Scheduled wellness exams are vital to your cat’s health, but when your cat is sick it’s even more important to talk to your veterinarian.
Cats are masters at hiding illness. If you see any subtle signs of sickness in your cat, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. Don’t wait for a regular scheduled wellness exam.
Inappropriate elimination behavior or litter box use
When your cat urinates or defecates outside the litter box, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem-not that he or she is trying “to get back” at you. Medical conditions associated with these behaviors include lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus.
Changes in interaction
Cats are social. When the way they interact with family members or other pets changes, it could be a sign of disease, fear, anxiety or pain.
Changes in activity
Cats usually don’t slow down when they’re old, so a decrease in activity can be a sign of a number of conditions. Discomfort from joint disease or systemic illnesses can lead to decreased activity; hyperthyroidism can cause an increase in activity.
Changes in sleeping habits
The average cat may spend 16-18 hours a day sleeping. They key to differentiating abnormal lethargy from normal napping is knowing your cat’s sleeping patterns and noting any changes.
Changes in food and water consumption
Most cats are not “finicky” eaters. Look for changes such as decrease or increase in consumption of food or water. Also pay attention to how your cat chews. An increase in water intake could be an early indicator or thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other illnesses.
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Weight changes often go unnoticed because or a cat’s think coat. A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. If your act goes to the foo dish and then back away without eating, nausea may be the source. At the same time, obesity has become a serious heal concern in cats, with increase risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems.
Changes in grooming
Cats are typically fastidious groomers. A decrease on grooming behavior can indicate a number of conditions, including fear, anxiety, obesity or other illnesses. An increase increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem.
Signs of stress
Your cat can fell stress despite having an “easy” life” Boredom and sudden changes are common causes in stress in cats. Stressed cats may demonstrate increase grooming and social interaction, spend more time awake and scanning the environment, hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression, and have an increase or decrease appetite.
Changes in vocalization
More common in older cats, increase vocalization or howling could be the sign of an underlying issue. Many cats also have increae vocalization if they are in pain or anxious.
Since dental disease is considered a silent disease, have your cat’s teeth check to help prevent it. An early sign of an oral health problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and regular veterinary dental exams are the best way to prevent bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs.
Here are questions that veterinary professionals are frequently asked about cats:
Q: I adopted a cat from the shelter. He’s been neutered, and my veterinarian thinks he’s about two years old. My problem is I want him to stay inside and be a housecat, but he keeps crying until I let him out. What can I do?
A: Your cat was probably allowed outside before you adopted him. However, if you continue to let him outside, he’s not going to make the transition to becoming an indoor cat. Practice a little tough love and do your best to keep him inside. After all, it’s in his best interest because he will likely live a much longer, healthier life. Try making the indoors more stimulating by having play sessions, cat toys and providing a window perch where he can safely enjoy the outside. Over time he will probably adapt and become the indoor kitty you want.
Q: My 15-year-old cat used to lick his hair and keep himself very neat and clean. Lately, I’ve found some mats on him, and he doesn’t seem to spend as much time taking care of himself. Should I be concerned?
A: There are often changes in grooming behavior as cats get older. It’s not uncommon for cats to put on a little weight as they age, and he may not be able to reach certain parts of his body. At his age, he may also have some arthritis limiting his mobility and making the grooming process painful. Any cat that stops grooming himself may be showing signs of illness and should have a veterinary exam.
Q: My cat has always been great about using his litter box, and he never has an accident. Lately, however, he has started going outside the litter box, not in it. Why is he doing this, and what can I do about it?
A: An abrupt change in your cat’s litter box behavior suggests there’s something going on with your cat. It is important to keep the litter box clean and to consider recent changes in location or type of litter used. There are several medical conditions associated with his change in behavior, including lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. It could also be a sign of arthritis, which makes it difficult for him to get into the litter box. Make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to uncover any medical conditions that could be affecting his elimination behavior.
Q: I recently got a new kitten from the shelter and my older cat is having trouble adjusting. He is hiding behind the couch, and bites and scratches me when I pick him up. Will this change eventually, and is there something I should do about it?
A: It takes most cats a while to adjust to a new household pet. Some cats may be fearful and show it by becoming a bit aggressive, some hide out and some just ignore the whole thing. Overall, all cats are somewhat stressed at any change in their environment. The veterinary professionals at your clinic are skilled in helping you work through behavior issues, just as they are experts in addressing medical problems. They can suggest some strategies that can keep everyone in the household happier.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association recommend a minimum of one annual wellness exam for cats, with more frequent exams for senior and geriatric patients, or those cats with medical or behavioral conditions
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