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28–31 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Kitten

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Six Subtle Signs of Illness to Look for in Your Kitten

Don’t let it show: That’s the cardinal rule for sick cats. A cat’s instinct drives her to hide any signs of illness and injury until she simply can’t do so any longer. By that point, your cat may be in a life-or-death battle. As an observant cat caretaker, you can detect the following signs of sickness before she reaches that critical state.

  1. Change in energy level. Healthy cats generally sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, so this symptom may slip under the radar unless you get to know your cat’s sleep habits. If she’s sleeping during a time when she’s normally awake and playful, if she doesn’t react normally to a favorite toy, or if she stops seeking affection as usual, this lethargy could signal an illness.

  2. Change in eating or drinking habits. An ill cat will eat less or stop eating entirely. Cats with illnesses such as diabetes will drink a lot of water. If your cat is having difficulty chewing, chewing with one side of her mouth, or suddenly refuses to eat kibble, she may have a dental problem or a mouth tumor. Keep track of how much your cat normally eats and drinks so that you’ll notice a change.

  3. Change in litter box habits. If your cat starts urinating a lot more, if she starts running back and forth to the liter box and straining to urinate, or if she suddenly begins urinating or defecating outside the box, call your vet. Urination problems in particular can be signs of life-threatening illness, particularly in male cats, so don’t delay in seeking veterinary attention.

  4. Change in behavior. If your cat starts hiding a lot, if she’s acting aggressive when she’s usually calm, or vice versa, she may be ill. Aggressiveness when touched can indicate pain, and hiding is a natural instinct for sick or injured cats.

  5. Change in weight. You may not even notice this sign if your cat has long hair. However, if you groom your cat regularly, you may notice that her ribs or hips stick out a little bit more than usual, or that she’s starting to develop a belly pouch. Weight changes can be very subtle even with short-haired cats because gradual changes are very hard for people to detect. A sudden loss or gain of one pound is about 10 percent of a cat’s body weight, and that’s a big deal. The Purina Body Condition Scale is a good resource if you’re wondering whether your cat is too skinny or too fat.

  6. Change in grooming habits. Cats are normally fastidious groomers, so if your cat’s fur is starting to look greasy or unkempt, or if she’s starting to get mats, that could be a sign that she’s not feeling well. Excessive grooming can also be a sign of skin infection, parasites such as fleas, or underlying pain.

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