Woodridge Animal Hospital
(630) 985-3101
2009 W. 75th Street, Woodridge, IL  60517
                       dr.amy@woodridgeanimalhospital.com
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Some people think that because their cat doesn't go outside that they don't need to have a regular checkup.  In reality, cats are very good at hiding signs of illness.  Subtle signs can be difficult to notice especially when you see them every day.  Annual wellness/preventative exams are important to identify these early signs of illness.  This often allows us to prevent or manage diseases before they become serious problems.
Subtle Signs of Illness in Cats
Inappropriate Elimination

Underlying medical conditions and anxiety can cause some irritating behaviors associated with the litter box.  This includes urinating or defecating outside the litter box.  Contrary to what many people believe, cats do not "try to get back" at people or "act out of spite."
Changes in Interaction

Cats are social animals and enjoy interactions with their family and often with other pets.  When a cat starts interacting differently or avoids interactions they once sought out, this may signal problems such as disease, pain, or anxiety.   
Changes in Activity

As cats age, many start to move around less or show reluctance to jump onto windowsills, counters, or furniture.  Many people attribute this decrease in their cat's activity with a normal "slowing down" because of their cat's age.  In reality, cats don't actually "slow down" just because they are old.  Instead, this could indicate discomfort from joint disease or other illness.  Increased activity is most commonly seen with hyperthyroidism.
Changes in Sleeping Habits

Anyone who has lived with a cat knows they sleep A LOT.  The key to differentiating normal napping from abnormal lethargy is knowing how much your cat normally sleeps and where they normally like to rest.  The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping, but much of that sleeping is "catnapping".  If your cat is sleeping more than usual, is resting in unusual places, or has discomfort laying down and getting up, this may be a sign of underlying disease.
Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss

Obesity is a serious health concern in cats.  Extra weight increases their risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease, and heart problems.  Cats with hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus can lose weight despite good appetites.  If your cat goes to the food dish and then backs away from it without eating, oral pain or nausea from an underlying disease may be the source.
Changes in Food and Water Consumption

Changes in food and water consumption can be indicators of significant disease in cats.  Increased appetites can be caused by illnesses such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism.  Causes for decreased food intake can range from poor dental health to cancer.  And increased water consumption can be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes, or other problems.
Changes in Grooming

Cats are known for being  fastidious groomers.  If you notice your cat having patches of hair loss or a greasy or matted appearance, this may be a sign of an underlying disease.  Decreased grooming can indicate a number of conditions, including obesity or generally not feeling good because of an underlying illness.  An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin disease or anxiety.
Signs of Stress

Thinking of what could possibly cause a cat stress often takes some imagination.  But the fact is that cats are creatures of habit and when their health or their routine changes, even a little bit, they can become stressed.  The change could be something we recognize as significant like the addition of a new pet, or it could be more subtle like a change in your schedule at work.   A stressed cat may spend more time awake and scanning their environment, hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression, or have an increased or decreased appetite.
Changes in Vocalization

Howling and abnormal vocalization is more common in older cats and is often seen with some underlying conditions.  Many cats also have increased vocalization if they are in pain, anxious, losing their sight or hearing, or with senility.  If you note a change in vocalization, let us know so that we can rule out medical problems and offer you suggestions on minimizing or eliminating the behavior.
Bad Breath

Studies have shown that 75% of cats have dental disease by the age of 3.  It can be difficult to look in your cat's mouth or to identify a problem without our help, but if you can sneek a peek, you may see some signs of disease.  A few of these signs are bad breath, tartar, and gingivitis. Regular home tooth brushing and veterinaery dental care prevent bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs.