9 Signs Your Cat Should See the Vet

Has your cat seen his/her veterinarian lately? Before you answer, here’s a statistic for you: even though there are 10 million more pet cats than dogs in the United States, only one cat is seen by a veterinarian for every five dogs. In fact, the majority of cat owners believe that cats have fewer health issues than dogs, when in reality cats are much better than dogs at hiding when they’re not feeling well. 

So in deference to Happy, Healthy Cat Month (September), let’s talk about some questions you can ask to determine whether your cat needs to come see the doctor:

1. Is your cat excessively lethargic?
Yes, cats are known for sleeping a lot, but there’s a limit to that! While it’s normal for your cat to have a “down” day every now and then, if unusual lethargy (i.e., sleeping more than normal, lack of interest in play or socialization) continues for more than 24 hours, it could be a sign of something more serious. Some possibilities include anemia, viral infection, injury or various systemic disorders. 

2. Has your cat developed diarrhea – or constipation?
When your cat’s litter box activities change, you should take notice. Diarrhea can be a sign of intestinal parasites, allergic reactions, diseases of many kinds, and much more. If diarrhea persists for more than a day or appears black or bloody, your cat needs to see a vet! Alternatively, constipation can be a sign of an intestinal blockage or lower urinary tract disease. Constipation in your cat can be life-threatening!

3. Have there been changes in your cat’s litter box use or urine output?
People are quick to attribute a cat’s sudden refusal to urinate in a litter box to behavioral problems. However, the most common explanation is actually a medical one! When Kitty urinates outside the litter box, particularly if s/he has always been good about using it before, it can indicate urinary tract disease, bladder infection or kidney disease. Straining to urinate, blood or a red tint to the urine, or a change in smell can also indicate these conditions. 

4. Has your cat’s appetite or water consumption suddenly changed? 
Excessive appetite can be an indicator of hyperthyroidism or inflammatory bowel disease, while excessive thirst may be an indicator of diabetes. On the other hand, a drop in eating or drinking can be signs of cancer, dental disease, or kidney problems – to name a few. Additionally, a cat that doesn’t eat for a few days can develop hepatic lipidosis (in which your cat’s liver shuts down due to processing too much body fat). In either case, you need to get Fluffy to the vet quickly!

5. Does your cat have stinky breath?
Unusually or noticeably bad breath can be a sign of health problems. Most commonly, bad breath indicates the need for a good dental cleaning – and, perhaps, extractions due to dental disease. Additionally, bad breath can signal kidney disease! Fruity or sweet-smelling breath, on the other hand, can be a sign of diabetes. 

6. Are Kitty’s eyes runny or is s/he sneezing, coughing or breathing differently than normal?
While Kitty can get the occasional cold, if you notice your cat has eye or nose discharge accompanied by sneezing or shortness of breath, it could signal an upper respiratory infection that needs veterinary attention.  Kitty also needs to see a vet if s/he is coughing or breathing heavily during normal activities as this could be a sign of heartworms, asthma, respiratory disease, cancer and more. 

7. Does your cat vomit?
While most cats get the occasional hairball and can sometimes have upset stomachs, vomiting is not normal.  Frequent or repetitive vomiting or gagging can indicate a serious problem.  From parasites (including heartworms) to ulcers, dietary allergies, gastritis, pancreatitis, kidney or liver failure, foreign bodies or intestinal obstruction, vomiting means your cat needs to see the vet!

8. Is Fluffy acting “off”?
No, we don’t mean random running around the house at high speed or staring at you intently while you sleep. That’s normal…for a cat. Instead, is your cat vocalizing more or less than usual? Has the sound of his voice changed? Have his grooming habits changed? Does he run and jump less often than before? Have his interactions (with you and other pets) changed?  While everyone’s behavior changes over time, sudden changes in behavior can indicate stress, pain or illness.

9. Last one (and this is the most important one): has your cat seen his doctor in the last 12 months (6 months if he’s over 7 years)?
Every cat should see his/her vet at least once a year until s/he becomes a senior pet at 7 years of age. Then every cat should go to the vet at least every 6 months. The reasons for this are many. One of the biggest ones is that your cat ages more quickly than you do. In fact, the first 2 years of your cat’s life are equivalent to 24 years of your life, and each year thereafter is the equivalent of 4 human years. Would you go 4 years without seeing a doctor?! Annual or bi-annual wellness visits mean you can provide Kitty with preventive care rather than reactive care, giving Kitty more healthy years with you!

These are just a few of the signs that Fluffy may need to see a veterinarian. So what are you waiting for? Unless you answered “yes” to the last question and “no” to all the others, it’s time for you to bring your cat to see his/her doctor. Call us or fill out our web form to make an appointment!

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