Pet Wellness Guides > 15 Symptoms of a Sick Cat - Pet Insurance Review

15 Symptoms of a Sick Cat

Posted: 08/16/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Behavior , Cat , Health problems

We never like to see our fur babies sick or in pain. That’s why it’s so important to recognize when they may be dealing with an illness. Because the sooner we can get them the care they need, the better their health outcomes. But cats are stoic and don’t necessarily make it obvious to us when they aren’t feeling well. That’s why it’s important to learn the symptoms of a sick cat.

symptoms of a sick cat

15 Sick Cat Symptoms

By the time most cat parents recognize something is wrong with their fur baby, the condition has been going on for quite some time. It’s important to pay close attention and observe your cat so you know when something is off. And any time you notice one or more of the following sick cat symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet.


Many cats have a tendency to throw up every once in a while. It might be from a furball or because they ate too fast. But should you notice your cat has been throwing up more frequently, it definitely warrants a trip to the vet.

Loss of Appetite

Any change in appetite is something to pay attention to. Cats have less of an appetite when they have the equivalent of a “cat cold.” But should they continue to not want to eat, it may point to something more concerning going on. If you notice this, definitely call your vet immediately to make an appointment. If cats don’t eat much or anything for even just a couple of days, it can lead to a very serious problem called fatty liver or hepatic lipidosis.

Increased Appetite

Just as a lack of appetite can be a symptom of a sick cat, suddenly eating more than usual may also be cause for concern. A sudden increase in appetite, especially in older cats, can point to hyperthyroidism as well as parasites and even intestinal lymphoma. In any case, an abnormal increase in appetite should not be ignored. 


Diarrhea can be a symptom of many different health issues going on, including an infection and possible parasites. Left untreated, a cat can become quickly dehydrated from diarrhea. If your cat has been having loose stools for more than a day, schedule an appointment with your vet and bring in a stool sample for testing. 

symptoms of a sick cat

Increased Thirst

A sudden increase in thirst can mean many things in different cats. Most of the time, increased thirst points to either kidney disease or diabetes. If you notice your cat drinking more, you should definitely make an appointment to see your vet. 

Changes in Urination

If a cat begins drinking more water, it stands to reason they will also begin to urinate more frequently. Again, this increased urination will be an indicator of things like kidney disease or diabetes.

You may sometimes notice your cat is peeing outside of the box. Many cat parents assume this is a behavioral issue and they scold their cats for doing so. But cats often pee outside of the litter box to show us that something is not right health-wise.

If you notice your cat is straining to pee or has blood in their urine, this is another symptom that something is very wrong and they should be seen by a vet immediately

Weight Changes

Both gaining and losing weight can be a sign of an underlying health issue. Sudden weight loss is seen as more of an urgent issue whereas weight gain is something that can be harmful over time. In either case, if you have not changed your cat’s food or the amount they eat and you notice they seem to have gained or lost weight, it’s a good idea to get them in for a checkup.


Is your cat playing less and sleeping more? Do they seem to lack energy? Cats of all ages tend to sleep a lot throughout the day. But if you notice your cat just seems extra lethargic and not their normal self, it warrants a trip to the vet to get them checked out. 

sick cat symptoms

Changes in Breathing

Breathing difficulties point to something serious going on with your cat. Never ignore shortness of breath, panting, wheezing, or raspy breathing. Get them to your vet – or if they have no appointments available – to an ER clinic immediately

Increased Vocalization

Cats are stoic and do their best to not show pain or illness. So when your cat starts vocalizing more, they are at the point where they are actively trying to tell you something is wrong. Never ignore crying or incessant meowing. 

Discharge From Eyes or Nose

Sometimes our cats have a day or two where they sneeze and then their “cold” goes away on its own. But sometimes that cold can turn into something more serious. Should your cat show any colored discharge in their eyes or nose, it is a symptom of an upper respiratory infection. If not treated, this can become serious over a matter of days, so do not ignore it.

Bad Breath

Our fur babies’ mouths don’t necessarily smell like roses, particularly after they’ve eaten stinky fishy food. But in general, their breath shouldn’t smell horrendous. Mild bad breath may indicate your cat needs a professional teeth cleaning. Severe halitosis may represent another issue going on such as kidney or liver issues. In any case, any bad breath that doesn’t seem normal should be checked out.

Changes in Behavior

Cats that are sick tend to show changes in their behavior and personality. A cat that is usually very affectionate may suddenly not want to cuddle or be touched. They may act more aggressive toward you or other pets in the home. A cat that is normally confident and happy may suddenly act more afraid. If these changes cannot be linked to a specific event (fireworks or being chased by a new neighborhood dog) they should not be ignored. They can definitely point to a potential health crisis. 

sick cat symptoms

Limping or Trouble Making Jumps

Any mobility issues deserve investigation from your vet. It may be that your older cat is developing arthritis or your younger cat injured itself missing a jump. 

Swelling or Lumps

Never ignore any swelling or lumps that have formed. It may be a sign of cancer or that an abscess has formed. Should swelling not resolve on its own in a day or two, or if your cat pulls away because of pain, take them to the vet.

Pet Insurance Can Help You Take the Best Care of Your Fur Baby

We never like to see our pets sick. We also don’t like being hit with a large vet bill we weren’t prepared for. But that’s how life works sometimes – it throws us curve balls we didn’t see coming.

Pet insurance helps you pay for costly vet bills when your cat is sick or injured. Plans start as low as $19 a month and some will even cover 90% – 100% of the bill.

Don’t be caught off guard, take two minutes to get a free, customized quote from some of the top insurance providers in the country.

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  1. “Recognizing the Signs of Illness in Cats”
  2. ‘how to Tell if Your Cat is Sick”
  3. “5 signs Your Cat is sick”



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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