Cats can be extremely stoic & if they are feeling unwell they tend to hide it well. Therefore it is up to you to be aware of subtle (or not so subtle) changes in your cat which may require veterinary attention.
Always be observant. You should be aware of eating habits, toileting, behavior, sleeping, weight & general wellbeing. If you notice any changes, no matter how subtle it should be checked out with the vet. The earlier problems are caught, the better the chance of recovery. If you are in any doubt about taking your cat to the vet it is ALWAYS better to err on the side of caution & seek help. Never wait & see because delaying medical attention may prolong suffering & mean that a sickness or injury is all the harder to treat.
Anorexia (refusal to eat):
It may not seem a big deal if your cat refuses food, after all he will eat if he becomes hungry enough, right? No, this is not the case. When a cat loses his appetite it can lead to a serious condition known as hepatic lipidosis (or fatty liver disease) which is life threatening. Loss of appetite can also just be a vague sign that your cat is not well. Some medical conditions which may cause your cat to lose his appetite include;
Bacterial infection (Bordetella)
Dental or mouth pain (gingivitis, tooth abscess, stomatitis)
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Haemobartonellosis (Feline Infectious Anemia)
Injury or trauma
Ingestion of poison
Neoplasia (abnormal cell growth)
New or unpalatable diet
As you can see, there is quite an extensive list of possible causes & this is by no means a complete list.
Unsteady, wobbly gait, walking in circles. This can have many possible causes including:
Middle ear problems
Nervous system disorders
Muscular skeletal damage
Weakness & anemia
Bad breath is a sign there is a dental problem. Any dental problems need veterinary attention before they progress to something worse. Possible causes include;
Cancers of the mouth
Bleeding of any sort should be checked out.
Seek veterinary care if you notice panting, wheezing, coughing, suffering shortness of breath. There are many causes of breathing difficulty including;
No matter how mild, any burns should be checked.
Change in toileting habits:
Changes such as urinating more or less often, straining to go to the toilet, toileting in inappropriate places. There are many reasons why your cat's toileting habits may have changed, all warranting investigation by your veterinarian. Some causes are fairly benign such as dirty litter tray, others have more serious causes, some reasons include;
Urinary tract infection
Coughing isn't seen as often in cats as it is in dogs but it always warrants further investigation. Possible causes include;
Diarrhea lasting more than 12 hours or if it is blood or mucous tinged or accompanied by other signs of sickness.
Diarrhea in kittens is especially worrysome as they can become dehydrated so quickly. Urgent veterinary attention is necessary.
Even if your cat appears to be well after the incident, you should still seek veterinary attention.
Scratching may not appear to be a serious problem but it needs to be seen to. Possible causes of scratching include;
Another indicator that there is a potential problem is if your cat begins to drink more. There are many possible causes for this including;
Ingestion of toxic substance (including plants, medications, poisons):
Your cat may look okay, but the toxin could be causing irreversible damage, so veterinary attention is urgent.
Lameness & Limping:
May not appear to be serious but there are many causes of lameness & limping in cats.
Sudden weight loss or gain:
There are too many possible causes of weight loss & gain to list fully. Some more common causes include;
Pregnancy & lactation
Any eye changes need to be seen by a veterinarian. These include minor or serious injury, change in eye colour, discharge, weeping, redness. Any eye problems are serious & could lead to blindness if not treated promptly.
Bleeding from the nose
Any discharge from the nose
If you notice or suspect your cat has ingested something toxic medical attention should be sought immediately.
Fortunately these are relatively uncommon in cats but if you suspect your cat has had a seizure veterinary attention is vital.
This is something else you may notice from time to time, and the occasional sneeze is relatively harmless, but if your cat is sneezing frequently, it is accompanied by mucus or your cat displays other signs of sickness, seek veterinary care immediately.
Possible causes include;
Upper respiratory infection (either caused by a virus or bacteria). This is the most common cause of sneezing in cats.
Irritants (cigarette smoke, dust etc)
Foreign object (grass seed etc)
Straining to go to the toilet:
Straining to go to the toilet can be mistaken for constipation, but a far more serious cause is FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease), which can lead to the cat becoming completely blocked & unable to urinate. Straining in the litter tray is always cause for concern & urgent veterinary attention necessary.
Any discharge from the vagina is abnormal & must be attended to immediately. Possible causes include;
All cats vomit from time to time & generally this is normal. You should seek medical attention if your cat vomits several times within an hour, the vomit contains blood, mucus or if your cat is also displaying other signs of sickness.
Vomiting in kittens should be investigated immediately.
Birth & post natal problems:
Fever after the birth
Suddenly neglecting the kittens
Because summer is approaching from: http://cats.about.com/cs/catmanageme...heatstroke.htm
You know the drill: the sun is blinding, relentlessly beating down reminiscent of a Stephen King novel. If you don't have air conditioning, you seek out shady spots and sigh in relief from the slightest breeze, otherwise you huddle inside. Your thirsty body craves fluids, and the beverage of choice suddenly becomes water. If you stay in the sun too long you may become dizzy, have heart palpitations, and increased internal temperature, all signs of impending heat exhaustion.
Consider this: before you ever reach that point, your cat may also be showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Although heat stroke is more commonly discussed in dogs, because of people's propensity to leave them in parked cars, cats can be affected too. Cats can't always tell you they're not feeling up to par, but they sure can show you. Early symptoms of heat stroke and the accompanying dehydration are:
Anxiety, possibly demonstrated by pacing
Respiratory distress or hyperventilation (Breeds with flat noses may exhibit this earlier because of compromised airways.)
Dark red gums
Increased internal body temperature Your cat's internal temperature should be between 100.5° and 101.5° F. A temperature of 104° or more is a definite warning sign. Here's how to take kitty's temperature.
How to Help Your Cat Avoid Heatstroke
You can help your cat survive extremely hot weather by keeping him indoors in a cool interior room. Rubbing him down with a damp towel will help; so will immersing his feet in a tub of cool water. Wrapping a cold compress under the cat's neck will also help cool him off. He may fight at first, but most likely will appreciate it once he gets used to the idea. Try wrapping a plastic bag of frozen peas in a towel, and placing in in his bed for a cool spot to lie. The peas will rearrange themselves to fit his contours and he'll have a "custom spa" for cooling off.
Make sure he has several bowls of cool water available. It doesn't hurt to drop an ice cube in once in awhile, not only to cool the water, but to pique kitty's interest in drinking. Strangely enough, cats affected by external heat may refuse to drink water, exacerbating the problem of dehydration, so you may want to "force" water by using an eyedropper or syringe. Be careful not to shoot the water down his throat as it can enter his lungs and/or cause choking. Just dribble a drop or two at a time in the corner of his mouth, which will help hydrate him and draw his interest to drinking on his own.
If your cat exhibits any of the signs above that lead you to think he is suffering heat exhaustion, cool him down as quickly as possible by immersing him in cool water, and then wrapping him with wet towels. Then get him to the veterinarian immediately. This is a serious, potentially fatal condition.
White cats, or cats with white ears and faces, are particularly susceptible to sunburn. Over a period of time, exposure to the sun can cause squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer found most often on the tips of the ears and nose. Early signs are a sore that does not heal, or that bleeds. My own introduction to squamous cell carcinoma was with our beloved little white cat, Arthur, who died of it at 18 years. Because of her age, we were reluctant to allow either surgery or chemotherapy, the two treatments of choice, and she passed on about three months after being diagnosed.
White cats should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible, and if they must be in the sun, you can help them prevent sunburn by using a sunscreen on their ears and noses. Your veterinarian can recommend one which will not be harmful if ingested.
The sun is a powerful giver of life and still worshipped by people all over the world, but it is not always your cat's best friend. Be aware of his condition on sweltering summer days, and if you have any doubts at all, get him to the veterinarian immediately. You are the only defense he has.