Many of these symptoms are often mistaken as “typical, unfriendly, self-sufficient, low maintenance” cat behaviors. Unfortunately, these behaviors are anything but normal and often signal a health problem. When these signs are unnoticed or ignored as typical cat behavior, the results can be advanced serious illness and even death.
#1 Inappropriate Urination Behavior: cats do not urinate outside the litter box out of spite, anger or retaliation. Cats thrive on a clean environment therefore when they urinate outside the litter box, it is an alarm to cat owners that something is wrong.
#2 Changes in Social Interactions: Cats are social animals who enjoy interaction with their human family and often with other pets. When a cat repeatedly rejects social contact or acts aggressively, this is a signal that something is wrong: pain? Disease? Fear? Anxiety?
#3 Increase or Decrease in Activity Level: Drastic changes in activity can be a sign of a medical of condition such as arthritis, discomfort from systemic illnesses or hyperthyroidism. Cats don’t normally slow down just because they are old!
#4 Changes in Sleeping Patterns: Know your cat’s normal sleeping patterns. The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping, including many “cat naps”. Cats should respond quickly to the usual stimuli, such as the owner walking into the room or cat food being prepared. Sleeping through these stimuli is a signal that something is wrong.
#5 Changes in Eating Habits: Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not “finicky” eaters. Look for changes in the quantity of food consumed, how much time the cat spends eating, how much water is consumed on a daily basis. Changes can indicate poor dental health, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, cancer, kidney disease or other health problems.
#6 Changes in Weight: Weight loss or excessive weight gain. A cat can be eager to eat, finish every meal, drink sufficiently but still lose weight. Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat’s thick coat. You can assess body condition by feeling gently along the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt but not prominent. On the other hand, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems.
#7 Changes in Grooming Habits: Typically, cats are fastidious groomers. Look for hair mats, dirty coat, hair loss, greasy appearance and whether your cat has stopped grooming at all. All of these can signal underlying disease such as fear, anxiety, obesity, skin problems or other health issues.
#8 Changes in Stress Level: Boredom and sudden lifestyle changes are common causes of stress in cats. Stress can be caused by change of litter/litter box, family changes such as adding a new pet or human family member, change of diet, moving, change of litter box location, absence of family members and more. Stress can cause cats to change their normal behaviors including eating, sleeping and socializing.
#9 Changes in Vocalizations: Vocalizations include crying, howling or any other new/unusual sound a cat starts making. Changes can indicate pain, anxiety, hunger, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure or some other medical issue.
#10 Bad Breath: there is no such thing as “cat breath” in a healthy cat. Bad breath is often an indicator of oral disease, often unseen by the cat’s owner. Untreated oral disease can lead to pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs. Studies show 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3.
Cat owners should become aware of their cat’s normal behaviors and habits. When any of the above hidden signs of illness occurs, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.