When we think of cats in the wild, we think of them as predators and tend to forget that our domestic cats were also pretty tasty prey, once upon a time. Because “only the strong survive”, cats have been genetically programmed to hide signs of illness for as long as possible and when they finally succumb to their illnesses, they tend to literally hide from us. For this reason, it can be pretty tricky to determine if our beloved feline friends are as healthy as they appear to be; thus the importance of the ‘annual exam’.
The following are some behavioural changes that can be warning signs that your pet is not well:
Change in eating habits
You should be aware of how much your cat eats each day. If you have more than one cat in the household or if you ‘free-feed’ this can be difficult. Make a conscious effort to see each of your cats at the food dish daily. If your cat goes more than a day without eating, or if he/she seems to be voraciously hungry (without weight gain) this can be cause for concern.
Change in litter-box habits
If your cat has never had an issue in the past, and all of a sudden starts urinating or defecating outside the litter box, there is a good chance that he/she is not feeling well and not just “bad”. Pain (arthritis), diabetes, bladder infection, thyroid conditions, kidney issues and even stress are just some of the conditions that can cause litter box issues. I always tell clients: a cat peeing on the floor is his/her way of telling you there is something wrong!
Change in drinking habits
You should be aware of how much your cat drinks or at least how often. Drinking more or less can be signs of illness. If you suspect there is a change, check how many pee-clumps are in the litter to see if there is a correlation or change in size of the clumps. A typical sized pee-clump should be about the size of a clementine.
Change in grooming
Cats are fastidious groomers and often an unkempt coat can be the first and only sign of illness. Sudden appearance of dander or mats should be a warning sign that your cat is not feeling well.
Change in voice
If your cat is more vocal than usual, less vocal, or his/her voice just sounds off, this can be signs of an underlying condition.