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Silent Signs of a Sick Kitty

By Kathryn Waide
Pet Health Articles
Cats are notoriously stoic. It's rare for them to show any
obvious sign of illness. "As a general rule, any major or
sudden change in a cat's usual activities and patterns
requires some investigation," says Wendy Christensen,
author of
Outwitting Cats: Tips, Tricks and Techniques for
Persuading the Felines in Your Life That What YOU Want
is also What THEY Want (The Lyons Press). Here, an inside
look at clues that your cat may be under the weather:
Pay attention to unexplained weight changes
A pound or two for a cat is the equivalent of 10 or 20 pounds for us. And, if the weight
change is rapid, the situation calls for veterinary attention, warns Christensen. A sudden
gain or loss may signal cancer, kidney and liver disease, hyperthyroidism and several other

Note changes in eating habits
If your pet turns up its nose after a few bites, it might simply be that new food you bought.
"But disinterest in eating can also happen when a cat is under stress -- maybe some
change is happening in your household -- experiencing tooth pain or tongue ulcers, dealing
with hot or humid weather, or battling something more serious such as an upper
respiratory problem, kidney failure, liver disease, diabetes, bowel disease, heart disease,
cancer or feline leukemia," according to Christensen. So if your cat's food cutback or refusal
to eat lasts longer than a couple of days, call your vet.

Be aware of drinking and urinating patterns
These activities can indicate how well the kidneys are functioning. Often, excess drinking
and urinating are the first signs of chronic kidney disease, since the kidneys may not be
properly filtering toxins. "With veterinary care, diet adjustment and possibly medication,
chronic kidney disease is a manageable condition, but it's best to catch it early," says

Note elimination patterns
If your cat is eliminating outside its litter box in significantly smaller or larger amounts than
normal, or voiding blood, it may be a sign of medical or behavioral issues. See a vet for an
evaluation. "Feline elimination problems, unaddressed," warns Christensen, "tend to get
worse, not better."

Be aware of head shaking and ear scratching
This can indicate ear mites (a parasite) or a bacterial or fungal infection -- a veterinarian
can tell the difference. Don't try to diagnose this yourself, urges Christensen. "If it's mites
and you treat for infection, your entire house can quickly be infested."  

Don't ignore kitty halitosis
Persistent bad breath can point to a variety of illnesses, including kidney failure and
gastrointestinal problems. It's not just a cosmetic issue, says Christensen. It needs
veterinary attention.

Note changes in vocalization
A silent cat who suddenly cries and calls at all hours, or a talky cat who's suddenly mute,
may be experiencing pain, stress or confusion. Pay your vet a visit.

Take quick action if your cat bumps into things, has dilated pupils, and seems
ill-at-ease in familiar environments
All of these symptoms can indicate sudden blindness, says Christensen. Contact your
veterinarian immediately.

Kathryn Waide writes about pets, health, nutrition and fitness. She's also the owner of
Elmo, an 18-month-old black Labrador.
Outwitting Cats:
Tips, Tricks & Techniques
for Persuading the Felines
in Your Life That What
YOU Want Is Also What
By Wendy Christensen