Concerning Behavior Changes to Watch Out for When it Comes to Your Cat’s Health
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on July 26, 2018
Posted in Behavior Management
Cats are creatures of habit. They tend to fall into routines, doing the same types of things day in and day out, and they prefer to keep it that way. So if your cat suddenly begins acting against the norm, it should put up some red flags.
Cats don’t have the ability to tell us when something is wrong or they are feeling sick. Instead, they usually start to change their behavior. Perhaps your cat starts eating less or sleeping even longer throughout the day. Usually, when your cat has a rapid change in behavior, they have an underlying physical or mental health problem. Your furry friend may be stressed or depressed, or it may be suffering from pain or a disease that could threaten its wellbeing.
In order to notice these behavioral changes, you need to understand how your cat normally acts and then monitor the new changes. This requires close attention to your cat at all times—without a baseline understanding of your feline friends, you’ll have no way of knowing what’s normal and what’s not!
The following are the most common and dangerous behavioral changes to watch out for in cats.
Aside from minor changes in appetite that might occur with age, your cat’s eating habits should not be changing rapidly overnight. Sudden changes in the amount of food eaten, the pace at which it eats and the type of food it will or won’t eat is often cause for alarm.
If your kitty is suddenly eating a lot of food and not gaining weight, they may have hyperthyroidism or diabetes. If they suddenly have no appetite or eat less than normal, the change might be due to stress, a dental problem and tooth pain or an underlying disease.
Changes in water consumption habits are also cause for concern. If your cat is suddenly lapping up water constantly, it may be suffering from diabetes or kidney disease. If it is hardly drinking anything, this is extremely dangerous since it can easily get dehydrated.
Appetite changes can be serious, so take your cat to the vet as soon as possible, especially if it is also losing weight, is lethargic, vomiting or has diarrhea.
Cats spend a large portion of their lives sleeping, but lethargic cats may not move much or emerge from their resting place at all during the day. If your cat is suddenly sleeping a lot more than usual or is increasingly lethargic, something might be wrong, and you should take it to the vet. Depression and illness are two major causes here. There is a chance your cat is just getting lazy, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Interaction and aggression
If your cat is normally relaxed and friendly around other animals, adults and children, but suddenly becomes aggressive, it may be a big sign that something is wrong. Cats might begin to hiss, swat, scratch or bite people due to fear or painful trauma. It may also just start to hide more and not want to interact with people.
Changes in the cat’s environment may also be the cause of the newfound aggression or lack of social interaction. If these is a new pet or family member, or you recently moved or even rearranged furniture, your cat may be stressed. You’ll need to work to identify the cause of this stress and eliminate or help your cat adapt to it. Using calming supplements may help your cat relax and return to its normal social behavior.
Cats use grooming as a form of self-nurture. If they are grooming excessively, they may even cause bald spots or wounds on the skin. Excess grooming likely means your cat is stressed or anxious. It may also have irritation on the skin from fleas, infections or allergies.
Changes where your cat is not grooming at all, or not grooming in certain areas, might indicate it has mobility problems that prevent it from grooming, or it might be depressed or sick.
Urinating and defecating
Your cat should be using its litter box for all excretions. Keeping the litter box location and litter type consistent will help your cat maintain consistency. If your cat is suddenly peeing or pooping outside the litter box, there are a few different things that might be happening.
It may be trying to tell you something about the litter box itself, whether it is related to its location, the litter type or how full it is. However, this may also be a sign that your cat is quite sick. Urinary tract infections or parasites can cause these types of problems, so don’t hesitate to take your cat into the vet.
Consistency is the key to cat health
Whenever your cat begins to change the way it acts, no matter if it relates to sleep, eating or grooming, you should be on alert and make an appointment to see the vet as soon as you can. Cats are not the type to rapidly change behaviors, so any sudden change is usually an indicator of poor or failing health. With close attention and quick action, though, you can get your cat healthy and acting normally in no time.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan