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How can I tell if my cat is sick?

When cats aren't feeling well they will often hide themselves away, making if difficult for even the most attentive cat owners to know when their feline friend is sick. Here our Winston-Salem vets at Animal Hospital of Clemmons share a few signs and symptoms that could mean your cat needs to visit the vet.

Monitoring Your Cat's Health

Like all pet parents, if you own a cat you need to monitor your pet's health and prepared to visit their veterinarian if they begin showing symptoms of illness. Cat owners need to be particularly vigilant about monitoring their feline friend's health since cats tend to isolate themselves out of instinct when they become ill.

Symptoms of Health Issues in Cats

In order to help you to recognize symptoms of illness in your cat, here are a few symptoms that indicate your cat is feeling unwell and may need veterinary care.

Repeated vomiting

  • There are a host of reasons why your cat may vomit, ranging from eating grass or spoiled food to more serious issues of bacterial or viral infections. If your cat is having multiple bouts of vomiting over the course of 24 hours it may be best to head to the vet. Severe or chronic vomiting can lead to secondary problems, such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Serious health concerns that may cause chronic or severe vomiting in cats include intestinal obstruction from a foreign body, liver disease, or thyroid disease.


  • Every pet parent needs to know that ongoing bouts of diarrhea can easily lead to dehydration, which can be fatal. If your cat has diarrhea for more than 24 hours contact your vet for further advice. While diarrhea may be caused by something as simple as a change in diet, other causes of ongoing diarrhea include inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, intestinal parasites, cancer and hyperthyroidism.

Litterbox Issues

  • If your cat has always been good about using the litter box when they need to go, then suddenly begins making messes around the house, there's very likely a problem. A few of the health concerns that can lead to litter box issues include urinary tract infections and kidney disease. 

Weight Changes

  • Unexplained weight changes should always be investigated. Keep in mind that a cat losing or gaining as little as 1 pound is the equivalent of a person gaining or losing 10 pounds. Sudden increases in weight could indicate a thyroid problem, Feline hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing's disease. Unexplained weight loss could indicate a number of serious illnesses including cancer or diabetes.

Increased Thirst

  • If you find that your cat is suddenly drinking much more water than they used to, it's time to head to the vet. Increased thirst is symptom of a number of serious illnesses that can be successfully treated or managed if diagnosed early. Increased thirst in cats can be a sign of kidney dysfunction, liver disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or urinary tract disease.

Breathing Issues

  • Difficult or labored breathing in cats can be a sign of a number of issues, ranging from infection or trauma to heart failure or asthma. If you notice a change in your cat's breathing patterns be sure to make an appointment with your vet for a full examination. 

Discharge from Eyes

  • Eye problems can quickly become serious, so it's always best to have your cat examined by a vet if you notice that your cat is pawing at their eyes or has eye discharge. Eye discharge can be a sign of feline upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis (pink eye) or corneal disorders.

Nasal Discharge

  • Like people cats do sometime catch colds. Cat colds or Feline Upper Respiratory Infections are extremely contagious between cats so it's important to isolate your cat if they are showing symptoms of a cat cold. That said, nasal congestion and discharge can be a symptom of a more serious bacterial respiratory infection. If your cat's cold does not begin to improve within a couple of days call your vet to schedule an examination for your cat.

Hair Loss or Skin Irritation

  • Hair loss and skin issues in cats could indicate anything from stress to a minor allergy to ringworm or parasites such as fleas, mites or ticks. That said, in some cases loss of hair can be a symptom of more serious health concerns such as diabetes, overactive thyroid or even cancer.

Blood in Urine or Stool

  • Blood in urine could be an indication that your cat is suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). Blood in your cat's stool could be an indication of something relatively easy to address such as constipation but might also be a symptom of something more serious such as exposure to toxins, parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, cysts or tumors. 

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms above, it is always best to contact your vet. While these symptoms may only be a sign of a minor issue, when it comes to caring for cat health, early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent more severe conditions from developing. 

When It's an Emergency 

There are some symptoms that shouldn't wait for an appointment. If your cat is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your primary care vet immediately to let them know you're on your way, or head to the closest emergency animal hospital for care. If you're unclear if a situation is an emergency, call the animal hospital for advice.

  • Indications of severe pain (crying or aggression)
  • Bleeding that is moderate to extreme
  • Discolored gums (blue, grey, white, or pale)
  • Exposure to toxins or poisons
  • Unresponsiveness or unconsciousness
  • Overly high or low temperatures (under 99° or over 104°)
  • Trauma
  • Seizure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting blood
  • Unable to walk or signs of dizziness

Helping Your Cat to Stay Healthy

When it comes to helping your cat to stay healthy, keeping your cat immunized can help to protect your feline friend from a host of serious, and life-threatening diseases such as Feline Panleukopenia (cat flu), Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and Calicivirus, Rabies, and Feline Leukemia Virus. 

Protecting your cat against parasites also helps to protect your cat's health. Medications are available from your vet to protect your cat against parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, fleas, ticks and earmites. Speak to your vet to learn more about parasite prevention for your cat.

Our Wellness Plan for Cats

To help make caring for your cat's  health more affordable, Animal Hospital of Clemmons offers a Wellness Plan designed specifically for cat owners. Our Wellness plan take the annual cost of your cat's routine healthcare, applies a discount, and spreads it across 12 easy payments. That means your can give your cat the give of preventive veterinary care and save money. Find out more about our Wellness Plan for Cats HERE.

If you're concerned that your cat may be sick, contact our Clemmons North Carolina vets to book an appointment today.

Symptoms of Cat Illnesses | Clemmons Vet

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