Meow-ch! 6 Signs Your Cat May Be Under the Weather


When cats are sick or not feeling well, their behavior and body language often change dramatically. Whereas a healthy cat is interactive, energetic, and displays an interest in their surroundings, an ill feline tends to withdraw into itself and demonstrate lethargy. Understanding the subtle cues of cat body language when a cat is unwell can help owners identify potential health issues early and seek veterinary care.

Some of the most common signs of sickness in cats include lethargy, hiding, changes in grooming habits, altered vocalizations, poor posture, appetite changes, and more uncharacteristic behaviors. Recognizing these signals promptly can mean the difference between treating a minor illness or dealing with a more critical health crisis. This overview covers the primary ways cats communicate through body language when they are feeling under the weather.


Lethargy is one of the most common signs of illness in cats. A lethargic cat will often sleep or rest more than usual and be less active and playful. According to PetMD, lethargy refers to “an abnormal decrease in a cat’s activity level and alertness” (source). A lethargic cat may spend most of the day lying in one spot instead of engaging in its normal activities. Cats that are normally energetic may suddenly lose interest in playtime or interacting with family members. According to the Louisa Vets, lethargy can also cause a cat to seem “wobbly,” as if they lack the energy to walk properly (source). Overall, an increased desire to sleep and rest coupled with decreased activity are key signs of lethargy in sick cats.

Appetite Changes

A sick cat’s appetite may increase or decrease dramatically. Cats who are eating less may show disinterest in food, take only a few bites, or turn up their nose when offered favorite treats. According to Reed Animal Hospital, decreased appetite can be caused by nausea, mouth pain, stress, or other illnesses. On the other hand, some sick cats may demonstrate an increased appetite. This is often caused by hyperthyroidism, which speeds up the cat’s metabolism. In some cases, cats who aren’t feeling well may develop new food preferences or aversions to their regular diet.


Sick cats often meow, cry, howl or vocalize more than usual as an indication of illness or discomfort. As discussed in this article, excessive vocalization can be a sign of pain, hunger, thirst or other issues cats are experiencing. Cats may cry or meow persistently to get their owner’s attention when not feeling well. According to The Humane Society, different vocalizations like raspy meowing or crying can signal specific health problems in cats.

It’s important for cat owners to understand what their cat’s meows, cries and other vocalizations mean. Increased meowing, crying, howling or other vocalizations in a cat that is normally quiet could be a sign of illness or discomfort that requires veterinary attention.


It is common for sick cats to hide more often than usual. They will tuck themselves away in small, enclosed spaces like under beds, in closets, or behind furniture (; Cats tend to hide when they are not feeling well as an instinctive protective behavior – in the wild, a vulnerable, sick cat would hide to avoid predators. So if your cat is suddenly hiding a lot more than normal, it can be a sign of illness or injury.

Grooming Changes

One of the most noticeable signs that a cat may be sick is a change in their grooming habits.1 Cats are naturally very meticulous about grooming themselves and keeping their coats clean and tidy. When a cat is feeling ill, they may groom either much less or much more than usual.

A sick cat may stop grooming entirely, leaving their coat looking unkempt, dull, and possibly matted. Lack of grooming can be a sign of overall lethargy or apathy in an ill cat. They simply do not have the energy or motivation for their normal grooming routine.

On the other hand, some cats start to excessively overgroom when they are not feeling well. 2 This can lead to bald spots, rashes, or open sores from licking or biting. Excessive grooming may indicate nausea, pain, or stress in a cat. It can also be a compulsive behavior stemming from anxiety.

In either scenario, significant changes in grooming habits almost always signify an underlying health issue. It is important to look out for unkempt coats as well as bald patches and irritated skin. Paying attention to grooming is a key way to monitor a cat’s health and wellbeing.

Interaction Changes

A sick cat’s interaction patterns often change dramatically. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, cats that are ill may become more clingy and needy, constantly seeking attention and comfort from their owner. Alternatively, they may become more withdrawn and hide from human interaction.

As explained by Catsonlyvc, changes in a cat’s interactions and sociability can signal underlying health issues such as disease, pain or anxiety. A sick cat that is in pain may become more irritable, aggressive and likely to bite or scratch. On the other hand, a cat experiencing fear or anxiety due to illness may become more timid and prone to hiding. Monitoring a cat’s demeanor and interactions for sudden changes can help alert owners to potential health problems requiring veterinary attention.

Poor Posture

One of the most telling signs of a sick cat is a change in posture and body position. A cat who is feeling unwell or in pain will often hunch over with an arched back, tense body, and head hanging down (Source). This hunched posture is a clear sign your cat is not feeling like its usual self.

Where a healthy cat will hold itself tall with a straight back, head high, and relaxed muscles, a sick cat will appear hunched and cramped. Its back may be visibly arched upward, while the head hangs low and seems to droop down. The cat’s legs may also be tucked in close to the body rather than in a normal standing position.

This hunched over stance signals that your cat is experiencing discomfort or pain somewhere in its body. The tense muscles and cramped posture indicate your cat is guarding itself from added pain and minimizing movement that might aggravate its condition. Along with other symptoms, a cat adopting a hunched over posture warrants a veterinary visit for examination and treatment.

Hygiene Issues

When cats are sick, they often struggle to maintain proper hygiene. Some common hygiene issues seen in sick cats include not using the litter box, bad breath, and a dirty coat.

Sick cats may stop using the litter box because they don’t have the energy to get there or because associating the box with pain. According to VCA Hospitals, gently cleaning the anal area with a baby wipe can help keep sick cats clean if they aren’t using the litter box. It’s also important to keep the box very clean for a sick cat. [1]

Bad breath is another sign of illness in cats. Causes can include kidney disease, diabetes, or dental issues. Brushing your cat’s teeth daily can help combat bad breath. Your vet can also recommend dental cleaning gels and oral rinses to improve oral hygiene.

Finally, sick cats often stop grooming themselves properly. Their coats can become matted and dirty. Gently brushing or combing the coat daily helps remove mats and keep the skin clean. Pay extra attention to cleaning the face, legs, and tail. Getting a sanitary clip can also help reduce grooming needs if your cat is very ill. [1]

Maintaining hygiene is critical for sick cats. Work closely with your vet to develop a hygiene regimen tailored to your cat’s needs.



In summary, there are several key signs that your cat may be ill and in need of a veterinary visit. These include lethargy, appetite changes, abnormal vocalizing, hiding, grooming issues, interaction changes, poor posture, and hygiene problems. If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs, it is important to schedule an appointment with your vet right away. Cats are experts at hiding illness, so even subtle changes in behavior could signal an underlying health issue. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your cat’s health. Your veterinarian can perform an examination and recommend any necessary testing or treatment to help your cat feel better soon.

While it may be tempting to try home remedies or wait it out when your cat seems under the weather, it is essential to seek professional veterinary care. Catching illnesses early greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and full recovery. Don’t delay – if you notice any of the warning signs, contact your vet promptly to get your cat the care they need.

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