Symptoms of cat sickness and need for veterinarian care

Updated November 21, 2016

Cats, like dogs and other animals, get sick from time to time. There is a difference between a cat feeling a little bit under the weather, and a cat being seriously ill. As a cat owner, it is crucial that you understand this difference. You should be able to recognise the symptoms of a serious illness in a cat, and you should know when symptoms necessitate a visit to the vet.


A fever can be a symptom of a general cold, or it can be a symptom of a serious illness. Cats might run low grade fevers after shots, or even after having lots of stress or being injured. When a cat is running a fever, his nose will be dry and his mouth might also be dry. He might shiver or be lethargic. A rectal thermometer will show a reading over 38.9 degrees C but less than 40.6 degrees C.

If the fever lasts for more than a few hours, or if it rises above 40.6 degrees C, seek veterinary care immediately. Your cat might have a serious condition and should be examined by a vet so treatment can be provided.


Lethargy is a symptom of a fever in cats, but can also be a symptom of a more serious sickness. A cat who is lethargic doesn't feel like playing or running around, and might not come to you when you call. The biggest indication of lethargy is a cat that is simply "not himself." Cats can be lethargic for many reasons. It might be warm and they might be full, and feeling lazy. They might also be grumpy with you for changes in their routine, or pouting because they don't like a new companion.

If your cat's lethargy is accompanied by a high fever, refusal to eat, or obvious pain when you do see him move, or if the lethargy lasts for more than three days, take your cat to the vet for a check up.

Not Eating or Drinking

Some cats will refuse to eat or drink during certain changes in their life, or if things aren't as they usually are. Some cats will only eat or drink a little bit, so it might appear to an owner that a cat isn't eating or drinking. Not eating or drinking is a serious symptom, but can be hard to diagnose because of variables. Your cat could be eating a tiny amount, or could be catching mice and isn't interested in cat food. He could be drinking out of the toilet, or catching drops from the faucet. Some cats eat or drink only once a day.

If you are absolutely sure that your cat is not eating or drinking, take him to a vet right away. This could indicate a serious condition, illness, or even injury. Again, make sure that you know for sure he is not eating or drinking for at least a 24 hour period.

Urnination Problems

Almost all cats that have lived inside for their lives are going to be fully litter box trained. Cats do not typically urinate where they eat or where they relax. If your cat is urinating or defecating in his food dish, on your bed, or in other places that he shouldn't be, he might be sick enough to require a vet. Check to be sure that he has had access to the litter box and that you haven't made any drastic changes to his litter. If he is still having difficulties, make an appointment with your vet.

Behvavior Changes

When you love your cat, you get used to him behaving a certain way. Some cats will change their behaviour as they get older, when you move, or when someone else moves in. Another animal in the home, a new baby, or differences in your own behaviour will also change your cat's behaviour. However, if your cat has a sudden change in behaviour and none of the other reasons for behaviour change apply, it could be a serious symptom. Watch for other symptoms and take your cat to the vet.

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