Cat Changes To Look Out For (health)

Your cat may not be feeling well if you notice any one or more of the following changes in your cat. Obviously you will need to rule out other reasons for changes such as environmental changes. You’ll also have to know what your cat’s normal behaviors are. As usual this means being observant and knowing your cat. The closer we are to our cats the better we know them and therefore more able to pick up even slight changes.

Temperament or behaviour

  • reluctance to be handled
  • unusual or unexpected aggression or threats from your cat either to yourself or to somebody else or other cats
  • fearful behaviour which is unexpected
  • hiding

Posture and why your cat walks

  • clear signs of lameness
  • stiffness when walking
  • arched back or the belly is tucked up
  • your cat surprisingly rests on his chest and has an unwillingness to get up
  • your cat is more tentative than usual when jumping


  • panting unexpectedly
  • breathing heavily from the belly rather than from the chest
  • breathing faster than normal
  • when your cat breaths out she breathes harder than when breathing in and vice versa

Facial expression

  • a glazed look to her eyes
  • your cat’s brow is furrowed
  • your cat’s head is hanging


  • your cat vocalises more than usual
  • your cat vocalises in a different way than usual
  • your cat’s usual vocalisations sound different than usual

General behaviours

  • your cat is scratching more than normal
  • your cat is drinking more than normal or less than normal
  • your cat has altered her habits with respect to peeing and pooping

If some of the answers to the above questions are yes then some quick checks as follows may assist in working out what’s wrong:

Check your cat’s gums

A cat’s gums are normally pink. If the gums are white or pale this may indicate that your cat is anaemic or in shock. Blue gums indicate that there is not enough oxygen in the blood. Yellow gums indicate a liver problem. Bright red gums can indicate carbon monoxide poisoning or possibly heatstroke.

Check that your cat is hydrated i.e. not dehydrated

You can check for feline dehydration by grasping some skin at the back of your cat’s neck (the scruff of the neck) and then gently pulling up.  If the cat is well hydrated then the skin will spring back to its former position when you release it. If the cat is dehydrated the skin will return to its former position more slowly. The more dehydrated the cat is the slower the skin returns to its former position.

Check your cat’s circulation

You can check your cat’s “capillary refill time”. This check helps to work out whether your cat’s blood circulation is all right. You lift your cat’s upper lip up and press the flat of your finger against the gum tissue (you may have difficulty doing this – please don’t force things). Then remove your finger and you will see that the area of the gums where you pressed is white. The normal pink colour will return to the gums and the amount of time it takes will help you to assess your cat’s blood circulation. For a healthy cat it should take around a second for the gums to return to pink.  If it takes longer than this it can mean that you your cat is dehydrated, is suffering from heart failure or possibly shock from any cause.

Associated: Changes in the geriatric cat.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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