Do Cats Want Attention When Sick?

Do cats really want more attention when they’re sick?

It’s a common belief that when cats are sick, they become more affectionate and demanding of attention. As caregivers, we may notice our feline friends suddenly being more clingy or vocal when under the weather. But is this behavior driven by a conscious desire for more care and comfort? Or could there be other evolutionary explanations behind why cats alter their behavior when ill?

Normal Cat Behavior

Cats are known for being independent pets. Unlike dogs who rely on their human owners for everything, cats are able to take care of many of their own needs from an early age. Kittens begin learning to groom, feed, and use the litter box on their own within the first few weeks of life. This independence continues into adulthood.

Compared to dogs, cats do not seem to form the same close bonds with their human caretakers. According to a 2015 study published on, cats are more likely to treat humans as companions rather than providers. They do not rely on humans to feel safe and secure. Cats tend to choose when they want affection or attention from people. When they’ve had enough, they simply walk away.

The independent streak in cats may come from their ancestral origins. Wild cats hunt alone and do not form social groups like wolves and other pack animals. This means they evolved to rely only on themselves for survival. Domestic cats still retain much of that independence passed down from their larger cousins.

Signs of Illness

There are several common signs that indicate a cat may be feeling under the weather. These can include changes in eating habits, grooming behavior, activity levels, and more. Some signs to look out for include:

Decreased appetite or refusal to eat. Sick cats often lose interest in food or eat less than normal. You may notice your cat not finishing meals or skipping meals altogether. Significant decreases in food intake can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. According to VCA Hospitals, monitoring your cat’s appetite is an important way to detect illness early on.

Neglecting grooming. Cats are fastidious groomers by nature. A sick cat may stop grooming entirely or groom less, leaving their coat looking unkempt. Lack of grooming can also lead to matted fur. This change in normal grooming habits is a red flag something may be wrong.

Decreased activity levels. Ill cats tend to sleep more and move around less. Where a healthy cat is playful and energetic, a sick cat may withdraw to sleep for extended periods of time. Lethargy and depression are common symptoms of feline illness or injury.

Changes in water intake. An ill cat’s water consumption may increase or decrease. Increased thirst can signal kidney problems or diabetes. Dehydration is also a serious risk if your cat is not drinking enough.

Abnormal waste elimination. Any changes in litter box habits – increased or decreased frequency, loose stool, difficulty urinating – can indicate illness. Monitoring your cat’s litter box is important for identifying health issues.

Paying attention to these signs and catching problems early is important for getting treatment and helping your cat feel better as quickly as possible.

Why Cats Hide Illness

Cats have a natural instinct to hide when they are feeling ill or injured. In the wild, appearing vulnerable can make them easy targets for predators. So cats evolved to conceal any weakness as a survival mechanism [1]. This instinct remains strong in domestic cats as well. When your cat is sick, their instinct is to find a quiet, dark, and isolated spot to rest and recover away from prying eyes. They want to avoid appearing weak or drawing attention to themselves.

Cats also tend to hide illness because it goes against their nature as predators. As hunters, cats are wired to project strength, confidence and alertness. Being visibly unwell contradicts this natural state. So cats will retreat to suffer privately rather than openly show signs of illness or distress. It allows them to maintain their dignity and not appear compromised to other members of the household.

Why Sick Cats Seek Attention

When cats are feeling unwell, their natural instinct is often to hide away in a quiet, safe space. However, sick cats may also begin vocalizing more and seeking out human attention. There are several reasons why ill felines may actively solicit care from their human companions:

Need care/food brought to them. Sick cats often lose their appetite and energy. Whereas a healthy cat is able to self-sufficiently access food, water, and litterbox on their own, ill cats may rely on their owners to bring essentials directly to them. By meowing insistently or nuzzling up against their human, a sick cat is communicating a need for their owner to take a more active caretaking role.

According to the Humane Society, “Hearing loss can also cause a kitty to vocalize louder than usual because they can’t determine their volume.” Any pronounced change in behavior warrants closer examination, as it may signal an underlying medical issue.

How to Help a Sick Cat

When your cat is sick, it’s important to take steps to help them feel as comfortable as possible. Some tips for helping a sick cat include:

  • Coax them out of hiding – Speak softly and offer treats or play to gently encourage them to come out. Don’t force them if they seem resistant.
  • Ensure easy access to food and litter – Place food, water, and litter boxes in easy to reach spots so they don’t have to exert themselves.
  • Offer smelly, tempting foods – Warm up pungent foods like tuna or chicken to stimulate appetite. Feed smaller, frequent meals.
  • Keep them hydrated – Adding some broth or water to their food can help. You can also offer canned food with higher moisture.
  • Limit stress – Keep their environment calm and quiet, and minimize handling/disturbances.
  • Provide comfy, warm rest areas – Soft beds, blankets, and heating pads can help them relax and retain body heat.

With some TLC and accommodation, you can help your sick feline feel more at ease. Monitor their condition and call the vet if symptoms persist or worsen.

When to Call the Vet

It’s important to know when your cat’s symptoms warrant a visit to the veterinarian. Although cats are good at hiding illness, certain signs indicate a need for professional medical care. Severity of symptoms is a key factor in deciding when to call the vet. Mild symptoms may be monitored at home temporarily, but worsening or persistent symptoms require veterinary attention.

For example, repeated vomiting or diarrhea, especially if accompanied by lethargy or appetite loss, signal a need for the vet. Difficulty breathing, weakness, or inability to walk also indicate emergency vet care. Other red flags include non-healing wounds, seizures, and discharge from eyes or nose. Additionally, sudden behavior changes like aggression or vocalizing can mean underlying illness.

While every situation differs slightly, err on the side of caution if your cat displays abnormal symptoms. Calling the vet promptly at the first signs of illness can prevent minor issues from becoming serious. Let your vet make the final determination on whether your cat requires urgent care or if home treatment is suitable. Trust your instincts and don’t delay — your cat’s health may depend on it.

Caring for a Sick Cat

Caring for a sick cat involves keeping them comfortable, monitoring their symptoms, and providing medication or treatment as needed. Some key aspects of caring for an ill feline at home include:

Medication – Follow any medication instructions from your vet carefully. Give prescription medicines on time and in the proper amounts. Track any side effects or changes after starting a new medication.

Hydration – Dehydration is a serious risk for sick cats who are not eating or drinking normally. Make sure fresh, clean water is always available. Consider adding broth or tuna juice to entice drinking. Using a syringe to administer fluids under the skin may help.

Rest – Allow your cat to rest quietly in a safe, comfortable space. Place food, water, and litter nearby so they don’t have to move around much. Provide soft, warm bedding to help them relax.

According to VCA Hospitals (, monitoring vital signs like temperature, pulse, and respiration at home can help gauge how your cat is recovering. Contact your vet if symptoms persist or worsen. With attentive at-home care, many cats can recover comfortably from illness.

Preventing Future Illness

There are several ways cat owners can help prevent future illnesses in their cats:


Getting your cat vaccinated is one of the best ways to prevent certain dangerous diseases. Core vaccines that all cats should receive include rabies, panleukopenia, calicivirus, and herpesvirus. Some other non-core vaccines to discuss with your vet include feline leukemia virus, Chlamydia, and Bordetella. Keeping your cat up to date on all recommended vaccines can help prevent many illnesses. [1]


Feeding your cat a balanced, high-quality diet is important for overall health. Look for cat foods that contain quality proteins, fats, and nutrients without too many artificial ingredients or fillers. Avoid over or underfeeding, as both obesity and malnutrition can cause health issues. Provide constant access to fresh, clean water. Talk to your vet if you have any questions about your cat’s nutritional needs. Good nutrition strengthens immunity and prevents disease. [2]

Reducing Stress

Chronic stress can negatively impact a cat’s health over time. Provide a relaxing home environment with spaces for your cat to play, sleep, eat, and use the litterbox. Have comfortable perches, scratching posts, toys, and ideally access to the outdoors. Try to minimize changes in routine or environment. Use calming pheromone diffusers if your cat is anxious. Reduce stress, and your cat’s immune system will be better equipped to fight off illness. [3]


In summary, when cats are sick, they often behave differently than usual. Cats have an instinct to hide any illness or weakened state. But sick cats also crave comfort and care from their human companions. Understanding the signs of illness, and providing a sick cat with a safe, quiet space to recover, along with plenty of love and affection, can help them heal.

Some key points covered:

  • Healthy cats are usually active and energetic. Lethargy, hiding, loss of appetite or other odd behavior may signal illness.
  • Cats try to mask sickness in the wild to avoid appearing weak. But they still need special care when ill.
  • Sick cats often seek extra attention from trusted humans. This is a request for help.
  • Providing easy access to food, water, medications and a comfortable resting area helps sick cats recover.
  • Take a sick cat to the vet if symptoms persist or seem serious. Catching illness early on leads to better outcomes.
  • With prompt care and treatment, most cats bounce back quickly from sickness.

By understanding a cat’s needs when ill, cat owners can provide the best possible care and comfort to help their feline companion return to good health.

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