Cats are curious creatures – there’s no better predator, yet they can be the ultimate softie at home. Just one step through the cat plan can convert your cat from one mode to the other.
Due to their nature as hunters, cats are very adept at hiding disease and injury – a pivotal skill which would help them survive in the wild. As a cat owner you do need to be aware of this and always keep the following top warning signs at the back of your mind to look out for:
– This is the most important one to monitor as although increased thirst may be due to many factors, it can be a warning sign of diabetes or infections as well as kidney and liver disease.
– If it is due to kidney disease, this sign will only show when your cat’s kidneys are already 75% damaged – so, the best present you could give your feline friend (especially if they are getting on a bit) is to do twice-yearly urine testing. It is very simple to do at home, just use Katkor in the litter tray rather than normal litter to collect a sample and then take it to your vet asap (keep it in the fridge until you do).
– Cat kidneys are amazing at conserving water but all cats will suffer some degree of kidney damage as they get older, usually beginning around the age of seven.
– What you need to look out for is any change in drinking behaviour – a cat fed mainly on dry kibble will drink more than a cat eating wet food but any change from the normal level should be investigated.
2. Not grooming or scruffy, unkempt coat:
– As we know, cats love to keep themselves clean and tidy. If you notice an unkempt, dull coat or a general lack of grooming (especially towards the base of the spine) this could be a sign of early arthritis, a sore mouth, or just general malaise. In any case, it’s always worth a visit to the vet.
3. Eating Behaviour
– If you notice your cat eating less, this should be an immediate red flag, especially if it continues for 24 hours or more. Cats like their routine, especially around food so any deviation could be a sign of pain (such as tooth) or sickness (such as infections, kidney or l-liver problems).
4. Weight Loss
– Get into the habit of weighing your cat monthly. The easiest way is to stand on the scale, note your weight and then step on with your cat. The difference is their weight.
– Look for any muscle wasting along the spine (you will feel the spine more prominently) or ribs that become more noticeable and palpable.
– Of course, you may just have a sprightly cat who uses up more energy than they eat, but it could be due to a sore mouth, kidney disease (again), nausea or even related to an overactive thyroid (in this case your cat will be eating well). Regardless, weight loss is not to be ignored and you should see your vet.
5. Sleeping more
– This is tricky as cats are the masters of catnaps. However, they are also very much creatures of habit and tend to have routine associated with when, where and for how long they will sleep. If you notice your cat is being lethargic or even sleeping when they don’t usually (such as when you get home or when you feed them), then something is not right and you should take them to your vet.
6. Open mouth breathing
– Cats never ever breathe with their mouths open unless it is exceptionally hot outside, they have just exerted themselves greatly, or they are in a consultation room seeing their vet (ie: stressed)!
– It is just not a normal thing for them to do if they are in their home environment and it could be a sign of heart and/or lung problems, so please see your vet immediately.
Finally, do not panic if you notice any of these signs – in all cases, it is always ‘the earlier caught the better’.
As a profession, veterinarians would much much prefer to be given the opportunity to do the maximum they can to improve your cat’s quality of life at an early stage rather than being in a situation where the disease has just progressed too far and there is little to be done to improve their situation. We love seeing owners who make appointments as soon as they notice a problem, it just makes the world of difference to everyone, especially your feline.
Vet and Co-Founder of Medicanimal