Cats are stoic creatures and it is rare for them to show obvious signs of illness until they are very sick. This means we have to be on the lookout for subtle changes that are our feline friends’ red flags that something is amiss.
You can protect your cat by monitoring three key indicators of illness at home. All three are easy – and objective – ways to catch problems early and help your pet live a long, healthy life.
It is not normal for your cat’s weight to change if her diet does not change. If your pet is gaining or losing weight, this is cause for concern, always. Many internal diseases lead to weight changes, from diabetes and kidney disease to hyperthyroidism and heart disease.
The easiest way to monitor your cat’s weight? Weigh her! You don’t need the fancy scale from the vet office to do a good job, just your normal digital scale for weighing yourself.
Weigh yourself holding your cat, then without, and take the difference. This is usually a pretty accurate measure of your cat’s weight (and, unfortunately, of our own!).
So what is concerning? A 10% change, either up or down, is worrisome. While for many cats that may be as little as 0.5 lbs, think about it in terms of your own health – if you changed nothing in your life (I’m looking at you, my late night brownie snacks!) and lost 18 lbs, it would be pretty darn concerning.
Try weighing your cat on a weekly or monthly basis. If you notice a trend up or down, it’s a good time to come in for a checkup. We can help suss out if there are any environmental reasons for the change, or whether further investigation is warranted.
As a general rule, cats don’t drink that much. They’re desert creatures by nature, so they are used to running a little on the dry side. Many owners have never even seen their cat drink water!
If you notice your cat’s interest in drinking suddenly or gradually increasing, take note. It may be time to check some basic blood and urine values to see if this is the first sign of larger issues.
Sometimes increased thirst is obvious – your cat may be draining the bowl and meowing for more constantly – and sometimes it is more subtle. Some cats will start drinking out of new water sources (toilets, your water cup, the bathroom and kitchen taps) in addition to their bowls, or may simply drink a larger portion of the water normally provided.
The good news is that most illnesses that lead to increased thirst are readily treated. Even better, if they are caught when increased thirst is the main symptom, there may be the opportunity to reverse or slow the disease progression.
3. Litter Box Activity
Elimination habits (urinating and defecating, or peeing and pooping for the straight shooters out there) are often one of the first things to change when cats develop new conditions.
Before you purchase a Nest camera to keep 24/7 watch over the kitty throne, try making a daily mental note of the following:
Cats should defecate every 12-24 hours. Longer intervals, especially if they are common, indicate problems with constipation.
If your cat’s bowel movements are spaced every 36-48 hours or longer, it is worth bringing to your vet’s attention as this is classed as “sub clinical” constipation and may indicate early stages of a kidney or thyroid condition.
- How much is your cat peeing?
Note both frequency and volume. If there’s an increase in either (think going to the box 20 times a day instead of 4, or giant clumps in the litter compared to the previous norm), let your vet know.
If your cat is suddenly going to the box many times a day, but you aren’t finding anything in it, that’s cause for immediate action as it could indicate a critical infection or severe constipation.
- What does the box looks like?
Is there any blood? Rock hard or mushy stools? Is your cat missing the box and leaving gifts just outside of it?
Each of these changes are indications of varying treatable conditions. When in doubt, take a picture! We vets don’t shy away from important details of your cat’s bathroom habits.
You are your cat’s best champion and your veterinarian’s best diagnostic tool.
By monitoring these three simple indicators – weight, litter box habits, and thirst – you will be able to catch concerns early and keep your pet healthy for as long as possible!