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Is my cat sick?

When cats aren't feeling well they will often hide themselves away, making if difficult for even the most attentive cat owners to know when their feline friend is sick. Here, our Mechanicsburg vets share a few signs of a sick cat that could require a visit to the vet.

Monitoring Your Cat's Health

If you own a cat, you, like all pet parents, must monitor your pet's health and be prepared to take them to the veterinarian if they exhibit symptoms of illness. Cat owners must be especially vigilant in monitoring their feline companion's health, as cats have a natural tendency to isolate themselves when sick.

Signs Your Cat is Sick

In order to help you to recognize symptoms of illness in your cat, here are a few signs of a sick cat:

Repeated Vomiting

  • There are numerous reasons why your cat may vomit, ranging from eating grass or spoiled food to more serious issues like bacterial or viral infections. If your cat vomits multiple times within 24 hours, it may be time to visit the veterinarian. Severe or chronic vomiting can cause secondary complications such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Serious health issues that can cause chronic or severe vomiting in cats include intestinal obstruction from a foreign body, liver disease, and thyroid disease.


  • Every pet parent needs to know that ongoing bouts of diarrhea can easily lead to dehydration, which can be fatal. If your cat has diarrhea for more than 24 hours contact your vet for further advice. While diarrhea may be caused by something as simple as a change in diet, other causes of ongoing diarrhea include inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, intestinal parasites, cancer and hyperthyroidism.

Litterbox Issues

  • If your cat has always been good about using the litter box when they need to go, then suddenly begins making messes around the house, there's very likely a problem. A few of the health concerns that can lead to litter box issues include urinary tract infections and kidney disease. 

Weight Changes

  • Unexplained weight changes should always be investigated. Keep in mind that a cat losing or gaining as little as 1 pound is the equivalent of a person gaining or losing 10 pounds. Sudden increases in weight could indicate a thyroid problem, Feline hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing's disease. Unexplained weight loss could indicate a number of serious illnesses including cancer or diabetes.

Increased Thirst

  • If you find that your cat is suddenly drinking much more water than they used to, it's time to head to the vet. Increased thirst is symptom of a number of serious illnesses that can be successfully treated or managed if diagnosed early. Increased thirst in cats can be a sign of kidney dysfunction, liver disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or urinary tract disease.

Breathing Issues

  • Difficult or labored breathing in cats can be a sign of a number of issues, ranging from infection or trauma to heart failure or asthma. If you notice a change in your cat's breathing patterns be sure to make an appointment with your vet for a full examination

Discharge from Eyes

  • Eye problems can quickly become serious, so it's always best to have your cat examined by a vet if you notice that your cat is pawing at their eyes or has eye discharge. Eye discharge can be a sign of feline upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis (pink eye) or corneal disorders.

Nasal Discharge

  • Cats, like people, can catch colds. Cat colds, also known as Feline Upper Respiratory Infections, are extremely contagious among cats, so isolate your cat if they exhibit symptoms of a cat cold. However, nasal congestion and discharge can be signs of a more severe bacterial respiratory infection. If your cat's cold does not improve after a few days, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination.

Hair Loss or Skin Irritation

  • Hair loss and skin issues in cats could indicate anything from stress to a minor allergy to ringworm or parasites such as fleas, mites or ticks. That said, in some cases loss of hair can be a symptom of more serious health concerns such as diabetes, overactive thyroid or even cancer.

Blood in Urine or Stool

  • Blood in urine could be an indication that your cat is suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). Blood in your cat's stool could be an indication of something relatively easy to address such as constipation but might also be a symptom of something more serious such as exposure to toxins, parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, cysts or tumors. 

If your cat exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, it is always best to consult your veterinarian. While these symptoms may only indicate a minor problem, when it comes to cat health, early detection and treatment can help prevent more serious conditions from developing.

When It's an Emergency 

There are some symptoms that shouldn't wait for an appointment. If your cat is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your primary care vet immediately to let them know you're on your way, or head to the closest emergency animal hospital for care. If you're unclear if a situation is an emergency, call the animal hospital for advice.

  • Indications of severe pain (crying or aggression)
  • Bleeding that is moderate to extreme
  • Discolored gums (blue, grey, white, or pale)
  • Exposure to toxins or poisons
  • Unresponsiveness or unconsciousness
  • Overly high or low temperatures (under 99° or over 104°)
  • Trauma
  • Seizure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting blood
  • Unable to walk or signs of dizziness

Helping Your Cat to Stay Healthy

When it comes to helping your cat to stay healthy, keeping your cat immunized can help to protect your feline friend from a host of serious, and life-threatening diseases such as Feline Panleukopenia (cat flu), Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and Calicivirus, Rabies, and Feline Leukemia Virus. 

Protecting your cat from parasites also helps to keep him healthy. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to protect your cat from parasites like roundworms, hookworms, fleas, ticks, and ear mites. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about parasite prevention for cats.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you're concerned that your cat may be sick, contact Mechanicsburg vets to book an appointment today.

New Patients Welcome

Looking for a vet in Mechanicsburg PA? Silver Springs Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our skilled veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of Central Pennsylvania companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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