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Signs and Symptoms: How to Tell If Your Cat Is Sick

Opinion of the breeder T. Barsik

The owner must be able to distinguish diseased skin from healthy in order to be able to provide timely and feasible assistance. Remember that cats cannot take care of their own well-being, so their health is in your hands. You should carefully monitor your animal, and at the first sign of illness or changes in appearance or behavior, find out if your cat is sick. Any deviation from normal behavior is cause for concern. For example, if your cat is normally independent, but suddenly seeks constant attention or conversely, hides away and avoids contact, you should investigate what happened. Don't assume that purring is always a sign of good health - it can sometimes indicate pain or malaise. Unexpected aggression from a typically calm and friendly cat may be caused by pain, fever, infection, head injury, seizures, diabetic crisis, or other health issues.

A shiny coat, cold and damp nose (during sleep it can be dry and warm), pink and moderately moist mucous membranes, and good energy and mobility are all signs of a healthy cat. Important criteria for assessing a cat's health include normal temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate. A temperature above 40°C (104°F) may indicate the beginning of a pathological process. Although a slight rise in temperature can sometimes be a natural response to stress or other factors, a sharp increase to 41°C (106°F) often indicates a need for urgent treatment. It's also important to note that body temperature can be affected by factors such as excitement, exertion, fear, hot weather, poisoning, electric shock, or hyperthyroidism. According to a study conducted in the United States (I. Calcagno, 2001), the most common causes of fever in cats are infectious diseases (40%), oncology (20%), systemic diseases (20%), other diseases (10%), and idiopathic fever (10%).

A healthy cat's resting heart rate typically ranges from 110 to 150 beats per minute. Animals with a more relaxed lifestyle may have a slower heart rate. An increased pulse can be a sign of an increase in temperature, inflammatory processes, physical exertion, overexcitement, fear, or hot weather. In kittens and small-breed cats, the pulse rate can be as high as 200 beats per minute, while in cats, it's generally lower than in cats.

To determine a cat's respiratory rate, count the number of breaths in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4. Normally, cats breathe 20 to 30 times per minute. Kittens and young cats breathe more frequently than adult cats, and females breathe more frequently than males. Pregnant or lactating cats may also breathe at a higher rate than usual. Size and genetic factors can also affect respiratory rate, with small cats breathing more often than large ones due to their higher metabolism and increased heat loss. Changes in breathing rate can be caused by fear, pain, shock, or respiratory problems, among other things. Note that breathing can also quicken in hot weather, during physical exertion, and when a cat is excited. After exercise, a healthy cat's breathing should return to normal within a few minutes. Difficulty breathing can be caused by heat stroke, a lack of calcium in lactating females, heart failure, inflammation of the genitourinary system, or when a foreign object is swallowed.

When a cat is sick, her behavior may change. She may become lethargic, lie down more than usual, look sad, try to hide in a quiet, darkened place, be reluctant to respond to calls, or conversely, be too excited, move around the house constantly, meow plaintively, or show aggression. Her movements may become awkward, and her coordination may be impaired.

Signs of feces indicate inflammation or injury of the intestinal mucosa. It is important to pay attention to the frequency and character of the animal's urination. Normally, cats urinate 1-2 times a day, but this frequency may increase with the consumption of wet food or water. The urine of a healthy cat should be transparent or slightly yellow, without sediment or foreign inclusions. The presence of blood, mucus, pus or crystals in the urine indicates the presence of urolithiasis, inflammation of the bladder or kidneys. The animal may experience painful urination, frequent urination, or, conversely, an inability to urinate at all. In some cases, urine can have a pungent smell, which may indicate the presence of a bacterial infection.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the health and well-being of a cat is closely linked to the care and attention provided by its owner. Regular monitoring of the cat's behavior, appearance, and vital signs can help detect early signs of illness or injury, allowing for timely intervention and treatment. Additionally, providing a cat with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a stress-free environment can help maintain its overall health and happiness. Remember, as a cat owner, you are responsible for the well-being of your feline companion and should take this responsibility seriously.

Source: A.V. Lipin, A.V. Sanin, E.V. Zinchenko. Veterinary guide Traditional and non-traditional methods of treatment of cats. 2002

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