What to look for with behavioral changes in your cat

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What to look for with behavioral changes in your cat

As a Vail Valley veterinarian for many years, I have found that there are many times pets will change behaviors when they are trying to communicate something to their owners.

Unlike our children, our pet’s cannot communicate to us when they feel differently, feel sick, feel pain, etc. When you hear the quote “ We talk to our pets and they listen, but when they talk to us, do we listen?” we think of the utter truth in that statement. Pets do communicate to us, but not thru voice, but thru behavior changes.

Let’s start with cats today. One very frequent behavioral change is inappropriate urination. So often times a client will call me and insist the “cat is mad” or the “cat is acting out.” But is it? In a high percentage of my patients, I often find other reasons for inappropriate urination. For starters, I find urinary tract infections, with or without crystals, often referred to as part of “FUS” or “Feline urological syndrome.” Because the pet has infection and or crystals, it feels pain and and has an urgency to urinate. So indeed, the cat is not “acting out” but merely trying to communicate it has a health issue. Cats will also urinate outside the box when there are other health issues, such as diabetes, where there is a lot of glucose or “sugar” being spilled into the urinary tract and again the cat will feel the urgency to urinate outside the box. Other health reasons can include but are not limited to bladder tumors, kidney stones or “nephroliths”, Bladder stones, sterile cystitis, hyperthyroidism and even cancer. So before you doom your cat with the tag “behavior issues” be sure to have it fully checked by your veterinarian.

Cats can also start to talk, ie become more vocal. In older cats, this is a sign of hyperthyroidism, a condition which causes a high metabolic rate, voracious appetite, and weight loss. Often times owner’s attribute this to “oh the cat is old and can’t hear and can’t see and is looking for us,” among many other explainations. Again, have your vocal kitty checked out!

Another common behavioral trait is excessive grooming. Again, owner’s will say “the cat is bored, or mad, or stressed,” when indeed, excessive grooming can be a sign of an underlying health issue. One of the more common reasons for excessive grooming is allergies, including food allergies. So go over the history of the issue of the pet with your veterinarian, before jumping to quick conclusions.

​Cats will commonly hide when they are ill as well. A cat that is an outside cat and is all the sudden not eating and hiding, could easily have been in a fight with another cat and have an infection. Cats that are ill for other reasons will also hide, but also other pets in the house will recognize it is ill and begin hissing at it and staying away, again not because of "mad cat syndrome" but because there is indeed an issue.

In a nutshell, don’t every “assume” behavioral issues with your pet that could have an underlying medical issue. Call your veterinarian and he/she can perform a quality physical exam, along with bloodwork, urinealysis, fecal checks and even xrays to discover what the underlying cause of the behavioral change is.



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