Cats can be odd creatures, whether they’re running wild through your home in the middle of the night, or making biscuits on your lap. While some behaviors are considered normal for felines, others can indicate your cat is sick or injured. How can you tell the difference? In addition to contacting your family veterinarian or our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team, take a look at the following behaviors that your cat may exhibit if they’re feeling under the weather.

Behavior: My cat is missing the litter box

Potential cause: Behavior changes in the elimination habits of your cat are most often related to stress, fear, or a lack of appropriate, clean, litter box options. If you notice your cat urinating or defecating outside their box, they may be trying to tell you they don’t like the box size, the litter type, the box’s cleanliness, the box’s placement, or the number of litter box options. They can also eliminate outside the litter box when they’re feeling unwell, such as from a urinary tract infection or digestive tract issue. 

If you notice your cat straining to urinate, either inside or outside their box, or if they’re urinating small, frequent amounts of blood-tinged urine, they need urgent veterinary care. This condition is more common in male cats, but it can also occur in female cats, and if a cat cannot urinate, the problem can quickly become life-threatening.

Behavior: My cat’s appetite has changed

Potential cause: If your cat is eating more than usual, but losing weight, they may have developed diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Left untreated, these two conditions can cause serious, even fatal, issues, so contact your family veterinarian or our team if you notice your cat acting ravenous. 

On the other hand, if your cat starts to eat less or stops eating altogether, they may have developed dental disease, become stressed, or simply feel unwell for any number of reasons. Anorexia in cats can become a serious issue, especially if the cat is overweight. Without adequate nutrition, cats can develop a condition called hepatic lipidosis, which can be an emergency situation.

Behavior: My cat is drinking a lot of water

Potential cause: As desert animals, cats typically aren’t seen drinking a great deal of water. If you notice a drastic increase in your cat’s thirst, they may have developed a urinary tract infection, diabetes, kidney disease, or other condition that can lead to excessive thirst and urination. These health issues are best managed at the first sign of a problem, so don’t delay a veterinary appointment if you notice your cat draining their water dish.

Behavior: My cat is hissing, growling, or swatting at me

Potential cause: Pain and fear are often the reasons for a cat to have a behavior change that results in aggression. Events that can cause a cat to be fearful include negative veterinary or boarding facility visits, new animals in the household or visible outside, negative encounters with people, new smells on you or your cat’s belongings, and more. Pain may be a result of a recent surgery, a trauma-inducing accident such as a tail getting stuck in a door, old surgeries such as declawing or other amputation, dental disease, or illness.

Behavior: My cat is hiding more than normal

Potential cause: Cats who are scared or do not feel well are likely to hide and shun interaction. If your cat’s excessive hiding was triggered by a stressful event, such as visiting friends, a new pet, or a change in your schedule, they should adjust and come out of hiding within a few days. However, if the hiding is caused by illness or pain, your cat will continue to hide and should be seen by a veterinarian.

Behavior: My cat is scratching in unusual spots

Potential cause: Scratching is a normal cat behavior, but if your cat suddenly starts scratching more, especially in one particular spot, it could be an indication that they are stressed. Stray cats lurking around your home, the addition of a new pet, or a change in your cat’s feeding schedule can lead to sudden, inappropriate scratching. Calming supplements and pheromones can help soothe your cat, and attractant products can be used to guide your cat back to scratching in the appropriate areas.

Behavior: My cat is not grooming their coat

Potential cause: Sometimes cats who are gaining weight are unable to reach certain areas on their body, and can’t groom themselves. Sore joints and muscles can also contribute to a decline in grooming. Conversely, cats may also lick and chew excessively at a painful area, causing hair loss and irritated skin. This behavior is commonly seen around arthritic joints, an inflamed bladder, or the tail base because of a flea allergy.

Unusual behaviors in cats can indicate an underlying health problem. If you’re unsure what triggered your cat’s odd behavior, contact your primary care veterinarian or our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team to get to the root of your feline friend’s abnormal antics.