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Is cat sick?

     Our feline friends cannot tell us how they feel, so it is important to have some understanding of the signs that a cat is sick. Cats are generally stoic animals, and often they do not let us know they are sick until the disease has progressed. Observant owners can learn to identify subtle changes in their cat’s routine and behavior that may be indicative of illness. The difficult part of identifying changes is first figuring out what is normal for your cat. Cats do not think or act like a human would in many situations, so many cat activities seem strange to us. An example is coughing up hairballs. If a human spit up hair it would be very abnormal, but for a cat an occasional hairball is quite normal.

Is cat Anorexic?

     Anorexia is a term used to describe a lack of appetite for food. Veterinarians use this term when owners tell them that the cat is not eating or eating very little. Being finicky and not eating are two different things. Some cats hold out for their favorite foods and this makes them finicky, but anorexic cats do not care what you put in front of them. If a cat does not eat for 24 hours, you should be concerned. If the lack of appetite lasts more than 48 hours, you should have the cat examined by a veterinarian. Cats, especially overweight animals, can develop a condition calledhepatic lipidosis if they do not eat. Cats with hepatic lipidosis break down their body fat for energy, but the fat overwhelms the liver, injures the normal liver cells and makes the cat sicker. Early intervention with anorexic cats is needed to stop hepatic lipidosis from occurring. Left untreated, hepatic lipidosis can be fatal.

Cat won’t eat

     If your cat is not eating, you need to determine if there is a problem with his diet or if the cat is sick. Some reasons why a healthy cat may not eat include:

• The food is spoiled.
• Ants or other insects are in the food.
• You bought the wrong flavor.
• There is competition at the food bowl.
• People food or treats have affected his appetite.
• The food bowl is in a bad location.
• The cat has been hunting and eating prey or snacking at a neighbor’s house.

If none of these reasons is valid, it is likely the cat is sick. Reasons why a sick cat may not eat include:

• The cat is congested and cannot smell the food.
• The cat has a fever, causing a loss of appetite.
• Bad teeth or other dental disease is affecting the cat’s ability to eat.
• Liver or other gastrointestinal disease is causing nausea.
• The cat is dehydrated and too weak to eat.

     Sick cats do not eat well, so it is important to encourage them. Offer yummy foods, such as canned cat food, tuna fish, deli meat or meat baby food. Lightly warming the food for a few seconds in a microwave oven can help build a cat’s appetite by increasing the food’s aroma. Handfeeding, talking gently and petting the cat can stimulate eating, too. You can hand feed your cat by offering him some soft food on a spoon or on your finger and encouraging him to lick it off. If a cat seems uninterested in eating, do not leave food sitting out for more than an hour. Pick it up and reintroduce it a few hours later. When none of these suggestions proves successful, a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.
     Water intake is extremely important. If a cat (or any animal) cannot keep water down, he should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. This can be a sign of an intestinal obstruction. A cat who does not eat or drink can become seriously dehydrated within a day. Vomiting and diarrhea can contribute to water loss leading to dehydration.Veterinarians can rehydrate cats by injecting a sterile, balanced electrolyte solution under the animal’s skin. This practice is called subcutaneous administration. Fluids can also be directly injected into the body through a vein using an intravenous catheter.


     A warm, dry nose or warm ears does not indicate a fever in a cat. The only way to be certain about the presence of a fever is by actually taking a cat’s temperature. The normal body temperature of a cat is higher than that of a human: The normal range is from 100.5°F to 102.5°F. You may need two people to take a cat’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. Here’s how to do it properly:

1. Shake down a glass thermometer so that the mercury is below 98°F.
2. Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly or a water-soluble lubricant.
3. Insert the thermometer into the cat’s rectum.
4. Hold the cat standing and as still as possible and leave the thermometer in place for two minutes.
5. Remove the thermometer and read the temperature.

Inexpensive digital thermometers are available at drugstores and can be used rectally in cats. Human ear (tympanic) thermometers are not accurate in cats. Special ear thermometers are available for animals, but they are expensive and are only sold through veterinary distributors.

What Causes a Fever?

     In a cat, a fever is generally considered to be a temperature reading above 103°F. Increased body temperature does not always mean the animal is sick, but if the cat has a fever you should try to find out why. An increased body temperature can be due to:

• High environmental temperature
• Stress or excitement, such as putting the cat into a carrier and taking him to the veterinarian
• Intense playing or running
• Bacterial infections
• Viral infections
• Seizures due to increased muscle activity




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