My Indoor Cat

15 Signs a Cat is Unwell (How I Discovered My Cat Was Sick)

cat is unwell

When your furry friend is considered family, you tend to notice when they start acting out of character. But how do you know if it’s normal behavior or if your cat is unwell?

It depends on how they are acting. If they are typically bouncing off the walls and going 90 to nothing all day long, but today they are taking it easy, sleeping and do not want to be bothered, that can be considered normal 9 times out of 10. We all just want a day where we do absolutely nothing, am I right?

Felines are no different. Sometimes they just want a lazy, chill day where they catch up on all that lost sleep (even though they already sleep on average 12-16 hours a day), and just rest their tired muscles and probably busy mind that’s always thinking about catching the squirrel or the bird that keeps looking at them in the window.  

If they are usually a lazy cat but suddenly get some crazy energy, have a running fit and start arching their back at you, then they just got a big burst of energy and want to play for ten minutes before they get lazy again and go back to sleep. I’m sure we’ve all been there as well.  

Signs Your Cat May Be Unwell

how do I know if my cat is unwell

But if they are usually cuddle bugs but don’t want to be touched or held, especially if they hiss or growl at you when you try to pet or pick them up, then yes, there may be a reason to be worried.

This means they are not feeling well, and if they feel so bad that they hiss at you if you try to pick them up (if they don’t typically do this), then they are most likely in pain and being touched or picked up makes it worse.

If you gently hold one ear between your thumb and index finger and it feels really warm, they likely have a fever. This means they should see the vet. They could be fighting some type of inflammation, infection, or a number of other things. Just like a human, fevers can mean so many things.

Sometimes I wait 24 hours before I call the vet to see if things get any better. However, if you notice something like not eating or drinking for more than 12 hours, or throwing up over and over, it might be smart to call the vet sooner.

Some other general signs and symptoms of an unwell cat are:

  • Mood Changes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Hiding
  • Overgrooming
  • Not grooming
  • Hair Loss
  • Bad Breath
  • Pupils that are dilated or constricted
  • Changes in breathing
  • Skin irritation
  • Less vocal, or extremely vocal (out of the ordinary for your cat)
  • Discharges – generally from the nose or eyes

How I Noticed My Cat Was Sick

how to tell is cat is unwell

One day I noticed my oldest cat, Kitty (almost 12 years old), wasn’t acting himself. His ears were hot, he didn’t want to be bothered and when I tried to pick him up, he hissed at me! So, I knew right away that something wasn’t right. But it was a Sunday and I was on my way to work. I gave him a few treats to see if he would eat something, which he did.

Sometimes if you notice they are staying out of reach but don’t think they’ve been eating, you can give them a couple of hard or soft treats to see if they eat them. If they turn their nose up to them but eat them on a normal day… then they must really not feel good.

I say treats because I’ve noticed my cats will eat those a little more willingly than if I brought them a few pieces of dry food.  

Discovering an Abscess Rupture in My Cat

When I got back home that night something smelled off and I saw weird wet stains EVERYWHERE. It was on the couch and bed and I thought one of them had vomited everything they had inside them at first.

But then when I reached my guest bedroom, I noticed blood… everywhere.

Like someone was badly injured. And immediately I freaked out. I found Kitty and he looked like he felt a little better but still not that great. I checked him over and didn’t see anything at first until he turned around. He had a massive anal sac abscess rupture.

The vet said it was the biggest one he had ever seen on a cat. My poor baby had to get stiches! They had to stich his rupture closed because it was so massive and due to it being an anal sac rupture which (gagging sounds) at the right angle, you could see inside his rupture and beyond. The poor thing struggled to use the bathroom, but he still went like the brave little toaster he is.

Why It’s Important to Monitor Your Cat

how to know if cat is unwell

The scary part about all of this is that I never saw the abscess. And we all know how much they love to show us their butts! They can come on so fast and you may not even notice it until it’s ruptured. It was the scariest scene to walk in on and I felt so guilty that he had to experience it at home all alone.

But he is my big brave boy and he was back to his old self pretty fast after it ruptured, like nothing even happened, despite the size of the abscess, like there wasn’t a gaping hole on his behind (more gagging sounds).

He did not like the cone of shame he had to wear when he got the stiches, but who does? 

We had to wait a couple of days for the stiches to be done but we were able to get him looked at early on Monday. They advised us to use a saline nose spray on it to help keep it clean and blot it dry until it could be stitched closed. He was a cuddle bug these few days and we tried our best not to be grossed out. We used towels everywhere his butt touched but he left a mark everywhere he went. Luckily the couch shampooed right up. The sheets and mattress protector on the other hand… we just decided to toss those and get some new ones after he had stiches for a few days and wasn’t leaving us little clues on where he was all day.  

That is my horror story to illustrate why it is important to notice your cats’ traits, play with them and get to know how they act on a day-to-day basis. This way when something is off, you will notice it right away.  

Other Signs and Symptoms of an Unwell Cat

my cat is unwell

There are other times when they could act out of character as well. When we got our second cat, Tabby (almost 10 years old), her yearly shots, she wasn’t acting her usual playful energetic self the next day. She was timid, stayed out of arms reach under the couch, and wouldn’t eat any treats I brought to her.

So, I called the vet and told them what’s going on. It turns out that it’s just how she reacts to the shot and they suggest giving her an antibiotic with the shots next time. She said that I could bring her in that day so they could give her one then.

I try to think of it like when we humans get the flu shot and it makes us feel kind of lousy for a day or two. Maybe that’s what the shots do for her as well. My other two don’t seem to get affected at all when they get their shots, so we aren’t sure why Tabby has such a different reaction.  

We strive for helping you have safe, healthy indoor cats. With that being said, I would like to point out that there are many pretty spring and summer flowers that are very toxic to cats and can have a deadly reaction within the first 48 hours of eating it.

Please research any flower that your cat may have access to before buying it or putting it within their reach. Maybe just grow catnip inside the house in all your flowerpots [this message was totally not paid for by your cat. Meow.]. 

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