There is a reason “it’s like herding cats” is a popular figure of speech when a task is extraordinarily difficult. Cats can be unpredictable and challenging to wrangle. Like all animals, their nature varies greatly from cat to cat, but generally the species is regarded for its fierce independence and self-sufficiency. Their spunky spirit and adorable demeanor have made them a beloved pet in homes across the globe for centuries.
Independence is what many cat owners love about their feline companions. But in the same vein, it can present challenges when monitoring your animals’ overall health. Cat owners can easily miss subtle signs of distress, which can allow medical conditions to compound and become serious. How can you tell if your cat is in pain and needs veterinary care? Our on-site veterinarian, Dr. Manspeaker, has recommendations for you.
Animal ownership requires careful attention to habits. You have to understand what’s normal for your animal to determine when behaviors change. When you first adopt your cat, carefully monitor their habits – from how often and where they sleep to how much they eat and drink. Understanding your cat’s normal movements and patterns can help you better identify when something is wrong.
Dr. Manspeaker recommends setting mealtimes for dogs and cats. While free feeding (leaving food out throughout the day) is convenient for cat owners, it can make it more challenging to determine when and how much your cat is eating. Set mealtimes and make mental notes of your cats’ eating habits. Changes in appetite – either overeating or eating less – can both indicate potential signs of distress. Similarly, monitor how much water your cat is drinking. If they’re insatiably lapping up water or ignoring their bowl like the plague, you should consult your veterinarian.
If eating patterns don’t change, changes in litter box habits should be called into question. If your cat is urinating more or less frequently, this can be a sign of an underlying health issue. Make it a habit to not only clean your litter box regularly, but take stock of what is normal for your cat. This can be more challenging for animal owners with multiple cats or indoor/outdoor cats. We always recommend keeping animals indoors and litter box training them for this health-centered reason.
Is your cat an avid climber? One of the joys of cat companionship is watching how effortlessly they leap and scale their cat trees and your furniture. Active cats that suddenly stop jumping, climbing or moving quickly could be experiencing internal pain or another type of injury. Watch this behavior over a day or two and contact your veterinarian if the behavior persists.
Some cats are super cuddly, others choose to be alone. Regardless of your cat’s preference, make note of extended periods of isolation relative to their baseline. If you catch them curled up in an unusual spot, look for mouth breathing – a telltale sign of distress in cats. Similarly, if they look agitated and ruffled rather than restful, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Did you know that cats in heat are often mistaken for cats in distress? The Humane Society spays and neuters all of its cats before they enter their forever homes for both health benefits and reducing animal homelessness in our community. To eliminate confusion in your home and to contribute to responsible animal ownership, we encourage all cat owners to spay or neuter their cats.