How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Sick

It may be difficult to know if subtle changes in your cat indicate a health problem. The blog will tell you how to notice subtle changes in behavior and watch for more.



4 min read

Signs that Your Cat May Be Sick

silver tabby cat on gray pillow beside clear glass window

You might sometimes find yourself wondering; how can I tell if my cat is sick? All cat parents must know about tell-tale signs of sickness so that treatment becomes easier if required. It is always much better to treat a health problem in its early stages (where it might be easy to manage) than to catch it in the advanced phase (where it might be too late or too difficult). Besides, your cat may suffer needlessly when its health problem is diagnosed too late.

A lot of cat owners are not aware that their cat is sick when in fact they should be taking it to the vet immediately. That is because they are not aware of the symptoms that can indicate a disease in their cats. You should not make this mistake and live with the guilt of knowing that your cat suffered unnecessarily simply because you were oblivious of certain very obvious symptoms.

Here are the symptoms to look out for in cats which can indicate the possibility of a serious health issue.

Appetite Changes

Is your cat eating too little or too much than what it usually does? If so, this could be a sign of a health problem. Whether your cat’s appetite increases or decreases significantly, you should be informing your vet about it immediately. This is one of the most common signs of illness.

There are numerous diseases that can entail in a change in appetite. Your vet will investigate the cause through blood work, ultrasound and perhaps x-rays.

Foul Breath

Bad breath can be indicative of dental problems. Your cat may be having problems with its teeth, gums or both.

You can decrease the risk of dental problems by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. Just imagine what would happen to your teeth if you went for a decade without brushing. Yet many pet parents do not realize the sheer importance of cleaning their cat’s teeth.

If your cat’s breath smells like ammonia then this could be the result of kidney disease. The only way to confirm is by consulting with your vet.

Not Using the Litter Box

If your cat is not using the litter box then you might be forgiven for thinking that it is just being a ‘bad kitty.’ Keep in mind though that this habit is more than just repulsive. It is a possible sign of health problems. Urinary problems and bladder blockages are the key reasons why your cat has suddenly stopped using the litter box. You should take it to the vet to find out for sure.

Weight Change

Weight changes are other obvious signs of health issues. Weight loss may be the result of thyroid problems. The worst case scenario is cancer but that is thankfully rarer in comparison to other causes.

Weight gain and especially a swollen belly could be indicative of digestive problems.

Weight gain by  itself is highly problematic. It increases the risk of all kinds of diseases in cats just like it does in human beings. Obesity may increase the risk of serious diseases like cancer, arthritis and heart problems. Obesity can also decrease the lifespan of your cat.

Behavior Changes

Has your cat become suddenly more withdrawn or just plain anti-social? Negative changes in attitude could ensue from the distress of diseases.

Of course, it is possible that you may be doing something that is annoying your cat. You should carefully review how you are dealing with the cat and be as gentle with it as possible to rule out such a likelihood. Your cat may be feeling threatened if you have introduced another pet into the household.

Your cat may resort to hiding under the bed or inside the closet. This is the wild instinct of the cat that comes into play when frightened by other predators. Cats can also do this when they are feeling unwell.

Changes in Grooming Habits

Cats spend much of their waking hours grooming themselves. Changes in your kitty’s grooming routine could be the result of health issues. Your cat may give up grooming itself due to which its fur may become greasy or dull.

Your cat may end up licking itself so much that it gets bald patches. There could be many factors behind these kinds of behavior. It could be the result of stress. Or perhaps your cat has skin conditions, fleas or other parasites.

Activity Level Changes

If your cat is middle-aged or old and it suddenly becomes more active than usual then this may be a sign of an overactive thyroid. If your cat has suddenly become less active than this could be due to arthritis or other joint problems.

Sleep Pattern Changes

If your cat is sleeping far more than usual, then it could be unwell. Sleep deprivation of course indicates a potential health problem. If your cat goes around the house vocalizing during the night then it is time to finally take notice. It might also become bad-tempered or very skittish during the day due to sleep deprivation. You should first rule out physical causes for sleep deprivation. Take a good look around to check if there are any changes to the environment that could be bothering your cat.

Voice Changes

Voice changes could ensue from certain health problems. If your kitty was rather garrulous and it has suddenly gone mute then that is a troubling sign.

While many cat parents construe purring as a good sign there could be an issue. It is true that purring in general means that your furry friend is happy with you. But too much purring could be a sign that they are in pain. They may also appeal to you excessively to get your attention. Or they might just ignore you. The reaction varies from one cat to another.


Listed above are some of the most common symptoms indicative of possible health problems that no cat parent should ignore. If you find these symptoms then take your cat to the vet immediately. Don’t expect the problem to go away by itself.