Cats are known for hiding illness, weakness or pain—especially chronic conditions like dental, kidney and even heart disease. This goes back to their existence in the wild when trying to avoid attracting the attention of would-be predators. That means pet owners may not immediately see physical signs that something is wrong. It’s important to be observant and know what is normal for your cat and what is not.
Look for changes in:
- Body weight (loss or gain)
- Food/water consumption (decrease or increase)
- Litter box behavior (visiting more or less often, not using, straining, abnormal noises)
- Sleep habits
- Coat (changes in grooming habits, hair loss, increased shedding, rash, greasy or matted appearance)
- Behavior (interactions with people and other pets)
- Vocalization/howling (unusually quiet or loud)
- Gum color
You should also look for signs of vomiting or diarrhea, blood in the urine, any discharge from the eyes, nose or genitals, an unsteady gait and abnormal breathing/panting.
Cats are also great at hiding in quiet, dark places such as under a bed or in a closet. It can be normal not to see them for long periods of time, however when they are not feeling well, cats may hide to conserve energy or avoid pain.
Regular preventive care and comprehensive exams are the best tools for early disease detection and treatment. Your veterinarian will know the right questions to ask and how to go about checking for subtle changes that may have significant impact on the quality and length of your cat’s life. Regular preventive care throughout the life stages is the foundation for a long and healthy life.