Common Questions About Cat Health: Tongue Color, Sneezing, and More
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 are able to 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 vomiting repeatedly throughout a single day, then you need to bring him to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Even if he does not have a serious 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 just 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. This 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 serious illnesses. These can only be identified by your veterinarian. If your cat throws up periodically over an extended period of time, 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 they leave the litter box, you may need to switch to a pine litter. If they only sneeze 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 serious 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 serious 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. This is usually activated when a person rubs their neck, chin, or head. Most the time this is nothing to be concerned unless the drooling is excessive.
Why Won't My Cat Eat?
Although its 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 important to find out the cause.
Did you change cat foods? One common reason is that you changed food. 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 food, 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 with a special meal to get them to eat.
Are they sick? There are illnesses that 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 serious 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. This 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 actually 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. This 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 large 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 disease to progress quickly and lead to death. This disease is transferred 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 medication
- cancer of the pancreas or gallbladder
Each of these can lead to greater complications and even death, which makes jaundice a high concern.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease in cats is also called feline hepatic lipidosis. Unfortunately, cats more than any other animal has 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 actually 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, it is imperative you bring him 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 of 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, which is often found in infected rodents that might be caught or infected fleas that may be 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 is very rarely found in feline animals.
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. This 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 there are some things that can be caught from a cat, such as worms, scabies, or lice.
Toxoplasmosis is one disease that is 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, it is very important for a pregnant woman not to clean a litter box.
Rabies is another disease that people can get from cats. That is why it is very important for your cat to be up to date on its shots.
Common Cat Medical Problems
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
Why does my cat like to lick cement?
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.
Why does my cat have red around his teeth? It’s only on one side.
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.
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?
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.
My cat has these little deposits underneath her skin and they move around. What are they?
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.
My cat has runny poop; usually like loose putty, what is wrong?
There may be nothing wrong. If you are concerned you need to bring him or her to the veterinarian and have him checked out.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz