By Garry White
et’s start with a perfectly healthy cat: Fluffy has absolutely no conditions that we’re aware of, and that’s the operative phrase… “… that we’re aware of.” What you want to watch for is a “trend” in behavioral change or habits. Fluffy can have off-days just like you and I… so if she does (or doesn’t) do something for a day, it could mean that she’s simply having a bad day for any number of reasons that aren’t necessarily life-threatening. However, if the odd situation continues for 2-3 days, it’s “Ring-A-Ding-the-Doc” time! The following is not comprehensive, but it’s a great starter-list of warning signs:
– Eating Habits. If she doesn’t eat for a day, it could mean she’s angry about something, it could mean she has a hairball, it could mean she ate something yesterday that didn’t settle well. If she doesn’t eat the following day either, that’s a big red flashing sign! Ignore this for another couple of days and you’re almost surely exposing her to the risk of fatty-liver disease known as Hepatic Lipidosis, which is often deadly! Ask Petie Brigham (one of our members) how serious this can be.
– Excessive Drinking/Urinating. Unless you live in the Sahara desert, this is generally a sign of the onset of kidney problems. Again… a day of excessive drinking is not a worry, but if it continues, get her tested!
– Vomiting. Inside cats will vomit occasionally, and it’s been written that it’s their normal way of “purging” impurities that build up in the gut. Want proof? Let them eat some grass, which they’ll do with glee, and just for that purpose. If she vomits daily, or several times a week, she has a problem.
– Trouble Urinating. This is an emergency, period. This can be the result of a urinary infection, which makes peeing a painful process; it can be caused by what are called Triple Phosphate Crystals in the urine (caused by cheap foods, usually) which actually plug the urethra and prevent the flow of urine; or it can be caused by a number of other conditions. The bottom line is this: Urine is extremely high in Potassium, and Potassium is extremely dangerous to the heart. If she cannot urinate (I’m talking for hours, not days!), the Potassium levels climb rapidly and she is at extreme risk of a heart failure.
– Constipation. Another emergency. If you observe her struggling, I’d not fly into a panic, but watch her closely. If she’s back in the box trying again a few minutes later, and again a few minutes after that…it’s time to get her to the vet; she’s plugged. Left unattended, embedded stool causes gangrene.
– Diarrhea. Hmmm… how come you didn’t think of this when you were constipated, Fluffy? If she is “a bit loose” for a time or two, I’d not go into a panic; you may want to watch her diet and make a change or two. If it happens more than a few times, something is wrong.
– Stool and Urine. As long as we’re being disgusting, we may as well go for the gold star. Watch these every so often. If her diet is correct and there are no internal problems, the stool will normally be not-hard-not-soft in consistency, and it should be about the color of coffee with one cream. If it’s black or excessively dark for more than a few times, there’s a possible chance of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. If the urine is cloudy (yeah, ya actually gotta watch her pee every so often) then she probably has a urinary infection of some sort. If it’s pinkish, you and Fluffy are off to the vet right now.
– Lethargy. If she’s normally active and playful, but is now showing signs of exhaustion and wishes to sleep most of the time, there’s a good chance that something is seriously wrong (assuming that nothing else in her home-life has changed).
– Reclusive Behavior. Most (not all) healthy cats desire to be around people; they love the affection. Conversely, sick cats prefer to be left alone. If Fluffy is normally under your feet, but has recently taken to dark corners where she sleeps most of the time… it’s a sign that something is amiss, and it’s probably the onset of a medical condition; she’s in pain and it’s her only way of letting you know.
– Trouble Eating. Probably gum disease or tooth pain, and it needs attention quickly. A normal-weight cat requires about 5.5 ounces (or its nutritional equivalent) every single day! If she doesn’t get that much…for whatever reason… you’re facing some serious(and possibly irreversible) problems.
– Temperament. Are you grouchy when you’re sick? Sure you are, and so is Fluffy. If she’s grumpy for a day, I wouldn’t fire up the Ferrari and race to the Emergency Room, but if I see it for more than a day or so…Vrooom; off we go!
– Licking Strange Things. Cats will seek what the body tells them it needs; nature at its finest. If, for example, she starts licking concrete, the very-clear message is that her system is suffering from a deficiency of calcium, or possibly sodium (both are in concrete).
– Physical Instability. Wobbly rear-end, inarticulate pouncing, stumbling. This is a HOT emergency! You’re witnessing signs of very critical problems, to include a few: Toxic poisoning, low Potassium, high Phosphorous, heart attack, inner-ear problems. And these are just a FEW possibilities, but all of them are potentially fatal!
– Excessive Localized Licking/Biting. Cats are self-healers by nature. If Fluffy constantly licks at a particular spot (say, on her side), it’s probably an external irritation (rash, open sore, etc). If she bites and pulls at the spot, it’s likely something hurting her from inside, and she’s trying to “get at it”… again, nature at work.
– Facial Expressions. I saved the best for last. As you’ve seen, Fluffy has several ways to communicate with you, but her facial expressions are the most accurate and the most telling. Everything shows up there: Curiosity, love, coyness, happiness, delight, hunger, affection, embarrassment, and… pain.
It’s notable to remember that felines will hide problems from us until the pain becomes unbearable. If you’re not attentive, a condition can easily be 70-80% into progression by the time you finally determine that something is wrong… and often that’s too late.
Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.