Unless there is an obvious trauma or visible injury, the first sign of illness is usually lethargy, followed by the inner eyelid remaining visible when the cat’s eye is fully open. Watch out for changes in routine behaviours, lack of appetite, not wanting to play, or wanting to shy away and stay very still. Any lameness, tenderness, diarrhoea, or sickness are clear indicators of a problem and you should take the kitten to the vet immediately. Don’t wait a couple of days to see if things improve – they invariably won’t and a simple problem can become critical (and significantly more expensive to resolve) without you realising it. Don’t take any chances as any problem in a kitten can be fatal far more quickly than in an adult cat. Take pictures on your phone of any thing you’re concerned about to show the vet (but do remember this when you hand over your phone to show someone a picture only to find them browsing your litter tray gallery!)
Be VERY careful in seeking information about illness or medical conditions online. There is simply too much bad information out there, or well-meaning advice from well-meaning people that don’t know what they are really talking about, especially in pet forums. One of the very best sources of online advice is http://icatcare.org/.
More Detail on Recognising Illness
The following is a list of signs that typically indicate a problem. It’s not exhaustive – trust your instinct – if the cat looks ill, take it to the vet as soon as possible but try to note down as much information as possible about their behaviours.
- Diarrhoea, especially if it is very liquid, foul smelling or blood streaked. If blood is seen in the urine, this is also an indication of a problem, as is excessive straining or cries of pain when the cat tries to relieve itself.
- Discharge from the nose or eyes, if excessive, needs veterinary attention. This may be due to blocked tear ducts or infection.
- Repeated vomiting. All cats are sick occasionally after eating grass or sometimes after eating too much, but repeated vomiting is not normal.
- Wheezing sounds when breathing or any other signs of breathing difficulties
- Excessive scratching. All cats will have a good scratch on a regular basis but excessive scratching indicates a skin problem, especially if it has created sores or lesions.
- Constant rubbing of the rear end along the ground.
- Bald patches, lesions, cuts and swellings on the body, legs, tail or face.
- The coat seems to lack bounce or life, and is dull, or has a noticeable amount of dandruff or flaky skin in it.
- The cat is listless and lethargic, showing little interest in what is going on around it.
- The eyes have a glazed look to them, or the third eyelid is across at any time and clearly visible (except for a few moments after waking).
- The cat is displaying an unusual lack of interest in its favourite food.
- The gums seem very red or swollen, or the cat is pawing at its mouth except for usual cleaning of the face.
- Any fits or other abnormal signs of behaviour.
- Any obvious pain or distress.
Call us if you need advice but invariably the advice will be to visit the vet as soon as possible, so you might as well do that straight away and keep risk to a minimum as a result. Please do keep us informed of any problems, and if you have any questions we’ll do our best to answer them or find someone to help answer them together.