How to tell if your cat is sick

How to tell if your cat is sick

Hi! My name is Doctor Uri Burstyn. I’m a veterinarian in Vancouver BC and I’d like to welcome you to my series of practical skills for pet owners. I’m here with Clawdia today to talk to you about something that’s very important. How can you tell if your cat’s doing okay? This might sound like a weird question to ask but in reality less than 50 percent of cats who live in North America get to see a vet in a given year and the main reason for that is because people who own cats just look at their cat and say ‘hey my cat looks okay, doesn’t need to go to the vet’ which is not an unreasonable thing to say. Unfortunately, it’s not the right thing to say either. I mean, there’s many many health conditions that cats get and I call them basically ‘old person diseases’ that indoor cats get in particular that are not at all obvious. And the thing about chronic health issues is that (the) earlier you diagnose them, the more effective the treatment is, the cheaper the treatment is, and the better the quality of life for the patient. And cats, unlike dogs, do not tell you when they’re not feeling well. If you think about their evolutionary biology, dogs are pack animals. When they get sick, they act sick and their pack mates take care of them. They’ll whine, they’ll put on a big dramatic act and, of course, we – their pack – will bring them food, will bring them health care, will give them lots of love, will take care of them. Cats do live socially but they’re solitary hunters. Evolutionarily they’re used to not relying on anyone else for help. Which is one of the reasons I love them, is ‘cause they’re just independent little killing machines that choose to share their life with us. But as a result of that, when they’re ill they don’t show it. They try to hide it because they’re kind of middle of the food chain. If a cat looks weak or sick some predator will take it out, like a coyote or… They’re not top of the food chain animals. They’re mid food chain predators and they have to really hide it when they’re sick. And they also don’t expect any help from other cats. Not surprising to anyone who’s lived with a cat. You don’t expect any help from them – anything useful at least. So they don’t overtly show signs of illness. And often people come to me with a really sick cat and they’ll be really dumbfounded when I tell them ‘hey, your cat’s really in pain’ and they’ll be like ‘she’s not whining or anything’ and then you can see them kind of catch themselves ‘cause, you know… Have you ever seen a cat whine? and I mean certainly cats can vocalize – they can be quite vocal and annoying – but it rarely has anything to do with pain or discomfort. They’re more likely to do that when they’re hungry or bored or just want to communicate with you. Clawdia here’s a big talker and she’s certainly very comfortable. So, how can you tell if your cat’s in pain, feeling sick, not doing well when they don’t tell you themselves? Well, this is a difficult question to answer. Vets struggle with this all the time. There’s all sorts of pain scores and behavioural scores developed out there for cats, none of which work very well because cats are pretty hard to read. So I’m gonna tell you just a few things you can look for at home that’ll help you look at your cat and say ‘hey are you doing alright?’. So One of the really easy and obvious ones is inappropriate elimination. If your cat always uses the litter box, which most cats do, and then all of a sudden starts peeing or pooping on the floor, something’s wrong. They’re not being contrary. They’re not being mean. They’re being sick. Owners sometimes tell me that ‘hey, my cat literally just sat down in the middle of the floor, made eye contact with me and pooped’. Well, that’s them trying to tell you something. So if your cat starts eliminating inappropriately when they’ve always used the litter box before, take them to the vet. There’s a reason for it. Chances are the vet can fix it. That is a really obvious way of them telling you something’s wrong. Of course, their way of communicating is maybe not very palatable to us! But hey, that’s the way they communicate. So that’s the really obvious stuff. Your cat poops or pees somewhere inappropriate? Well, take them to the vet – something can be done for it. (Hi sweetheart!) Less obvious things but unfortunately more common are… Well, there’s a couple things. Hiding. Now, cats hide when they’re ill. Outdoor cats will just crawl under a porch and try to die when they get really sick. Indoor cats will hang out under the couch or in the closet or somewhere they don’t normally hang out and they’ll hang out there a lot. And this can be hard to gauge, you know, unless you’re really tracking your cat’s movements. You might not notice that the cat’s hiding more, particularly if they’re an outdoor cat and you don’t see them all the time. And, you know, cats have their own habits so it’s important not to over-interpret this. But increased hiding is something you will notice in a cat who’s not feeling well, particularly (if) they throw a fever or they’re really feeling rotten. They’ll just be away. They’ll put themselves away somewhere dark and quiet and basically wait till they get better or die. It’s their natural response to illness and, of course, we as humans can identify that, take them to the vet and make them feel better. So hiding’s one. Increased aggression. I think I’ve talked about that in one of my other videos. But if a cat gets kind of snappy and kind of untouchable and kind of “mean”, they’re probably not mean, but they’re probably in chronic pain. You know chronic pain, like having a toothache, sore joints from arthritis, a bellyache, a sore back, really infected hair mats. All of that can cause a cat to get pretty cranky because they’re in pain all the time and their response to pain is to get cranky and bitey and kind of untouchable. So if your cat really seems aggressive or seems kind of untouchable, take him to the vet. Maybe there’s a source of pain there that can be addressed. So: hiding, aggression. The really obvious one that a lot people pick up on is anorexia. Cats will often stop eating in many of the old cat diseases like hypertension, kidney disease – manifests as poor appetite. So cats will stop eating. Again, they’ll hide, they won’t visit the food bowls often. It can be a little bit hard to pick up if you have multiple animals, but certainly anorexia is a very common feature of most common cat illnesses and it’s really worth looking out for. Vomiting is a really common sign of many old cat diseases. Now a lot of people tell me ‘well, my cat’s been vomiting her whole life’. And if it’s once or twice a year, it’s probably normal, nothing to worry about. But if your cat’s been vomiting once a week for its whole life, well, guess what? There’s a problem. That problem might be something not very bad. It might be something like chronic food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease. But even something as subtle as that can convert to cancer later in life. So, if your cat’s vomiting all the time, that is not normal. That can be changed; that can be helped when you figure out why they’re vomiting and treat it. So, it might sound obvious, but many people accept even multiple times a week vomits from their cat as normal. And it’s common, but it is not normal. So, please don’t ignore vomiting in your cat. So we’ve talked about a couple things: hiding, aggression, vomiting, anorexia. All of these things – pretty darn common but often not that obvious. So, even though I said that cats will not vocalize or whine or tell you they’re sick, there is an exception to that. Sometimes they will yowl, which is like a really loud protracted annoying meow that I’m not going to demonstrate for you even though I’m kind of tempted to. But they will yowl when they’re uncomfortable and this can be a sign of pain. It can be a sign of constipation. It could also be a behavioral sign. It could be a sign that something’s going a little funny in their head. Unfortunately cats will also yowl when they’re on heat, they’ll yowl when there’s other cats outside that are making a big fuss. So it’s kind of a nonspecific sign, but certainly if your cat starts to vocalize loudly and insistently something is substantially different and needs to be paid attention to. Limping is another sign and this is kind of true for cats and dogs. People will notice (and) bring in an animal that’s limping. They’ll be asking me ‘hey Doc, is she in pain?’ and I don’t know how to answer that. Of course they’re in pain. I mean, why else would you limp if you’re not in pain? Of course, there are certain other reasons like neurologic palsy, but clearly you don’t limp unless there’s something that is wrong with you. So, if your pet’s limping, you know, there’s something wrong with it. Take that seriously because, you know, they’re not gonna limp just for fun. Certainly animals aren’t capable of pretending of they’re limping. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Some dogs can be quite clever about that. But generally speaking, if your pet starts limping when they haven’t limped before, chances are something’s wrong. So that’s just a few of the signs you can look for. Most of them are pretty subtle. But just a few of the signs you can look for in which your cat will tell you that something isn’t quite okay. So, please don’t forget to check in with your cat once in a while and don’t expect anything super obvious. But I find that the astute aware owner can often identify illness in their cat pretty early on and let us help them. And just cuz we we’re talking about identifying subtle signs of illness I just want to do one more plug for proper veterinary care. Every animal deserves a health check at least once a year. As they age, so over the age of ten or eleven with cats, they deserve a health check twice a year because things can go sideways in between there. And, you know, doing regular blood and urine testing particularly on cats this age really helps us pick up those old person diseases that they get. You know, often we’ll check their blood pressure during health checks. Just little things like that will often allow us to identify cats who are sick much earlier than they would have been noticed at home and then we can start helping them and really improve their quality of life, save the owners a lot of money, and then kind of make life better for everybody. So I hope you find this useful, and thank you very much for taking the time to learn about how to look after your cat. Thank you very much for watching. Please click like and subscribe Feel free to share this video with your friends and if you want to support our good work Please check out our web store. We have some adorable squish the cat merchandise there for you Please give it a look and once more thank you very much for watching my videos

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  1. Please give a video on cat arthritis. My cat is limping but the vet doesn't see her limping when we take her in for a check-up. What are some good meds for arthritis in cats?

  2. I was worried about my G/F's cat throwing up multiple times a week..I said that's not normal and she laughed at me and then got pissed that i kept bringing it up…She thinks its just fur-balls…

  3. I adopted a 4-month old female kitty yesterday but it has not eaten or drunk water or used litter pan so far. I’m trying to lure her with the best available wet and dry food and treats but it is not even smelling it. Yesterday, she sneaked under the dish washer through a tiny hole and spent all day and all night under it and I got it out with help from maintenance people today. Now it is sitting in the fresh litter pan. Is it constipated or feverish or something else? I think it is purring a lot and purring continuously on its own even when I’m not holding it and it’s breath stinks (I thought foul breath is from not eating/drinking). Also, I have not seen it licking itself or grooming.

    I plan to take her to a vet tomorrow but I need her to eat something in the meantime. It is already 36 hours this kitty has not eaten anything. How many days do they go without eating food? TIA

  4. my then 8 y/o cat stopped eating for a couple days and we found out she had an uterus tumor. then she had surgery and shes 10 y/o, healthy and alive today❤

  5. One of our outdoor cats disappeared for a couple days. When he reappeared he was looking not well. We brought him in and kept him inside for a couple days hoping he'd get better. He didn't. He didn't eat or drink much at all.
    My dad took him to the vet, and after looking him over, the vet look at my dad and told him, "the cat was malnourished and dehydrated." My dad look right back and said, "Yeah, he's sick. That's why I brought him to you."

  6. My cat would wake me up regularly at 5 a.m. for treats. She never acted differently from day 1 to the end. New years day… she just died. No idea what happened. Didn't even have her for a year, so I didn't take her in for a checkup

  7. I am Looking after my friend 's cat past 15 days .She eats mud and hates to have water. I have to forcefeed her water with the help of a filler She is Just 5 months old .Please help me..

  8. Does anyone know what I can do for my girl? I was finally able to take her to the vet and she recieved shots and medicine for the month, but I know she's still sick. She recovered from starvation and a broken shoulder from October to December, but her fur is still dry, her whiskers droop, and her breath is smelly and sometimes accompanied by drool. I'm worried she has a virus of some kind, but regardless of what it is, I know she isn't feeling well.

  9. My cat had an inflammation on her lips. I don't know how she got it, but the only way I realized was because I noticed that her lower lip was a little more apparent when she had her mouse closed. I kept asking myself: "Was her lip always this big?". If I didn't know the details of my cats face I might have never realized something was wrong.

  10. All of a sudden my cat started hiding under my bed which was weird so I took him to the vet and it turned out he had an infection – I got some medicine and he got better! My friends thought I was silly to take him to the vet for that reason, good to know my instinct was right 🙂

  11. My cat comes to me when she's going to puke. Like she always pukes near me, or somewhere in the room i'm in. I think she comes "asking" for help. (She's not ill – hairballs)

  12. Here's another subtle sign: you notice your cat has been sitting in one spot for an unusual amount of time. When I was younger, I had a big black tomcat who one day sat in the corner of a room for a while. At first, we thought, "no big deal." He sat in the same spot for over a day, and then my mother got worried. Turns out, he had a stone that was blocking his urethra (more common in male cats FYI). The vets put him under to remove it, but his electrolytes were too imbalanced, and he had a heart attack on the table.
    If you notice your cat sitting in one spot for more than a day, check on them. Notice how they are sitting. If they are comfortable, they should lay on their side or at least change positions throughout the day. Staying in one position is a big indicator that they are in pain.

  13. My cat pulled a blanket over me when I had the flu. She also stayed by my face and would lick my face, seemingly to make sure I was breathing. If I didn't know better, I would swear that she was trying to nurse me. Apparently, she also "cries" when I am not there, and will bother my sister until she brings me home.

  14. Animals can definitely pretend they are limping for various reasons. When one of our dogs started limping due to illness and we were fussing over her for days trying to help and make her happy our other dog noticed and started limping just to get more attention.

  15. My parents have a big snuggley Tom cat (Jean-Claude, no pun intended). One night when family was over and my mom couldn't sleep with the door cracked Jean-Claude meowed freaking loudly. Howling loud. I woke up, checked his food, water and emptied his litter and he would still cried. What did he need? Snuggles. My niece was soaking up all the attention so this big'ol cry baby wasn't getting any. I just sat with him for 20 minutes or so at 2AM and he was fine.

  16. Hi doc,,
    Really appreciate ur video.
    Very informative.
    My frnd’s cat poops too much, but my frnd considers it normal…. and he stops feeding him. He thinks that she will heal herself, but I think she has gastroenteritis, as she does 7-8 loose stools per day. Her body temperature is 102’F
    Kindly reply nd suggest something,so that my friend agrees for treating her.

  17. We recently adopted our cat from the local shelter and we are so happy to have him with us and he's just so much fun to be around 🙂 but sometimes it is still a bit hard to interpret his behavior in the right way so your videos are extremely helpful and useful to watch so I just wanted to say thanks for that 💜 much love from Germany to you and your cute cat 🐈

  18. I DON'T have pet(s), but i kinna love cats videos.
    The nature of my job doesn't permits me to have pets, coz i travel a lot; atleast ONCE a month.

  19. Well, the main reason my cats don't see a vet is I simply don't have the money. I'm on a fixed income and it's very difficult for me to find the money for the simplest things that aren't just paying bills.

  20. Can you do a video showing incisions as they heal after surgery? I just had my sweet cat babies spayed and of course, have been checking and worried that they are healing properly.

  21. Your so sweet. Thank you for taking YOUR time to teach us to help our family members!!! Keep on informing the public and there will be less Ferrell cats out there. 🥰🥰👏

  22. Please doctor i think my cat have cerebral ataxia and i need to know how i can help it he cant even walk his legs is so weak that happen to him after get medicine from a vet for flu he was before i a very good health please help me😭😭😭💔💔

  23. Hello and thank you for your helpful videos ! I want to ask you what to do when your cat wont let you sleep during the night . It is not a matter of hungryness, for he has eaten enough and also has food around. thank you in advance!

  24. My cat is about 6 months old and she played all the time and I mean all the time but now she doesnt she looks a little spacey like just stares at us . She is eating and using litter box fine it's just she sets off a vibe hey I dont feel good

  25. I have just found out that one of my cat's have cat aids. He is loosing weight but still in good condition. Please Wat can i do to keep him healthy for long as possible.

  26. I have 5 cats and I also foster for a local rescue organization. One of my cats developed a UTI that I didn't catch for weeks. I noticed bloody urine on the litter box mat and assumed it was a cat I was fostering that had been hit by a car. A couple weeks later, my cat came into the bathroom when I was getting ready for bed and urinated in the bathtub. It turned out to be only a drop of urine and then he turned around and licked it up. He had NEVER urinated outside the litter box so it was like he was showing me something was wrong. I think he licked it up because he knew he wasn't supposed to urinate in the bathtub. I knew immediately something was wrong. I took him to the vet the very next day and he was put on antibiotics and was given pain meds. Four days later he was only worse. My husband and I was giving him his medicine and he urinated pure blood all over the floor. Again, I took him to the vet the very next morning. Turns out, not only did he have a severe UTI, he had partial blockage which had caused his kidney PH levels to go sky high. The vet kept him over the weekend for treatment. All of this cost me $1,000. Had I been able to catch his symptoms early, it probably would have been an easy fix but with multiple cats in my house, it's hard to tell which cat is having symptoms.

  27. The cat we had when I grew up loved the vitamin/immune boost paste he'd get whenever there was anything wrong. One day he comes home limping. Probably got into a fight with another cat. So out the paste comes and he's lapping it up. We gave him a little each day for a while. One day I caught him limping with the wrong foot. Just this once. I swear up and down he tried to play up his injuries to get his paste some more.

  28. 8:33 Was about to say. My cocker spaniel once fake shivered, scared the heck out of me. Put blankets around her and made a big fuss of her, next thing I know she's doing it all the time. After a while it became clear she was faking it for attention. Eventually trained it out of her by teacher her she didn't need to pretend to be cold to get my attention. But, I still double check the heating and make sure she has somewhere warm to go, just in case. She's been checked by the vet and she's fine. Poor girl gave me a heart attack!

  29. I have to say I'm always happy to see you because you know about creatures, give good advice and are ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE.

  30. My mom's cat had hyperthyroidism for years and it was apparently the reason he was so vocal and would pull his fur. Hed yowl and stress groom himself constantly until she finally brought him to the vet and he was put on meds.

  31. Frequently using the littler box. We have an Littermaid box, and thought it was broken because it kept turning on. Nope my poor cat was running to the box every 5 minutes because he had a bladder infection. For once my laziness in not wanting to clean a box every day paid off. Hearing the box going off made me pay attention to my cat using it constantly.

  32. There was only one time where my cat showed he was in serious pain, he had a urinary blockage and he hid from me and hissed and cried a little bit. Thankfully just as I was getting ready to take him to the emergency vet he peed a river and seemed to pass it. It was really scary

  33. Cats aren't stupid. One of mine kept getting of the way of a window I was starting to replace, when the window crashed down and dislocated his jaw. He howled and howled and couldn't close his mouth. He'd been to he vet a couple times before, so when I brought out the cat carrier box, he rushed right in, knowing (I presume) he was going to the doctor. He did, and they snapped his jaw back into place and all the way home he talked to me.

  34. Thank you so much. I have a multiple kitty household and though I try to be observant of everyone it is very difficult. I really appreciated your video : )

  35. Many thanks for this very useful video! I've been very blessed to have been able to adopt a rescue older female cat a week ago and I'm learning a lot about cats these days…………………'s fantastic!

  36. That is one of the most chill cats I've ever seen. If I were to try and pet my cats that frequently and along their whole body they would be like, "okay, I'm done" and leave, lol.

  37. Brilliant video and a joy to watch, thanks and I have shared on Facebook. It's hard at present as one of my cats has diarrhoea with blood and it's been going on since January , so about 2 1/2 months on and off. I only know this as he uses the litter tray, whereas my other cat never seems to now, always goes outdoors. He seems fine in himself and is about 9 yrs old. He's having pro-biotic powder daily and manging to give him antibiotics with a few treats. Next step is samples to go to the lab for testing. Hope it's nothing bad.

  38. watches intro video
    me: (or also you) what is that, why is the cat "standing"/scraping his bum over the wall

    0:10 – 0:20

    (also my comment auto changed – I don't even have a cat, it's 1 am here)

    it's 2:10 am here

  39. Does vomiting include hairballs or do you not consider those indicators of illness? I grew up with a long-haired maine coon so he had a LOT of hair to bathe and thus often had hairballs. I now have a small domestic short-hair and I don't know what to expect hairball wise from her… Any ideas?

  40. Thank you for sharing this video. I lost 2 of my cats, one in June 2018 (she's 16) and one in February 2019 (also 16 yo). They displayed some signs that were discussed in this video, and I how I wish I'd watched this clip earlier and render help in time. I miss my girls.

  41. I'm taking my kitties to the vet tomorrow for an asthmatic cough :/ Could you do a video on Asthma and steps to take to reduce asthma? Also which causes of asthma are common irritants and which are more rare and less likely to cause asthma? I have found information online with tons of causes listed, but it's not clear which possible irritants are more likely to cause asthma than others. What do I try first, making my home scent free, or changing their diet? I feel like a video could make this more clear. Thanks!

  42. Gosh. Around 5/6 something min – kitty looked in the cam and I blinked her a "kiss"
    Im laughing. So silly.

  43. How does one distinguish between vomiting from sickness and vomiting from hairballs? Because in both cases food will be regurgitated. Also you'll see cats eat plants/grass to help with vomiting.

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