One of the hardest situations to deal with is the unexpected loss of a pet due to illness. With little time to prepare, and often no outward sign of animal distress, the grief can feel unbearable. What’s more, as a responsible cat owner, you will be consumed by guilt that you didn’t spot the signs earlier. If only you had been more observant or had somehow realised that all was not well, you would have taken Tigger to the vet for a check-up and possibly saved his little life.
Cats are very good at hiding when something is wrong. It’s not that they don’t feel the pain; it’s their feline nature and survival strategy in the wild to show no signs of malaise. Unlike a toddler who will come crying loudly for help or to get a cuddle to make him feel better, your cat won’t give anything away.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Experienced cat owners can learn to interpret feline behaviour and use their intuition plus their in-depth knowledge of the animal to conclude that something’s not quite right. American vets have a fitting term for animals presenting with abnormal behaviours that don’t seem to have an obvious cause: ADR – ain’t doing right.
The more adept you are to pick up on early signs of ADR, the quicker you can get Tigger checked over by a vet who will use a range of diagnostic techniques and test kits to find out what’s wrong. The cause of the problem may be dental disease or a digestive upset, or it could be a serious kidney disease of a malignant tumour, or none of the above. In any event, early detection of cat disease and illness is crucial in preventing the worst possible, heartbreaking scenario where it’s simply too late for the vet to fix the problem.
So, what are the first subtle signs of feline sickness that are so important to identify? Here’s a list of the main symptoms you should be looking out for:
1. Visible changes such as
- Weight loss
- Dull coat of fur
- Uneven/unsteady gait
- Unusual look in their eye
2. Behavioural changes including
- Lack of interest in grooming
- Excessive or obsessive grooming or scratching
- Lack of interest in playing or social interaction
- Being less affectionate or more aggressive
- Uncharacteristic hiding away
- Sleeping in odd locations
- Increase in vocalisation
3. Changes in appetite
- No interest in food
- Not finishing favourite food
- Being more hungry than usual
- Constant (and atypical) begging for food
- Drinking more than usual
4. Bodily functions
- Bad breath and/or body odour
- Inappropriate elimination or use of litter box
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
Make it an important routine to inspect your cat on a regular basis so that you don’t miss any potential warning signs. It’s also important to remember that you know your cat better than anyone else, so trust your instincts. If you think something isn’t quite right, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with the vet. Chances are there’s nothing to worry about, but then again it could be a matter of early detection of a life threatening disease – and then you’ll be thankful you took the right action.
Finally, it can’t be stated often enough that your cat should be protected by annual vaccinations against all the major feline diseases, some of which can be fatal.
- Feline infectious enteritis (FIE)
- Cat flu (feline herpes virus FHV-1 and feline calicivirus FCV)
- Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
- Feline chlamydophilosis
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
The UK is a nation of pet lovers – it’s official. According to recent statistics, 45% of households own a pet, with owners widely concurring that their pet makes them feel happy and improves their quality of life. Cats are the second most popular domestic animal in the UK and they’re extremely good at capturing our hearts.
With pet ownership comes responsibility and the moral obligation to provide due care and diligence to our furry friends. We owe it to our feline companions to make every effort to look after them, ensuring they have a long and happy life under our stewardship.