Recognizing Your Cat is Not Feeling Well

A message from the Laramie Animal Shelter:

“Cat owners often have trouble recognizing when their feline is not well.  To identify pain in our pets, we must rely on keen observations.  We must be on the lookout for changes in behavior that can sometimes be quite subtle.  To help our community cat owners we offer seven tips for evaluating your kitty’s comfort. 

  1. Body carriage – How is your kitty moving around?  Is she smooth and fluid or tense and guarded?  Does she settle into a posture where she seems to be protecting some part of her body?  If Fluffy adopts a hunched posture with her back curved high and her feet tucked underneath, she may be coping with discomfort.  By comparison, a comfy cat will be more inclined to lie on her side with her legs outstretched. 
  2. Interaction – Is your kitty interacting with you in her usual way?  Is she maintaining her schedule or have there been changes?  Has she stopped greeting you at key times of day?  Has she removed herself from the shared family spaces?  Is she declining play?  Any changes in Fluffy’s routine behaviors and interactions are cause for concern.
  3. Intake – is your kitty eating and drinking normally?  Have there been changes in appetite or water intake?  Does she have difficulty with chewing or swallowing?  Does she sit by the bowl but not eat or drink?  Does she drool, paw her face or cry while eating or drinking?  Also, monitor that cat box.  Are there signs of trouble there?
  4. Appearance – Is your kitty still grooming?  Has she stopped?  Is she overgrooming?  Is she focused on some part of the body?  Being mindful of Fluffy’s grooming habits and any changes can often point you to a kitty that doesn’t feel well enough to groom or a kitty that is grooming a particular area due to pain.
  5. Relaxation – When Fluffy’s relaxing, is she peaceful?  Is she unable to settle or is she resting and sleeping more than usual?  Is she hiding a lot?  Is her face relaxed when she’s resting or is it tense?  A comfortable kitty will have a soft appearance to her face.  If she’s uncomfortable she’ll often close her eyes more tightly than usual.  She may not make as much eye contact.  She may seem socially dull.
  6. Routine – Is she playing as much as usual?  Is she jumping up to perches and tables?  Is she having issues getting in or out of her kitty box?  If you are seeing your kitty avoid regular behaviors it may be time for a checkup.  If she’s suddenly going outside but near the box, she may be having mobility issues.  If she’s not lounging on the back of the sofa, she may be having trouble getting there.
  7. Irritability – If your kitty is usually calm and friendly but lately, she’s been a little prickly, she may be coping with discomfort.  If she’s talking more than usual or growling or hissing as family members or other pets come near, pay heed.  She may be attempting to avoid a painful interaction.

Life is busy and it’s easy to overlook some of these very subtle cues.  Take some time each day to interact and be mindful of your feline’s physical state and mentation.  Picking up on these cues can help you help your feline friend live their best life.”

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