You should not self-diagnose your cat’s symptoms. If you are inexperienced with caring for cats, call your vet immediately.
Here are three things that we want to share:
Know your cat
We can’t stress too much the importance of knowing your cat thoroughly. Through daily observation and your petting sessions (during which you’ll learn the normal “feel” of your cat’s body), learn about your cat’s normal physical condition. By learning the “normal,” you’ll be able to spot more easily when your cat is “out of whack.” Observe the following routines of your cat:
- His Eating Habits
Does he wolf his food in one sitting, or does he “graze” all day? A sudden lack of appetite should be cause for concern, particularly when combined with other symptoms.
- His Elimination Habits
Become familiar with the size, color, consistency, and odor of your cat’s feces. Note the color and amount of his normal urine output and how often he urinates normally. Diarrhea, constipation, or straining to urinate are all red flags that your cat needs to be seen by your veterinarian.
- His Normal Gait
A cat normally walks with a purposeful stride at measured paces. A cat’s walking style changes can signify an injury or arthritis, and a veterinarian can help.
Is your cat always ready for play? Is he normally energetic, e.g., running instead of walking from one place to another? Cats normally become less active as they age, but even a senior cat should play when presented with an interactive toy. Sudden changes in your cat’s activity level can signal an injury, lethargy, or depression, all of which are symptoms that should take you to the vet.
- Grooming Habits
Cats are normally fastidious creatures and will spend much of their waking hours grooming themselves. Failure to groom regularly, resulting in a greasy, matted, unkempt coat, can be caused by arthritis or depression, among other causes, and is a signal the cat needs help. Conversely, a cat that suddenly starts grooming one particular area excessively may suffer skin irritation caused by fleas, mites, or the grooming itself and should be seen by a veterinarian.
- His Sociability
Although cats have a reputation for independence, most cats are very sociable with the other occupants of their home, both human and four-legged. A previously social cat who suddenly starts huddling in a corner has problems, either physical or emotional, and needs professional help.
- Behavioral Changes
The classic example is a cat suddenly urinating outside the litter box. Provided the box is clean and there are no recent environmental changes (new cat, new baby, change of residence), inappropriate urination is often a symptom of a lower urinary tract blockage or infection, both very serious conditions. A professional should see him without delay.
When in doubt, call the vet
If your cat shows any one of the previously listed symptoms for more than 12 hours or more than one of them for any length of time, I’d advise calling the veterinarian without delay. Obviously, emergencies are just that, and waiting any length of time could put your cat at risk.
Emergencies include injuries from accidents, burns, possible poisoning, insect stings or bites, seizures, or swallowing foreign objects. These conditions indicate a call to your vet during office hours or the nearest emergency veterinary clinic after-hours. Other borderline conditions, such as sudden and ongoing projectile vomiting or extreme lethargy, also merit an immediate phone call.
Our senior cat, Bubba, throws up fairly frequently, usually soon after eating. We’ve learned not to be too alarmed about it because we’ve had him checked out by our veterinarian several times. Some cats eat too fast, and if they have a particularly sensitive stomach, they’ll hurl. Still, we always watch him closely after these incidents. We’d get him to the veterinarian immediately if he ever showed any other signs of sickness (lethargy, weakness, continued vomiting, or the significant “3rd eyelid”). We’ve had cause to do so on a couple of occasions.
Know when to search the website
The Internet offers a wonderful variety of information for those seeking it, and the wealth of veterinary articles about various diseases and conditions is a good example. I’m as quick as the next person to point the mouse to seek more information about a particular condition, as I’ve done with Bubba on more than one occasion. But I did so only after our veterinarian had examined Bubba and started a course of treatment. Our vet thought I was a pest because I’d read an article and call him, saying, “What about this or that potential diagnosis?” He was understanding, though, and put Bubba through every test I suggested to ease my mind. He also listened when I suggested some alternative treatments I’d read about. If he thought a holistic remedy might help but, more importantly, would not harm, he’d try it. Otherwise, he would explain why it might not be appropriate.
The bottom line is that if your cat exhibits any unusual symptoms or a combination of symptoms, pick up the phone first, and after your veterinarian has examined the kitty and prescribed a course of treatment, then pick up the mouse and surf to your heart’s content, for a better understanding of your cat’s condition.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.