How to know when your feline friend is unwell

15 Jan, 2021

How to know when your feline friend is unwell

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Domestic cats can be very guarded, even when they are unwell. As a pet owner you know the challenges of looking after pets, cats especially. Here are some top tips for how to care for your feline friend and what to look for when you think they are unwell. m

How to Know That Your Feline Friend Is Not Well

feline friend
It is not always easy to learn when cats are ill

Your cat is special to you, and you are probably special to your cat too – even if they can’t seem to say it. That’s the problem with our pets, they don’t have the same communication skills that we have. They can’t verbalise what they are thinking, so a lot of the work comes down to knowing how to handle them through guesswork. it is even more tricky if we have a sitter catsitting for them and they don’t know the cat very well. 

Even though they are pretty good at expressing their feelings through body language and other vocalization (meowing, purring, etc.) there are still many times when you wish they could just speak so you could know what they wanted. It could be that they are hungry and demand some food, but it could be harder to tell what they need, especially when they are sick.

A sick feline friend is not going to be easy to tell, even though there are some obvious tells that you can spot, you have to be pretty on-the-ball to catch how they are feeling so you can help them get better or prevent any unnecessary suffering on their part. Here is how you can tell if your cat is unwell and what you need to do to help.

What Are the Causes of a Sick Cat?

Flu or cold in your feline friend

Yep, just like humans, cats can get cases of flu or colds too. They can feel sick and experience symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, tired eyes, and feel slow. This is usually a short-lasting sickness and goes away in a few days, but if your cat is old, keep a closer eye to see how they recover.

Old Age

On the topic of old age, senior cats may exhibit signs that they are reaching their time. It is important to recognize whether a cat is dying or just sick. Old cats will usually try to avoid their humans and hide. When you notice changing behaviors in an elderly cat, you should talk to a vet to see if they think your cat might be close to passing. With the guidance of a veterinarian, pet owners can opt to have their cats put to sleep in the comfort of their homes rather than having to transport them to a clinic. At-home euthanasia for cats can be a peaceful and dignified option in their final stages of life. 

Poisonous substance

Poisonous substances are dangerous to ingest for anyone, cat or human, so it is important that you keep them hidden like you would with a child. While cats are pretty picky about what they eat, they are also really curious. Things like soaps, bleaches, washing fluids, powders, and other home products can cause serious stomach discomfort and pain for a cat.

Ate something unusual

Unusual is kind of a catch-all term because it can imply the above with a poisonous substance, or it could mean they ate an object, or that they ate foods that are harmful to them. Eating things like aluminium foil, dirt, fabrics, paper, chocolate, grapes, onions, and a whole list of no-no’s for them can cause problems. It can be some mild sickness or it can lead to complications no less than death, so make sure they aren’t getting into anything.

Detecting an allergic reaction in your feline friend

Cats have allergies just like people and they can cause noticeable symptoms like runny noses, sneezing, stuffiness, and these are all potential reasons why your cat is not well. 

Too much to eat or ate too quickly

Eating too much food or eating food very quickly can be a possible reason for your cat’s current sickness predicament. This is a problem that may pass with a little time as the cat needs to digest the food and is not something to be overly concerned with.


Finally, cats can develop parasites inside their bodies. These invaders can come from bugs or animals passing them on (ticks, fleas, other cats) or can occur naturally. If your cat develops parasites, you need to contact your vet.

What symptoms can you expect to notice?

feline friend
Look out for unusually quiet behaviour


Vomiting is a common symptom of many different causes of sickness. Too much food, eating too quickly, drinking too much water, eating something poisonous are all examples of your cat trying to expel the sickness.


Diarrhoea is similar to vomiting and could be indicative of the digestive system needing to rid of something that is causing the cat to feel bad. Diarrhea (or constipation) might be another way for your cat to experience symptoms from food or materials they’ve ingested.

Lethargy in your feline friend

When your feline friend is sick, they might be more privy to rest than they are for curious playtime. Lethargy can be a broad symptom for many of those causes listed. It could be an example of them feeling tired from a simple cold, or it could be serious involving a parasite. Monitor how tired they are and their energy levels to be safe.

feline friend
Look out for signs of slow movement and tiredness

Odd bathroom habits

Diarrhoea or constipation or not examples of odd bathroom behavior. A cause of odd bathroom behavior is more in the way that your cat is avoiding using its litter box, pooping or peeing in odd spots around the house (or doing it when they normally don’t), and an inconsistent schedule. This is more than likely something that is caused by food but could be a more serious sickness.

When your feline friend avoids eating

Maybe your cat is avoiding eating, and you have noticed that their feasting habits have dramatically fallen off. In some cases, your cat might be simply not hungry, but if they are routinely missing meals and ignoring treats, then you can sense something is wrong. Keep a close watch on their eating.

Weight gain or loss

Dramatic weight gain or loss can be caused by many factors, but it is a good sign of sickness in your cat nonetheless. Their weight will fluctuate naturally just like ours, but serious fluctuations are a bad sign.

What you should do to help your feline friend

Keep a closer eye on them

The simplest step has been mentioned numerous times and you need to check on your cat’s behavior or activity on a regular basis. Jot down any weird changes to see if there are patterns to indicate long term changes.

Call a vet

If the problems get serious, you want to call your vet to get information or clarify any serious problems. It could help to get a real checkup performed with an X-ray or physical, to see how your cat is. No one knows a cat’s condition better than them so they should be your most useful resource.

Monitor their stools

Although it may fall under keeping an eye on them, the stool is a good indicator of many pet-related problems so it deserves its own mention. Though it is not always easy to follow your feline friend around, check the litter tray for discoloration or blood to spot any irregularities. It is also important to spot size and consistency, as well as how often they go.

 A final word on caring for your feline friend

Your cat is your world, so you need to do everything you can to keep your feline friend happy and healthy. And if you have a pet minder at home cat sitting make sure you brief them as well as possible. When you understand what may be causing their sickness, and how to spot it, then you stand a better chance of keeping them feeling great.


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