Top 5 Signs of Sickness in Cats

close up face of grey cat

Has your cat been a bit “off” lately? Have you been wondering, “Are these signs my cat is sick?” Well, the topic of this article relates to typical signs you might see in a sick cat. One thing that I would like to point out first is that cats are quite good at hiding their symptoms. So, once a feline starts to show signs of sickness, it may have been feeling unwell for longer than you realize. Most of the common signs that a cat is sick are considered non-specific; meaning that they may require some investigation to help sort out why the cat is sick. In my experience, the most common signs of a sick cat are as follows:


Vomiting is one of the most common signs of a sick cat. Many people believe that it is normal for their pet to vomit on a regular basis. That is not accurate. Any type of vomiting is abnormal for cats. Vomiting can be a sign of many types of sickness in cats, which can range in severity. It can be related to digestion issues, allergies, organ failure, neurological disease, pain, gastrointestinal disorders and infection from viruses, bacteria and/or parasites. Toxin ingestion is another cause of vomiting. If you believe your cat has ingested poison,have the cat examined right away.For more information on this, see our blog post:Cats Vomiting – Is it normal? What Causes it?

Lethargic or Hiding

Lethargy, or lack of energy, can be one of the signs of a cat being sick. Lethargy often goes along with fever and/or pain. Cats will also hide when they feel ill, as an evolutionary way to help protect themselves. Felines in the wild are prey to other animals, and so if cats show outward signs of sickness it puts them at risk. Our domestic felines have kept that trait, and so a cat who is in pain or not feeling well may still feel the need to hide for protection.


Diarrhea is one of the more common signs of a sick cat. It is related to many illnesses including gastro-intestinal disorders, food allergies or intolerances, organ dysfunction, bacterial infections, viral infections and parasites. Diarrhea comes in many forms but should be considered a sign of a sick cat anytime there is a loose, liquid or mucous covered stool, or if the animal is producing stool more frequently than normal. Make a point of checking your cat’s stool when cleaning the litter box, as the changes may be subtle. If you want more information on this, read our blog post:Cat and Dog, Diarrhea and Vomiting.

Changes in Drinking and/or Urination Habits

Increased or decreased drinking can be a sign that your cat is sick. When a cat stops drinking it can be an indication of nausea or fever, and will lead to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to other problems, so your cat should have aveterinary examif it stops drinking. Diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease are just some of the common diseases that we see that cause increased thirst. Along with increased thirst, we will often see increased urination. If your cat is urinating more frequently, it can be an indication of urinary tract disease and should beassessed by your veterinarian.If your cat is unable to urinate, it is amedical emergency and the cat needs to be examinedimmediately. These cats will go to the litter box frequently and vocalize, or sometimes be found lying in it.

Changes in Weight and/or Eating Habits

Weight change can be another sign of sickness in cats. Diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, hyperthyroidism and parasite infection are just a few of the diseases that can affect their weight. It is also important to take notice of any changes in the amount of food your cat is eating. If there is a sudden or dramatic change in the daily amount of food he or she is consuming, it may be a sign of your cat being sick. Weight gain can also predispose cats to specific diseases, so maintaining ahealthy weight in your cat is important to prevent illness.

What To Do if Your Cat has Signs it is Sick

These are the top 5 signs of cat sickness that we see in our practice. It is not an exclusive list of symptoms, but some of the more common ones. If you are wondering whether your cat is sick, or if it is experiencing these symptoms, pleasemake an appointment to have your cat examined.

– Dr. Lia Morley