Taking your sick cat to the vet can be just as traumatizing for you as it is for him. From the yowling in the car to the cowering in the office, worrying about your cat’s mental state often causes you to forget important details.
Making a list of symptoms before you take your cat to the vet will alleviate the stress of describing what is wrong with your cat. Like doctors, veterinarians often seem hurried, and may not give you enough time to remember all your sick cat’s symptoms when asked. It’s also good to prepare for the questions your vet will ask you and to be able to say for sure what symptoms your cat does and doesn’t have. Here’s a checklist of symptoms to assess before you take your cat to the vet. And don’t forget to take your list with you!
Sick Cat Symptom #1: Has your cat been eating and drinking normally?
If something is wrong with your cat, chances are good that his eating habits have changed. Many sick cats refuse food altogether, which can lead to dehydration and further health complications. Your vet needs to know if your cat has stopped eating. Also, a severely increased appetite can indicate a thyroid problem, and an increase in thirst can indicate all sorts of health problems from diabetes to kidney failure.
Sick Cat Symptom #2: Have your cat’s bowel movements and urination been normal?
It’s kind of gross to watch your cat in the litter box, but it’s important to let your vet know what’s going on in this department, too. Is your cat straining to poop or pee? Is there blood in the feces, or is it extremely dark? Is your cat having diarrhea? Has your cat passed a foreign object or something that looks like a worm? If there’s any doubt that your cat isn’t going to the bathroom normally, take a stool (or urine) sample with you to the vet.
Sick Cat Symptom #3: Is your cat throwing up?
All cats throw up from time to time, and most cats will occasionally yak up a hairball. If your cat throws up several times in a day, or throws up once for several days, your vet will need to know.
When your cat throws up, what does it look like? Is it mostly undigested food? Does it look like hairballs? If your cat is throwing up only liquid, that’s a good sign your cat is quickly becoming dehydrated. Excessive barfing can indicate an obstruction of the digestive tract.
Sick Cat Symptom #4: How is your cat’s temperament?
Your cat may not normally be a ray of sunshine all the time, and that’s okay. The key to answering this question is to look for obvious changes. Is your normally affectionate cat refusing pets? Is your normally standoffish cat anxious to sit in your lap all the time? Whatever the case may be, if something in your sick cat’s temperament has changed, make a note of it.
Sick Cat Symptom #5: Has your cat lost or gained weight recently?
Rapid weight loss or gain is reason itself to take your cat to the vet, whether your cat has any other symptoms or not. If rapid weight loss or gain is associated with other symptoms, your cat may be in serious trouble and your vet needs to know.
Sick Cat Symptom #6: How does your cat’s coat look?
A healthy cat will have a shiny, pleasant-feeling coat. If your cat’s coat has lost its luster in addition to manifesting other symptoms, tell your vet. The health of your cat’s coat is a pretty good indicator of whether or not your cat is having his nutritional needs met.
Sick Cat Symptom #7: How is your cat’s respiration?
If your cat seems unwell, check his breathing. Does your cat seem to be taking shallow breaths or wheezing? Is your cat’s breathing labored? Is his nose runny?
Sick Cat Symptom #8: Does your cat have any lumps or bumps?
Your vet will probably feel all over your cat’s body for lumps, especially if she suspects some sort of cancer or thyroid problem. Before you go, though, check for yourself to see if you notice anything that wasn’t there before. Feel the neck and abdomen, particularly. If you have a white cat, look in the face, ear, and throat area for abnormalities. White cats are particularly susceptible to skin cancer.
Sick Cat Symptom #9: Has your cat been exposed to any parasites?
Have you recently let a stray inside your home? Does your cat go outside? If you have even the slightest reason to believe you cat may have been exposed to parasites, take a stool sample with you to the vet.
Sick Cat Symptom #10: How is your cat’s breath?
Your cat’s breath is probably kind of funky smelling from his cat food anyway, but at least it’s consistent. Check your cat’s breath before you go. Tooth decay and diabetes (among other things) will change the way your cat’s breath smells.
Sick Cat Symptom #11: Has anything major changed in your cat’s life?
Sometimes cats will act lethargic or aggressive (or just plain misbehave) if something drastic has changed in their lives. If your cat isn’t manifesting any major symptoms, but you just know something is wrong, assess your cat’s life from his point of view. Has anything changed that would upset your cat? Have you moved to a new place or gotten a new pet? Have you broken up with a partner, or have you changed roommates? What seem like trivial or normal changes to you can upset your cat’s whole sense of well being. And what seems like a physical ailment can sometimes just be a manifestation of your cat’s psychological unhappiness.