me they all love Effie, Paladin, and Halvor!

  3. Pingback: How to Tell if your Cat is Unwell - VetHub

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