Common Cat Symptoms that Could Signal an Emergency

These 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.

Orange and white cat with tongue out with text Common Cat Symptoms that Could Signal an Emergency

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.

Key Cat Symptoms to Watch For

The American Association of Feline Practitioners state on their "Cat Friendly" website the following signs and symptoms could "indicate a number of different possible diseases or medical conditions and indicate that you need to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible:"

I've added in a few more:

Below is more detail on why some of these cat symptoms are on the short list:

Blood in your cat's urine

Blood in the urine can be caused by anything from a severe bladder infection, to internal injury, to kidney disease. If you notice blood in your cat's urine (or stool), it's time to call the vet.


 Vomiting is a common thing for a cat to do, and can have many causes. Cats get into all kinds of things, so it's not surprising they have a habit of giving some of those things back.

Cats also have allergic reactions that can cause digestive distress. It could just be a hairball, but be alert to the possibility of a more serious problem.

Poisons (e.g. household chemicals, toxic plants, human medications), intestinal disturbances, or serious illness could be the reason. This is especially true in the case of repeated, chronic, or frequent vomiting.

Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, which is a serious condition that may require intravenous fluids, and can result in death. If your cat is vomiting a lot, a call to your veterinarian is recommended.

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.


Diarrhealike vomiting, it 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.


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, Priscilla, once for about a day. Since she was out in the open, I thought she seemed fine. By day two, however, she was too weak to jump, and she ended up needing subcutaneous fluids and an antibiotic.

In hindsight, I should have noticed that she was sleeping way too much and staying in one spot for way too long. She didn't get up to eat, drink, or use the litter box for many hours. That was not her usual pattern and I should have caught it.

Change in routine

Cats enjoy a routine, but may change their routine over time. Sudden changes in routine, however, should be suspect, just like I should have suspected when my cat. For example, if your cat is normally social when there are new people in the house, but is hiding, find out why.


A cat panting after exercise is normal, as is a pregnant cat while giving birth. Cats will also paint if overheated, stressed, or overly excited. Other than that, it's rare for a healthy cat to pant.


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, as are kittens born to stray or roaming cats.

I often 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, such as roundworm and hookworm could be robbing your cat of the good health she deserves. Read up on the treatment of cat worms.

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).

Stay Observant, Stay Vigilant

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.

We owe it to our cats to be on the alert for those times. Stay alert, stay vigilant.

See my cat illness symptoms and cat health problems pages for more information on feline illnesses and what to look for. Also make sure you have a look at this list of warning signs of cat illness.

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

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