ask ms. kitty: Feline cries for help – When to see your vet
Dear Ms. Kitty: It seems like my senior cat Gus is losing weight. He has also been vomiting more than usual. It’s hard to afford vet care right now, but is this serious enough I should take him in? Signed, Concerned
Dear Concerned: It can be hard to justify the cost of veterinary care during these tough times, unless you know Gus really needs it. You are the best judge of when your kitty is off, as you know his behavior better than anyone.
Here are some things to look for when deciding whether or not to schedule an appointment with your vet:
- Weight loss: To address your concern about weight loss, can you physically see or feel Gus getting thinner? (Hips are a good place to check). While it’s normal for cats’ weight to fluctuate a little, older cats can develop thyroid issues. If his weight loss is accompanied by restlessness or being overly chatty, he may have an overactive thyroid, which is easily treatable if caught early.
- Vomiting: It’s not unusual for a cat to occasionally vomit and produce hairballs. But if you see more vomiting than the occasional hairball, it may be time to seek medical care. Your cat could have the beginnings of kidney disease—or worse.
- Litterbox issues: If you haven’t spent any more time away from the house than usual, your cat probably has no reason to be “mad” at you. So, if your cat is doing his business outside the box, he may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Other signs of a UTI include: crying out when urinating, hopping in and out of the box without urinating, or urine with blood in it.
- Shortness of breath: While coughing can be a response to dust, smoke or other allergens, shortness of breath can be a sign of heart issues. If this symptom appears suddenly and strongly, consider an emergency room visit unless your veterinarian can get you in quickly.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea can be a normal symptom if your cat is temporarily stressed or has eaten something that disagreed with him. Even rare blood in the stool can just be a sign of too-fast food change. However, diarrhea or blood that continues can be a sign of something more serious.
- Grooming: Cats are usually tidy creatures. They may need a little assistance, but usually they take care of their coats by self-grooming. If your cat’s fur starts to look greasy, spikey or more matted, watch for other issues. This can be a symptom of many things that can affect his mouth, teeth or saliva, as well as a clear visual he feels too badly to groom.
- Thirst: If you notice your cat spending more time at the water bowl, he might need some testing. Excess thirst can be a symptom of impending kidney disease or diabetes. The earlier these diseases are caught, the more quickly your cat can be treated for them.
Lethargy: If your cat suddenly acts more listless or retreats from normal activity by hiding or sleeping more, you may want to monitor him. Like us, cats may tuck away when they don’t feel well. There could be a serious illness brewing or he could be reacting to stressful changes in his environment. Either way, it may be time for a vet visit or a chat with a cat behavior professional.
This free helpline is offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding. Submit questions at