top of page

Cats are sometimes their own worst enemies

When our feline friends are unwell, it is in their nature to attempt to hide it. They will continue to try and appear normal for as long as they possibly can before finally showing any signs, which makes it very tricky to notice, especially in a busy home environment. They may however show signs of illness in a subtle way that you can pick up on if you know what to look out for. It’s not possible to cover every single sign of illness that animals show but I have included a broad range that I, as a vet, commonly see in practice. If you’re concerned you may be seeing any of the signs below, it means it’s time to take your beloved cat to their vet.

Obvious Signs of Common Illnesses

When pets show obvious signs of illness, it probably means that it’s an acute (sudden onset) problem that they just can’t hide, for example a wound or gastroenteritis.  It may also mean that the problem is a chronic (long term) one that they have hidden for as long as they can, but it has now become significantly worse. Examples include inflammatory bowel disease and kidney failure.   The common signs I see cats for include:

• Persistent vomiting (+/- blood present)
• Persistent diarrhoea (+/- blood present)
• Sneezing or coughing
• Itching
• Limping (lameness)
• Over-grooming
• Lethargy
• Eating less
• Drooling

Not-So Obvious Signs of Common Illnesses

These signs are clues to pet owners that there may be a problem lurking and are worth taking note of. To investigate properly, they will usually require a veterinary consultation with a physical examination and maybe some diagnostic tests. In a lot of cases these subtle and often insidious signs are very important but easily go unnoticed or overlooked.

• Weight loss
• Drinking more or drinking less
• Lethargy, depression
• Jumping less
• Eating more or eating less/picky eating
• Poor coat, under grooming
• Chronically dilated pupils
• Straining whilst toileting

Senior & Geriatric Cats (age 8y+) – A special group

It is really important to remember that old age is not a disease in itself but as cats get older, we do tend to see an increase in the incidence of certain diseases. All of the signs mentioned above apply but the less obvious signs become perhaps more important still because they may be signs of the common diseases of older cats.

• Weight loss, increased or decreased appetite and excessive thirst can be early signs of kidney problems, diabetes or an overactive thyroid
• Sleeping more (i.e. even more than normal), reluctance to jump and difficulty toileting may indicate some joint/spine arthritis
• Poor coat condition/matted fur might indicate arthritis but could also suggest dental problems
• Straining to go to the toilet may indicate either constipation/diarrhoea or urinary tract problems (not always simply cystitis)
• Changes in normal behaviour could indicate a problem (e.g. starting to drink and/or toilet indoors might suggest increased thirst amongst other things)

It is advisable to take your senior pet to the vets for examination and weight check twice a year where possible because medical problems can develop quickly in older cats.

Hints and tips for older cats:

1. You can easily keep an eye on your cats weight at home by using the family scales by weighing yourself both with and without your cat - the difference between the two will be your cats weight
2. Measuring their water intake over a few days every couple of months will help you notice changes in their drinking habits too
3. Measuring their food daily will also help keep track of their eating habits. Try also to watch them eat to look for subtle changes in the way they chew
4. Switch to a good quality senior diet (e.g. Hill’s Mature Adult or Royal Canin Ageing diets)
5. Regular thorough grooming (ideally daily) will help keep matts to a minimum
6. Keep a close eye on their claws as they have a tendency to over-grow into the pads of the foot 


Whether The Signs Are Obvious Or Not, as vets we’d prefer to see your pets when their problems seem minor or in the early stages because, more often than not, we have a better chance of a successful outcome. If you are concerned that your pet is showing any of the signs above, your vet clinic will be more than happy to take your call and help you assess if it is something that requires a consultation. As a profession, our main aim is preserving your pet’s good quality of life for as long as possible and keeping an eye out for the signs mentioned above will help us do just that.

bottom of page