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Signs of Sickness in Cats: Tips from Will Draper, DVM


  • Otto Ojevaat:

    Dr. Will, with these little kittens, what would be the signs of sickness?

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    Great question!

    Cats and kittens are a challenge because they are very independent. They are very secretive. Whereas a dog is an open book, cats like to keep to themselves. So you have to be very in-tune with your cat to know the signs of what indicates that they are ill. 

    Some of the big ones: Cats generally that are healthy will groom themselves. If your cat is not grooming itself, they are generally giving you a sign that they are ill. Not using the litter box. Cats poop and urinate on your bed – that’s  usually a message to you that something is wrong. An unkempt coat from not grooming. Dull coats, weight loss, dehydration. You can pull up the skin on the back of their neck, and if it doesn’t go down immediately, that’s a sign they are dehydrated and it could be an indication that, for whatever reason, they are not eating or drinking enough.  Another really telltale sign in cats is that they have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane, or in layman’s terms, third eyelid. And it tends to go up and you can see it in the corner of the eyes when they are not feeling well. And that is usually an indication that they need to visit the veterinarian.

  • Jamie Albright

    So how can you avoid waiting until your cat is very ill? For example, my cat once got an upper respiratory infection. And honestly, I am very in-tune with her, I believe. But by the time she was really sick, it cost a lot more money than I probably could have avoided had I caught it earlier.

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    Know your cat. Know how much your cat eats, how much they go to the litter box. Pay close attention to that. If you notice the food bowl is not as empty as it normally is. If you notice that the water level is not going down. If you go into the litter box and you don’t see urine or poop, or when you do see it, it's small amounts. If you see small amounts in a litter box, that’s an indication that your cat probably has a urinary tract infection, because when they have that, they go small amounts more frequently. Look for any signs of blood, things like that. Look for signs of loose stool.

    (Kitty sneeze)

    Knowing your cat’s habits and knowing what your cat does is how you will be able to notice that before it gets to the point where they are very, very sick.  And calling and having a good relationship with your veterinarian, not being afraid to ask questions.  That’s what your veterinarian is there for. And taking them in if they recommend it. Waiting too long sometimes can mean a hospital stay vs. an outpatient visit.

Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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