We understand that as a loving cat owner, you want your pet to be as happy and healthy as possible. As cats can’t tell us what’s wrong when they don’t feel well, it can be difficult to know when they might need help.
Unlike dogs, cats tend to shy away from contact when they’re under the weather, rather than seek comfort. This protective instinct can even make them more aggressive and hide away, making it tough for you to keep an eye on them.
You can avoid cat health problems by taking him or her for a check-up with the vet every 6-12 months, especially when they’re over 8 years old. If you suspect that there is something wrong with your cat but aren’t sure if it’s anything to worry about, there are several unusual cat health symptoms to look out for, to help alert you to when you should take them to the vets.
Our guide below sheds light on some of the common cat illnesses and symptoms to look out for. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, contact your vet.
"It’s upsetting when your cat is under the weather. The Purina PetCare Team help to put your mind at ease by explaining how to spot health problems so that you can get them help as soon as possible."
A change in appetite
If your cat is eating less than normal, it can be down to something as innocent as them hunting outdoors, or very hot weather affecting their appetite. However, it can also sometimes suggest hidden cat health problems – especially for more senior cats.
Vomiting and sickness
Vomiting fur balls or grass can be normal if it’s something your cat does as an occasional habit. If the frequency of vomiting increases, your cat vomits food or blood, has trouble swallowing or is gagging/retching, you should arrange an appointment with your vet.
Vomiting can be a sign of many different cat illnesses including intestinal problems and kidney and liver disease. Vomiting accompanied by lethargy, depression, diarrhoea or loss of appetite indicates an underlying problem. A visit to the vet should help to get your moggy on the mend.
If your cat has persistent diarrhoea, or their faeces are black in colour or contain fresh blood or mucus, there could be a problem with their health. If your cat has any of the above, or is also experiencing vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite or weight loss with toilet trouble, contact your vet.
On the opposite side of the scale, if your cat strains unsuccessfully to go for a number two or their faeces are very hard or full of hair, then organise a check-up. This can be simple to treat, but may signal more serious cat health problems.
Your cat going in and out of their litter tray a lot, squatting without peeing (or only producing a small amount), crying when in the litter tray, or passing blood in their pee suggests that they may have a urinary tract infection.Some infections, such as cystitis, are quite common and can be easily treated. More serious infections could lead to a feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which can be very dangerous for your pet’s health if left untreated. If you notice any symptoms that could suggest a urinary tract infection, visit the vet for a check-up as soon as you can to get it cleared up as soon as possible.
An untreated urinary tract disease could be very dangerous for your pet, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you spot the signs.
Excessive weight gain
If your cat gains a lot of weight quickly, it can lead to them becoming obese, which in turn can result in diabetes, mobility problems and other diseases. You should be able to just about feel your cat’s ribs when you stroke or hold them – if not, then they may be overweight.
Click here to Body Conditioning Tool for further information on how to check your cat's body condition.
Speak to your vet first if you think your cat needs to shed some weight, as they will be able to recommend the best way to gradually help them get in shape. Any amends to your cat’s diet need to be made carefully, to avoid causing them any tummy trouble.
If you feel that it’s just your cat’s tummy that has enlarged, ask your vet to give them a quick check. This could potentially be caused by fluid retention, rather than fat gain.
An increase in drinking/urinating
If you’ve recently swapped your cat from wet food to dry, it’s likely that they’ll drink more water until they’re used to the change.
If your cat suddenly starts drinking or urinating more without a change in their diet, it could be a sign of a disease such as diabetes or other cat health problems related to their kidneys. If you normally never see your cat drink but now notice them at the water bowl, or see that their litter tray is wetter than usual, arrange a check-up with your vet.
Skin and coat
Skin condition is good general indicator of your cat"s health. Their skin should be smooth and pink or black, and their coat should be smooth and shiny.
One kitten might need help while mum is in the middle of delivering another. In this case, clear the sac the kitten is in, and quickly dry them against the grain of their fur with a clean cloth. This rubbing motion will also encourage the kitten to take their first breath.
See our page on Things to look out for during labour for more information on the stages of labour and possible complications.