Signs of Cats Being Sick

Updated November 21, 2016

Cats can become sick due to something as simple as a cold or even a bacterial infection. Some cats may be sick because of a disease, and need to be treated immediately. There are certain diseases that can be passed from cat to human; therefore, extra precaution should be taken when dealing with a sick cat.


Cats like to sleep and take "cat naps" but are not supposed to be lethargic. If you notice unusual behaviour in your cat, call to make an appointment with your local veterinarian. Most cats, especially kittens, are playful and enjoy running around after toy mice or climbing on the back of chairs, sometimes even up curtains. A lethargic cat is a sure sign something is wrong and that the cat is sick. This may be something as simple as an upset stomach or perhaps a more serious issue that needs immediate attention.

Behaviour Changes

If a cat is suddenly urinating or relieving itself outside of the litter tray, this is a sign that the cat may be sick. The cat could have a urinary tract infection, diabetes, a kidney infection or some sort of blockage that may require possible surgery. If the cat suddenly starts hiding from you, or becomes anxious, take notice immediately. Perhaps you notice a change in the cat's energy level or if it is acting "spooked" by your presence, something may be wrong.


A sick cat will usually not drink water, which can create a serious issue, such as becoming dehydrated. This can lead to death if not treated. To check for dehydration, grasp the scruff of the cat and watch the reaction of the skin to determine if the cat is dehydrated. If the skin retracts swiftly to its normal stage, the cat is not dehydrated. However, if the skin retracts slowly, the cat is sick and could be dehydrated.

Bad Breath

Bad breath is a sign that the cat may be sick. It could be a variety of things such as an abscessed tooth, infected gums, or perhaps something more serious such as diabetes or liver failure. The colour of a cat's gums can also help show signs if the cat is sick. Pink gums are a good thing. White or bluish gums are not good and an appointment should be made with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Eyes and Nose

Eyes and noses can help detect signs of a sick cat. Discharge running from either place may indicate the cat has a cold or a bacterial infection. Medications can be prescribed for a common cold in a cat. If you notice there is an abnormal amount of discharge in the cat's eye, check the eye for foreign object matter. Dilated eyes or a third eyelid is a sign that the cat is sick and needs to be seen immediately.

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