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When to Take Your Cat to the Vet

Cats are notorious in their ability to mask discomfort, pain, and illness. It is best to err on the side of caution - at least call your vet with your cat's symptoms, or better yet, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

The following are just a few signs that should cause you to seek veterinary attention:
Ataxia - unsteady gait or staggering. Possible causes include middle ear infections, neurological disease, or poisoning.

Straining to Eliminate - using great effort to urinate or defecate, especially while vocalizing. Possible causes are severe constipation, urinary tract disease, or lower urinary tract obstruction. The latter is common in males and can be fatal. Immediate veterinary care is critical.

Vomiting - vomiting several times within the hour, especially if blood appears in the vomitus, the cat is lethargic, or refuses to eat. Possible causes include ingestion of a foreign object, liver and kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems, and poisoning.

Diarrhea - diarrhea is a symptom of many conditions or diseases. Diarrhea may cause the cat to suffer from dehydration, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, high fever, lethargy, bloody and/or watery stools. Possible causes are stomach or intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites, dietary indiscretions (i.e., eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials), inflammatory bowel disease, neoplasia, fungal or bacterial infection, hyperthyroidism, and loss of pancreatic function. If diarrhea is persistent, immediate vet care is vital.

Hemorrhage - any bleeding from a body opening, the eye, or the inner ear, or pulsating blood from a cut or wound. Even if the bleeding stops, the cat should be seen immediately by a vet.

Change in Gum Color - if any change in a cat's normally pink gums become white, blue, yellow, or bright red, see a vet immediately. White or pale gums may indicate anemia or systemic shock; blue gums from breathing problems; yellow gums from red blood cell destruction, liver disease, or gall bladder disease; red gums from septic shock or severe infection.

Lameness - any limping, neck or back pain, or the inability to use one or more limbs requires veterinary attention. Possible causes include bony infection, fractures, abnormal blood clotting, or heart disease.

Breathing Difficulties - any labored breathing requires immediate veterinary attention. Possible causes include asthma, lung disease, foreign body aspiration, severe upper respiratory illness, or cardiovascular disease.

Seizures - any spasm or convulsion including disorientation, twitching, or apparent loss of ability to recognize surroundings require immediate vet care. Possible causes include idiopathic epilepsy, liver or kidney disease, low blood sugar, infection or inflammation of the central nervous system, or a brain tumor.

Sudden Blindness - walking into walls or appears unable to see, immediate vet attention is vital. Possible causes include retinal detachment, liver insufficiency, or glaucoma.

Abdominal Problems - pawing at abdomen, adoption of a "praying" position, or laying on the ground with legs tucked underneath the body, resentment of abdominal manipulation. Possible causes are abdominal bleeding, organ rupture, or inflammation of the abdominal wall lining.

Lumps, Bumps, Swelling - any local swelling of any size on your cat could be an abscess but it could also be a tumor (benign or malignant), cyst, insect bite, hematoma, fracture, or soft tissue trauma (sprain, pocket of fluid such as infected oil gland). Vet care should immediate.


21 Responses
495284 tn?1333897642
This is very informative!!!  Thank you..........sara
587315 tn?1333556383
You're welcome!  I was trying to put this in the Cat Forum Health Pages and screwed up and put it on here!!  Have you seen the health pages on here?  They are located on the right side of the screen under "e-mail this" and "stop watching"

I found the info on the internet and cut and pasted the article because I thought it was good!
541150 tn?1306037443
How about this other one:

Trying to cover the food like they do with their waste after the owners have dedicated time and effort making a good, tasty meal.

Seriously, what does that mean? It is freaking me out. First time I ever see this kind of behavior. Does the food taste like poop to him?

You are right about this post. I wish everyone read this one before posting about a serious condition. Please, everybody, take them to the vet, then post. We cannot provide vet care for your pets, and even though some advices on here are better than may vets', it is still worth taking your pet for medical attention when needed.
541150 tn?1306037443
Nevermind, I know why he is trying to cover the food and it is NOT to try and save it for later.
587315 tn?1333556383
Yes, girl, I've seen many cats do the scratching like they're covering up waste near the food before.  I wish I knew what the deal is for that.  I can't come up with an explanation or even a guess!  I'd love to find out the reason!!

I really don't think that many people will bother to look at the first post for emergencies or THIS one.  Otherwise, the jerk that wrote in about the kitten being attacked by a dog wouldn't have written.
495284 tn?1333897642
My dad always said that when Snickers was doing the covering up around his bowl he was trying to hide it.  Said that was in their nature to hide things so noone else could get it.  Always made sense to me!!!!
587315 tn?1333556383
That's a good explanation.  It makes lots of sense.  :D.  Great insight.  Thanks!
541150 tn?1306037443
No, it just means they feel disgusted by the food. They don't like it or they're sensing something wrong with it. He never did this with the dry food. He started doing this today. I just cooked for him right now. The meat is fresh and healthy. He did it again and turned his back on the food. I guess he's going to have to eat it. He is kindda giving me a hard time now. Doesn't want chicken or meat or salmon.........nothing. He is still eating, but I can tell he doesn't like it. I may look up  communities online with people feeding their cats cooked meat see if they've been through this and how I can make the food more appealing to him.
506791 tn?1439846583
I recall reading an article about a study done by animal behaviorists at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, when my wife and I lived out there in the late 80's.

It seems that cats actually prefer cooked meat to raw meat, in mouse-sized portions.

All of my girls love pork, so Christmas dinner was a treat for then, my wife and me ,-)  (I've only had one who really loved beef, Hildie, who is 7 years old now.)

As to the "covering up" of food, only 2 of the 11 cats I've had over the years have done this; they were sisters from the same litter.  They'd eat part of what I put on the plate for them, cover it up and come back later to finish.

I think its a holdover from when our kitties were wild carnivores, needing to cache food for later.

Be well all - Pip
541150 tn?1306037443
Interesting, my cat prefers raw meat, but I'm just too scared to keep him on raw foods forever. I still fear Toxoplasmosis, but some people claim that as long as you know where the meat comes from then you shouldn't have any problems. Still, I cook his meat, but I don't think he is too excited about it (I don't overcook). This is a cat who has spent his entire life eating commercial foods, so the change is obviously not of his preference. I hope he is doing that off of pure instinct, to save it for later, and not because he feels disgusted by his food.
495284 tn?1333897642
Snickers would do it with his little bowl of milk he gets and he LOVES milk!!!!  I really think the covering is their nature.  Abby likes your food PK!!!!!  Hey i get alittle protective of my can of redi whip......if there is any left i hide the rest of it so nobody can eat the rest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
365714 tn?1292202708
Snickers may be an exception but be careful with milk. Some cats are lactose intolerant and giving them milk may give them the runs.

Here's an interesting article about what human foods to avoid feeding pets:

Foods that are toxic (copied from the site):

- Onions, Garlic, & Related Root Vegetables
- Tomatoes, Green (raw Potatoes)
- Chocolate
- Grapes and Raisins

Not toxic but not good to feed either:
- Milk

"Although milk is not toxic to cats, it may have adverse effects. Simply put, adult cats fed a nutritious diet don't need milk, and many cats are lactose-intolerant, which means that the lactose in milk and milk products produces stomach upset, cramps, and gassiness. If your cat loves milk, and begs for it, a small amount of cream may be okay, two or three times a week. (The more fat in the milk, the less lactose.) Another compromise is CatSip, a product made from skim milk with an enzyme added that helps the digestion of lactose. Catsip is available in supermarkets such as Safeway, Albertson's and A&P, as well as pet products chains, such as PetSmart and Petco."
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