Common Cat Symptoms that Could Signal an Emergency

Some common cat symptoms could signal an emergency requiring a vet visit. Any of these could be a sign that your cat is ill or has a serious condition needing medical attention.

Pay attention to any of the following possible symptoms, and take action quickly.

Some of the more common cat symptoms that you may recognize are vomiting, not eating or drinking, diarrhea, lethargy, a sudden change in routine, and anything that looks like your cat might have worms.

Here's a little detail on why these cat symptoms are on my short list.

  • Vomiting - Vomiting is a common thing for a cat to do. Cats get into all kinds of things, so it's not surprising they have a habit of giving some of those things back. They also have allergic reactions that can cause digestive distress.

    It might just be a hairball, but be alert to the possibility of a more serious problem. Poisons, intestinal disturbances, or serious illness could be the reason.

    Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, which is a serious condition that may require intravenous fluids, and can result in death.
  • Refusal to eat or drink - Not eating or drinking for extended periods, or outside of your cat's normal routine is suspect. Make sure you know your cat's eating and drinking habits well, and be observant if there are any changes.
  • Diarrhea - like vomiting could be a sign of a more serious problem than just indigestion. It also causes dehydration, so do not let this go on for long without contacting your vet.

    Treatment for diarrhea in cats starts with preventing dehydration and reducing your cat's stress level. Try to get your cat to drink water.
  • Lethargy - Cats do sleep a lot, but lethargy is a sign to watch out for. If your cat is normally bubbly and active, but suddenly begins sleeping in a corner for an entire day, something is probably wrong.

    I failed to catch this behavior change with one of my cats once for about a day since she was out in the open and seemed fine. By day two, however, she was too weak to jump, and she ended up needing IV fluids and an antibiotic.
  • Change in routine - Cats enjoy a routine, but may change their routine over time. Sudden changes in routine, however, should be suspect. For example, if your cat is normally social when there are new people in the house, but is hiding, find out why.
  • Worms - At some point in time, almost all cats will get worms, especially when they're kittens (more about worms in cats and kittens). Outdoor cats are more likely to have this problem.

    I get emails from people asking me what to do when their cats show symptoms that look like they might have worms. There's only one thing to do. If you suspect worms, take your cat to the vet to ensure she gets the proper testing and treatment.

    While not usually a life threatening condition (although it can be), worms are robbing your cat of the good health they deserve. Keep in mind, too, that where there's one parasite, there may be others. Some parasites, like cat fleas, lead to tapeworms (more on cat parasites).

For the most part, cats are pretty sturdy creatures, and will recover from mild problems. There will be those times, however, when cat symptoms like those mentioned here indicate a more serious situation that must be treated. Be on the alert for those times.

My cat illness symptoms and cat health problems pages have more information on feline illnesses and what to look for. Also make sure you have a look at these (more than) 70 warning signs of cat illness.

Many major cat illnesses can be prevented through keeping cats indoors, feeding quality cat food, and administering appropriate vaccinations.

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