What do you think when your cat, so faithful in his use of the litter box, starts to pee in your closet or on your bed? Or what if you start to notice that he is not eating or drinking like he used to? What if your cuddly lap-cat suddenly does to not want to be held or your playful kitty starts to sleep all the time? It has taken us many years to even begin to recognize how our cat's behavior warns us of how they are feeling. If they were able to talk to us it would help a great deal, but we are beginning to understand the language of behavior change and how it can be a sign of illness. We are hoping that through this article we can help you to recognize these signs in your cat to get them help before they have to suffer too long or before an illness progresses too far.
First, we live in a society where words are our main means of communication. If you aren't feeling well, you tell someone. This gets a little more difficult when you are dealing with a baby, for instance. They can't tell you how they are feeling, but the signs of illness in a baby are similar to yours. So we catch on a little faster. They have a fever or they have a runny nose. They are throwing up or they have diarrhea. There are all sorts of symptoms that we understand. But when we cross into the world of cats it becomes much more difficult. They don't have the same signs or they are harder to recognize. For instance, a cat's normal temperature is 100 to 102.5. If they get a temperature it's a lot harder to tell. You can't feel their forehead or quickly take their temperature under their tongue. It requires a little more effort to discover they are burning up with fever. It's also more difficult to recognize they are in pain, they hide it so well. So, what do you do? You look at their behavior. Here are a few of the signs that we see most often associated with illness.
Stops using the litter box consistently.
If you have ever had a bladder or urinary infection or passed a kidney stone you will know how uncomfortable it can be to have a something wrong with your urinary tract. In cats, urinary tract problems will often show up first with litter box issues. A kitten or cat that has consistently used the litter box, will suddenly start to urinate in other places. Why? It hurts to urinate, so they associate the pain with the litter box and try to find other areas to go where it won't hurt. This behavior change can happen with cats that have FLUTD, a bladder infection, or even crystals that they are passing. So before you get frustrated with your cat for urinating on the bed, take them to the vet. Make sure that they aren't suffering from some form of urinary tract problem.
Not eating well.
If you know that your cat usually eats a certain amount of food and it suddenly changes, there may be cause for concern. Sometimes it's as simple as your cat having a hairball. This is an easy problem to help them with and we recommend trying this first in any cat that is having eating problems. You can find hairball gels at most pet stores, but even Vaseline does the trick. You can put a little on their paw for them to lick off or stick a little clump in their mouth for them to swallow. You will want to do this once a day for a week to see if it helps them pass a hairball (either up or down). If they do pass a hairball, you should notice their appetite come back right away. If they don't, it would be wise to take them to the vet.
Doesn't want to be held.
I know that a lot of people think that as a cat ages, he or she will just get less interested in being held. But, this isn't always the case. Most of the time a cat that is cuddly will be cuddly for life. If your cat has been a cuddly lap cat and starts to not want to be touched it might be an indication that they are ill. At this point we recommend watching for other signs. Are they eating well? Are they using the bathroom as normal? Do they have diarrhea? If anything else looks suspicious we would recommend taking them to the vet.
There are many other behavior changes that we could list. But it all comes down to one thing. You know your cat better that anyone. It is good to trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong take them to the vet. It's worth the price of a vet visit to make sure that your cat's behavior is not an indication of illness.