Angela is a cat and dog lover who has made special efforts to learn as much as she can about the animals she cares for.
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Sick
If you are a cat owner, then you know the feline species is full of odd behavior. So how do you know when their laziness is more than just typical behavior? Should you be concerned about your cat's hacking, or is it just a fur-ball?
Here are answers to some of your most common questions frequently asked about your feline companion. Do not allow these answers to replace a veterinarian's professional evaluation. This question/answer guide is a quick review that will assist you until you can get help from your veterinarian. It addresses the causes, signs, and symptoms of common medical issues in cats, such as:
- Puking and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Bad breath
- Feline Leukemia
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Cat-to-human contagiousness
Healthy Cat Mouth
Why Is My Cat Puking?
- Is your cat vomiting repeatedly? If your cat is repeatedly vomiting throughout a single day, then you need to bring him to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Even if he does not have a severe illness, dehydration may result, although don't confuse a common hairball as throw up. A fur-ball will usually be a dry matted wad of fur, similar to the color of the cat but a little darker.
- Did they eat grass? One reason a cat might throw up is if they just ate grass. If this is the case, it is not anything to worry about. You will know that is all it is because they will vomit just blades of grass and saliva. Once the grass is out of their system, the vomiting will cease.
- Did you switch their cat food? Another less harmful reason a cat may vomit is if you change cat foods for your pet. It is for this reason that it is not advisable to switch cat foods if possible. Fortunately, in most cases, once the initial upset occurs, they will get better. Although some cats will decide to stop eating as a result of changing a cat's food, which is very scary since anorexia in a cat often leads to fatty liver disease, which is fatal.
- Have they eaten anything they shouldn't? A more serious reason a cat might throw up is to get rid of toxins, or because it has food poisoning. Both of these are very serious, and you want to make sure you bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible. In these cases, your cat will repeatedly vomit in a short period. If there is an emergency vet in your area, you may want to take advantage of their services.
- Could there be an underlying condition? Cats may also throw up for more severe illnesses. Your veterinarian can only identify these. If your cat throws up periodically over an extended period, slowly becoming more frequent, then there is probably something more serious going on, and you need to notify your vet.
Healthy Cat Nose
Why Is My Cat Sneezing?
If the sneezing is only occasionally, then it most likely is either an allergen or irritant. It is a good idea to pay attention to when or where the cat sneezes most frequently. If you notice your cat often sneezes when the cat leaves the litter box, you may need to switch to a pine litter. If your cat only sneezes when the door opens or when they are outside, they may be allergic to pollen.
Common irritants include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Litter box, dust
Although don't let sneezing go ignored as there might be a more severe issue, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), chlamydia, or Bordetella. Although most likely, your cat will have other symptoms that may indicate a more severe illness. If sneezing is the only issue, and it is repetitive, most likely, he has an upper respiratory infection and may need antibiotics.
Why Is My Cat Drooling?
Drooling in a cat is a very healthy reaction to being pleased, much like salivating in a dog when they see food they like. Drooling is usually activated when a person rubs their neck, chin, or head. Most of the time, this is nothing to be concerned unless the drooling is excessive.
Why Won't My Cat Eat?
Although it is disconcerting whenever any of your pets choose to stop eating, anorexia in cats is even more serious because of their ineffective livers. Even a few days of not eating can cause liver failure. That is why it is crucial to find out the cause.
- Did you change cat foods? One common reason is that you changed their diet. Do not assume that your cat will begin eating their food in a few days because even a few days will affect your cat immensely. It is best not to change their diet, as cats, in general, are very finicky eaters.
- Is your cat upset? They also might stop eating due to psychological factors. Some stop eating after they move to a new house, or their family has gone on vacation. Any reason that might upset your cat may lead them to stop eating.
- Have they just been vaccinated? If your cat has stopped eating right after they have been vaccinated, it is a good idea to call your doctor and let them know. That means your pet is having an adverse reaction to the vaccination. Fortunately, this is temporary, but it might be a good idea to treat them to a special meal to get them to eat.
- Are they sick? Some illnesses will cause your cat to stop eating, such as FIV and FeLV, or something as minor as a toothache or an infection. Regardless of the cause, anytime a cat chooses not to eat, they need to be treated immediately. If not treated, they could end up with a much more severe illness such as fatty liver disease that may take their life.
Why Does My Cat Have Bad Breath?
Cats, in general, have mild bad breath that smells like tuna or cat food, which is normal. When the bad breath gets strong, then there is something else going on, such as gum disease. What the odor is similar to may help you discover what could be going on with your cat.
- If you notice a sweet odor, then they might have diabetes. Yes, this is possible for a cat.
- If the odor smells more like urine, then there could be liver failure, in which case you need to bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Some things to look for if you smell urine on their breath is if their corneas, ears, or gums are a yellow color, or they may also begin vomiting.
At What Age Should My Cat Get Neutered or Spayed?
Neutering refers to the male process, and spaying is for females. It is safe to spay or neuter a cat at any age. There have been some cats who are fixed as young as six weeks old, but generally, most vets choose to wait until they are around six months, which is ideal since it is before cats reach puberty and do not have a chance to reproduce yet.
What Is Feline Leukemia?
Feline leukemia is a disease that acts much like the human AIDS virus; therefore, it is often called feline AIDS. It has two stages: primary viremia and secondary viremia. The primary viremia acts much like the HIV virus because a cat can have it for years without showing any symptoms. By the time secondary viremia has developed, the disease has progressed, and death will eventually follow due to the broad range of symptoms the cat now has. This stage is much like when HIV has turned into AIDS.
Feline leukemia makes them very susceptible to infections. Due to the disease, the cat is unable to fight off infections like a healthy cat, which may cause the illness to progress quickly and lead to death. Cats get this disease through bodily secretions such as saliva, urine, feces, etc.
Unhealthy Feline Gums
What Are the Symptoms of Feline Leukemia?
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- The coat may become dull or greasy
- Pale gums
- Infections of the eye, skin, urinary tract, and upper respiratory system
- Persistent fever
- Constant diarrhea
- Lethargic behavior
- Stunted growth
- A pregnant cat may have miscarriages
What Causes Jaundice in Cats?
Jaundice is noted by the yellow coloration of the white part of the eye, gums, nose, or ears. Anytime you see yellowing of a cat's skin; you need to have them checked out immediately. According to Vetinfo.com, jaundice can be caused by:
- Blood parasites
- Liver issues such as enlargement of the liver or liver disease
- Adverse reaction to a medication
- Cancer of the pancreas or gallbladder
Each of these can lead to more significant complications and even death, which makes jaundice a great concern.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease in cats is also called feline hepatic lipidosis. Unfortunately, cats, more than any other animal, have a very poor functioning liver. In the average mammal going without food for a few days will cause discomfort but will not cause any lasting effects. When a mammal goes without food, the liver begins to digest the stored fat, which in most cases, will allow them to live longer. In the feline species, fat gets stuck in the liver, which causes severe damage. The liver will begin shutting down.
There are several reasons a cat may go without food:
- Lack of food available
- Switched cat food and they don't like the new kind
- Ill and have lost their appetite
Regardless of the reason, feline hepatic lipidosis is very serious and without treatment will lead to death. If your pet begins to show any of the following symptoms, you must bring them to the veterinarian:
- Sudden weight loss
- Low appetite
- Excessive salivating
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes or skin)
How Do They Get Worms?
Forty-five percent of your household felines will end up with worms some time in their lives. The most common worms being roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm, and whipworm.
- Roundworm is transmitted by licking infected fur, water, soil, or most commonly from drinking milk from an infected mother. That is why roundworm is most common in kittens soon after birth.
- Tapeworms are caused by ingesting the worm, often found in infected rodents a cat catches, or infected fleas ingested during grooming. Fleas and rodents are usually infected by eating the eggs of the worms.
- Hookworm cannot be transmitted from mother to kitten, but cats become infected when ingesting the worm. It also can be transmitted by penetrating through the skin.
- Whipworm is more common in dogs since the main transference occurs due to eating the feces of an infected animal. Since cats do not generally eat the feces of others, this rarely affects feline animals.
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Paws and Claws
Can Humans Get Worms From Their Cat?
Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms can be transmitted to humans that clean the litter box, which usually occurs because a person does not adequately clean their hands afterward, then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. Roundworms are most commonly transmitted from pet to human, whereas hookworm, tapeworm, and whipworm are much less likely, although possible.
Can I Get My Cat Sick?
Most human diseases are not going to make your cat sick. Although if someone in your house has lice or scabies, your cat is susceptible. Unfortunately, it is more likely your cat will get you sick than you will get your cat sick.
Can My Cat Get Me Sick?
Most diseases that a cat gets are not transferable to a human. They usually catch different strains than we do, although some things can be passed from a cat, such as worms, scabies, or lice.
- Toxoplasmosis is one disease that is most often transferred from cats to people. In the majority of people, it is completely benign, although if a pregnant woman catches this, it can affect her unborn fetus. For this reason, a pregnant woman mustn't clean a litter box.
- Rabies is another disease that people can get from cats. That is why your cat needs to be up to date on its shots.
Sources and Further Reading
- Spaying and Neutering Guide
Spaying and Neutering Your Felines - Why, How, and When, from HDW Enterprises and Foothill Felines Bengals.
- Pet Health Center | Veterinary Care and Information from WebMD
Welcome to the new WebMD Pet Health Center. WebMD veterinary experts provide comprehensive information about pet health care, offer nutrition and feeding tips, and help you identify illnesses in pets.
- Feline Leukemia Virus
Feline Leukemia Virus, FeLV, affects 3 out of every hundred cats. Kittens are the most susceptible to the disease. Although it cannot be cured, there are treatments that can help your pet live longer.
- Feline Hepatic Lipidosis: Fatty Liver Disease in Cats
Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, aka fatty liver disease in cats, is one of the most common deadly diseases found in cats, which is noted for the yellow coloring of their ears, gums, or eyes.
- Can I Catch a Cold From My Pet?
Have you ever wondered if your dog made you sick or if you gave your cat your cold? Find out if your pet can make you sick and vice versa.
- Why Does My Cat Drool - Love Meow
Flickr: Oliver H Not all cats drool when you pet them, but some cats are big slobbers. They drool when they feel relaxed and content or happy. This drooling behavior is still a mystery as to why some cats do it, but it is more of a conditional reacti
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My cat hit his head the other day. He was off for a few days but seems fine now, except he's all of the sudden spraying and pooping on the floor. What could cause my cat to suddenly go to the bathroom outside the litterbox?
Answer: It is possible that your cat may have brain damage and is unable to do what it needs to do. Your cat also may be upset about the trauma and acting out. The best thing to do is to take him to a veterinarian who can assess his health.
Question: My cat has runny poop; usually like loose putty, what is wrong?
Answer: There may be nothing wrong. If you are concerned you need to bring him or her to the veterinarian and have him checked out.
Question: Why does my cat have red around his teeth? It’s only on one side.
Answer: It is very possible that his teeth are infected or has gingivitis. It may be a good idea to have a veterinarian take a look to see if he needs to be treated.
Question: We had sisters from the same litter that loved to cuddle and clean one another. They were 11 years old and fully indoor cats, but we had to say goodbye to one. What should we look for in a second cat?
Answer: Your best bet is to get a younger cat as they are more apt to be accepting and be accepted by the older cat. That is not a guarantee, as cats have their own (cats)onalities, and their reactions vary as widely as number of cats that exist.
Question: My cat has these little deposits underneath her skin and they move around. What are they?
Answer: There are several different possibilities such as calcium buildup or fatty tumors. A veterinarian could most likely tell you by the consistency of it at their next checkup. If the deposit seems to irritate your cat or grow, then you should take him to the vet as soon as possible.
Question: Why does my cat like to lick cement?
Answer: I am not a cat behaviorist nor a veterinarian, but I have heard that cats lick cement when they are anemic, although I do not know if that is true. Call the vet to see if this is an old wives' tale. If your cat is not anemic, your vet may then need to do blood work to make sure that your cat is healthy.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz
Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on March 30, 2018:
I am sorry, but I am not a vet. I would call your veterinarian.
JanetMc on March 30, 2018:
My eleven month old cat was recently spayed and declawed. Nine days after surgery she had a really bad seizure. Could this be the caused by a small blood clot? Is this something that can happen as a result of doing both surgeries at the same time?
Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on March 05, 2018:
I would take her to the vet asap. Cat's unlike dogs, can get severely sick if they go too long without food, because they have very poorly functioning livers. When they starve themselves, they can end up getting fatty liver disease. Plus she may be doing this, because she is sick and needs treatment. Definitely get her to the vet ASAP!!
Vance McFarland on March 05, 2018:
My two year old cat ran out of my room, hiding in the house somewhere. Found her and then she hid again. So three days going on four she has no food, no water, no litter box--how long can she last? ill she come back to her food, water soon?
AnnaCia on October 15, 2014:
I applaud you for this hub. Full of so much information, but easy to read. Thank you very much.
Blubery on August 27, 2013:
Hi. Yes, your cat may well put on a bit of weight just after spianyg but that should settle down after a few months.You do not say whether your cats are indoor cats or do they go outdoors as well. During the winter the outdoor cats put on weight whilst they laze about in the warm house but once they start spending more time outdoors again, they lose the excess' weight they have gained. We find that the indoor cats do not have such a great winter weight fluctuation as the cats which go outdoors as well. Personally, I've never found a satisfactory way of separating cats feeding to ease one cat having a special diet but if you can, good for you.Cats should always have a mix of wet and dry foods and not just one or the other. When using dry food in addition to wet food, the cat will need less of the wet food than if you just gave them wet food alone. This will help them to maintain their nutritional balance. Also, when putting out dry food, remember to ensure that the cat has a good supply of liquid as well. For dry food our cats all seem to like Iams and their coats seem to be more healthy but it is not cheap. Our cats also like Vitacat Healthy Balance(I believe this is an Aldi own brand) which is much more budget friendly and still keeps them very obviously healthy. For my current cats, these are the two dry foods I try to ensure are in the house at all times as they suit them best. However, the cats will also tolerate short spells on Go-Cat, which has a good variety of flavours to keep them interested, and Whiskas dry food but consistently turn up their noses at Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda dry foods. Over the years, and new cats, I've tried most brands and own labels but find that it is a trial and error exercise to find what suits the animals bestHope you find what your girls prefer and the youngest cat's weight settles soon.(Edited to add the essential reminder to ensure that liquid is available if dry food is used in addition to wet food.)
Ailma on August 23, 2013:
Not all of them are. I see a lot of Turkish Vans in there. You could tell they choose msotly light white and tan colored cats save for the few tabbies and calicos. There's plenty of Europeon short haired cats (a.k.a your common house cat) too.
carol stanley from Arizona on August 18, 2012:
Since I have two cats I wanted to read this hub. Well done and you certainly covered every concern. Thanks for sharing all this helpful information. I am going to bookmark and vote UP.
Natasha from Hawaii on August 18, 2012:
Hehehe - tiny cat paws! What super cute pictures, and useful information, too. I no longer own cats, but my family does and I'll make sure to tell my sister about these signs to watch for. Her (very bossy) kitty is getting up there in age. While she's been healthy so far, she is 14 or 15, so there may be changes in her health before too long.
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on August 18, 2012:
We have two wonderful cats and try to avoid the vet- so this Hub, so filled with important tips on recognizing symptoms of cat ill health are purrfect. Thanks so much. Voting.