Maintaining a Healthy Cat
We all want our pets to live long and happy lives, but just like us humans, there will be times when our feline friends become ill and not feel well.
When it comes to cats and illness, they are quite good at hiding the fact they are not feeling well. It isn't uncommon for a cat that becomes ill to go hide and then show up a few days later when they are feeling better. This type of behaviour is instinctual as in the wild when animals become sick, they make for easy prey for other animals as they are unable to effectively defend themselves. Because of this, when they become sick, they will drag themselves to a hiding place and stay there until they feel better and can once again defend themselves. Despite what many may think, a cat can survive for a few weeks without food. It is more important for a cat's health that they intake fluids and remain hydrated in the short term.
Is Your Cat Sick
Often, owners will become accustomed to their pet's daily routine and will often notice when something is amiss, and they may not be acting like themselves. Most pets are creatures of habit and it can become easy to spot when something doesn't seem normal or is off in some regards. Some of the more common things to look for that may indicate something is wrong with your cat is:
- Runny or sore eyes
- A discharge from the ears
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of balance
- Coughing or excessive sneezing, possibly with a nasal discharge
- Difficulty swallowing
- Matted coat. Is your cat no longer grooming itself? This can be a major indicator something is wrong or that your cat is in some type of discomfort.
- Sores or abnormal swelling
- Some signs may be harder to recognize as they may occur out of sight. One example would be excessive thirst, and this would be hard to detect if your cat normally goes outdoors and is getting their water from another source outside of your home. The same may be the case with diarrhea if your cat does its business outside away from the home.
Some of the more common illnesses that may occur and require no special intervention are:
- Vomiting. This was mentioned above as a condition to look for, but periodic vomiting in most cats is normal. Cats from time to time will vomit to get rid of foreign material in their stomachs. In some cases, this may be hair from grooming themselves as it is harder to digest. They may also vomit because they were unable to properly digest their food, such as when they eat their dry food much too quickly. Some cases of vomiting may be corrected by providing a bland diet, such as chicken or boiled whitefish mixed with some rice.
- If, however, the problem of vomiting is on a regular basis and doesn't subside on its own, you should contact your veterinarian. Some vomiting can be a sign of more serious issues like kidney failure, poisoning or an intestinal blockage. If you are seeing blood in the vomit or the vomiting is severe, you should treat such as a medical emergency and get your cat to medical assistance immediately.
- Third eyelid protrusion. This is a rather common ailment and the cause of it isn't completely known. It is thought to be caused by the torovirus, which temporarily paralyzes the third eyelid and is often accompanied with diarrhea. Cats are generally showing no other signs of illness with this and it will often resolve itself within a few weeks.
Issues Requiring Medical Treatment
If your cat presents with any of the following conditions, it is advised that you seek the advice of a veterinarian as soon as possible:
- Labored breathing, or dyspnea, is often a sign of a serious underlying condition in cats. This is most commonly caused due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity. The space within between the lungs and the chest wall is quite small, but it can sometimes fill up with fluid to the point where the lungs are floating within the chest cavity. When this condition gets bad enough, the cat will no longer be able to breath. Some of the common causes of this are:
- Heart disease. This is most often seen in older cats, but can occur in cats of all ages
- Tumors, most commonly a thymic lymphosarcoma, which is a cancer that affects the thymus gland and is often associated with feline leukemia virus infection
- Diaphragmatic hernia which is a rupture of the diaphragm caused by injury
- Pyothorax which is an accumulation of pus caused by infection settling on the chest from a direct puncture wound, or through the bloodstream
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis
- Chronic coughing. This can be a result of different medical issues, such as bronchitis, asthma, or a lungworm infestation. Diagnoses typically involves an x-ray along with bloodwork to determine the cause. In some circumstances, the cat may be placed under anesthetic and the airways are washed to obtain a sample. Chronic bronchitis typically responds well to a course of antibiotics.
I hope that this information helps you to better determine if your cat is ill and not feeling well. If you are unsure what the issues may be, it's best to have your cat looked at by a veterinarian. Cats are very good at hiding illnesses, so one needs to be observant of any changes that may signal an issue. The pet owner is often the best one to detect such changes and get a feeling for what may be wrong.
If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comments section below.