Cats can’t tell us when they’re hurt, sick, or scared, so how do we know when they need our help? Fortunately, it doesn’t take long being around a cat before you begin to decipher its body language naturally. But beyond that, there are several common cat red flags that mean your action is required to help your furbaby out. Being familiar with these signs will help you keep them happy and healthy. We identify the red flags in this article and how to comfort your fur baby.
Let’s get started!
How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Crying for Help?
Cats are pretty independent, but there are times when they may cry out for help. It’s essential to recognize the red flags indicating your cat is in distress. Without words, cats use a number of different ways to communicate with us that something is wrong. But you need to take notice and be able to put the pieces together to react quickly so your cat isn’t waiting for your help for too long.
Some of the most common ways cats send us warnings is through significant behavior changes. However, you need to know what their normal behavior is first to know when it changes. Examples of this include being unusually lethargic, withdrawn, or suddenly losing appetite. Excessive vocalization, such as meowing, growling, or yowling, that seems out of the ordinary can also be a sign of distress. Or they may exhibit physical symptoms like constant scratching or licking a specific area.
More obvious ones could be visible signs of injury or illness, such as limping, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. These could indicate that a feline cries for help and requires veterinarian care.
Let’s dive into some of the most common signs and why you really shouldn’t ignore them.
What Are Cat Red Flags?
Cat red flags are tell-tale signs from your cat that it is hurt, sick, scared, or otherwise stressed out. It’s important to pay attention to a cat’s behavior and physical signs to identify what is going on and remedy the problem as soon as possible. Let’s look at some common red flags that indicate a problem.
Excessive meowing or different vocalization than usual is a cat red flag. Sometimes felines meow a lot when they’re hungry or want attention, but something is likely wrong if it’s noticeably excessive. It may mean your cat is in pain, anxious, or frustrated. In the worst-case scenario, it could be a sign of a neurological problem, hearing or vision loss, or cognitive dysfunction.
Think about what may have happened around the time the excessive meowing started. Did something change in their environment? Did your work schedule change? Did someone new start hanging out around the home? Are they staring at you or listening to something in the distance? All of these can be clues to determining what is or isn’t causing the new behavior.
Difficulty urinating is another red flag. If you notice your cat frequently using the litter box but producing little to no urine, it might be a sign of urinary tract infection or blockage, which can be a serious medical condition.
Changes in Litter Box Habits
Changes in litter box habits in general can also indicate health problems or an injury. For example, if your cat hurts its leg, it may have difficulty getting into the litter box. Medical conditions can also cause a change in litter box behavior, such as a urinary tract infection, kidney problems, or diabetes. If you have a new cat in the home, they may be feeling vulnerable in the current cat box location and sought out a new safer spot.
Appetite or Drinking Changes
Appetite or drinking changes can be cat red flags, especially if they’re drastic changes. If your cat isn’t eating or drinking, contact the vet for an evaluation. Cats need to stay hydrated and can only survive two to three days without water, so intake is extremely important. If a cat refuses to drink water, something is undoubtedly wrong. It may be a medical condition or a sudden change in environment, such as a move or change in routine.
Also, know what felines can and can’t have. It’s not always obvious which table scraps might be harmful to them, as they can differ from dogs. For example, peanut butter isn’t necessarily harmful to all cats, but it’s not fit for all.
Vomiting or Diarrhea
If your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea, it’s cause for concern. The occasional puking up of a hairball or food isn’t necessarily a red flag, but if it happens consistently or frequently, there’s likely a medical problem. It may mean an simple adjustment of food is required, but it could be something more serious.
Diarrhea is also a sign of an issue, especially if there’s blood in the stools. The reason for diarrhea could stem from various issues, including parasites, viruses, liver disease, and food allergies. It can also be a result of excessive stress, like from major environmental changes. We recommend a vet visit if your cat has diarrhea to diagnose the cause.
Aggressive behavior and changes in sociability are also cat red flags. It could be a sign of illness or fear if your cat starts exhibiting unusual aggression, excessive hiding, excessive vocalization, restlessness, or withdrawal from social interactions. In addition, if your cat becomes uncharacteristically resistant to being touched or handled, it may be due to pain or discomfort.
Changes in Appearance or Energy Level
Changes in appearance or energy level are also signs something’s wrong with your cat. Cats typically groom themselves regularly. A sudden decrease in grooming or over-grooming in one area may indicate discomfort or stress. Dull or unkempt fur, loss of fur in patches, skin irritations, sores, or swelling should be investigated as they may indicate underlying health issues.
In addition, if your cat’s energy level is lower than normal, pay attention to observe any additional symptoms. While your cat’s energy is likely to change with age, sudden changes are cause for concern.
Suggested Reading: Why do some cats drool?
Do Cats Act Scared When They’re Sick?
When cats are sick, they might act scared. They’re instinctively adept at hiding their illnesses or pain, as it is a survival mechanism in the wild. So, they sometimes mask their symptoms and act normally to avoid appearing vulnerable to potential predators. However, this doesn’t mean cats are completely unaffected by what’s happening in their bodies.
Fear or anxiety may be amplified when a cat has discomfort or pain. A sick feline may also become abnormally skittish, hide, or avoid you.
You’ve probably also noticed cats showing signs of fear or distress when taken to the veterinarian. The unfamiliar environment, strange smells, and presence of other animals can trigger anxiety in pets. They might even exhibit defensive behaviors, such as hissing, growling, or attempting to escape, because the vet is a perceived threat. Try to provide calm and comfort when taking your sick cat to the vet to help keep them as unafraid as possible.
Suggested Reading: If your cat eats your hair, learn why and how to prevent it.
How Do You Comfort a Sick Cat?
When comforting a sick cat, it’s important to create a calm and soothing environment for them. Start by providing a quiet space where it can rest undisturbed away from other pets in the house. Provide a soft and cozy bed or blanket for it to lie on. Also, keep fresh water nearby to keep your fur baby hydrated.
Gentle physical contact is often soothing for a sick cat. Just be sure to approach it carefully, especially if it’s acting skittish. Let your cat initiate contact and avoid forcing any interaction. Some felines prefer to be left alone when they’re sick, while others may seek extra attention. Observe your cat’s body language and respond accordingly.
We also recommend maintaining a consistent daily routine when your cat is unwell. For example, minimize sudden changes or disruptions in their environment. It’s also helpful to keep noise levels low so they can sleep uninterrupted.
In addition, if you notice any concerning symptoms or if your cat’s condition worsens, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. A professional can provide specific guidance on how to comfort and care for your sick cat based on its unique situation.
Suggested Reading: Does your cat get the hiccups? Learn why and what to do about it.
Know Cat Red Flags to Get Your Fur Baby the Help It Needs
Knowing these cat red flags so you can help your fur baby quickly. Since felines can’t say how they feel to us, it’s our job to evaluate their behavior and any changes from their norm. It may take some detective work, but they’re counting on us to put the pieces together and find out what’s going on. Regular veterinarian check-ups can help you get a baseline for your cat so you are more equipped to identify red flags if they arise.
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