Cat illnesses can be hard to figure out, especially since cats try to hide their ailments. Lack of activity and refusal indicate illness, but not always. Many sick cats continue to eat and play normally when they're ill, and some might even eat more than usual. Knowing Kitty well goes a long way to understanding changes in habit that could indicate illness and the need for a visit to the vet.
Signs of Illness
According to WebMD Pets, two common signs of illness in cats are loss of appetite and lack of activity, or at least decreased activity. If she's ill, Kitty probably won't feel like playing much. If your cat's lethargic, she might be sick. If her lethargy accompanies vomiting, diarrhea or a fever, she definitely is. Don't wait; visit the vet.
A cat who stops eating needs vet care, WebMD Pets advises. While dogs can go a few days without eating without serious effect, cats can't. Not touching food for just a couple of days causes development of fatty liver in cats, a fatal condition if left untreated. Some cats might transform into finicky eaters when they're sick -- they may eat if you feed them certain things they love and don't get regularly.
Depending on how sick your cat is, she might still want to play -- which means you can't assume she's not sick because she's not lethargic. Some illnesses have peaks -- periods during which Kitty will feel very sick followed by periods she's feeling okay enough to play and eat. In such cases, it becomes more important to watch for changes in habits. For example, a cat who has arthritis is liable to be in more pain sometimes and less at other times. The cat may refuse food and avoid play when aching peaks but may make an effort to eat or become active when the pain subsides. If you notice changes in activity level, or if your Kitty balks when you interact with her, she may be ill -- even if she's ready to pounce and play at other times.
Eating and Playing More
In some cases, Kitty might become hungrier and more active when she's sick. For example, cats who develop diabetes might find themselves hungry all the time. Hyperthyroidism also causes increased appetite and might cause Kitty to become hyper, running around and wanting to play more than usual. Many cats with hyperthyroidism lose weight despite eating more. As with playtime, it's important to watch for subtle changes in eating habits rather than assuming he's healthy because he's eating. The appearance of hunger despite being properly fed is an indication your cat might be ill. Any time you feel your cat might be sick, consult your vet without hesitation.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.