by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Cats hide their injuries and illnesses well. It’s amazing, considering how vocal they can become over a tasty snack not shared with them. Try to eat a bite of Wisconsin cheddar and she’s all over you! Despite her tendency to stay mum about her maladies, you can detect when your kitty needs to visit the vet.

Know your cat’s normal eating, activity, sleeping and eliminating habits. Explain your cat’s habits to your cat sitter so she can keep tabs on these three areas–the barometers of pet health–and know what’s abnormal. Acute or significant departure from her normal habits may mean a problem and if a pet sitter is watching your cat while you’re on vacation (always a good idea), kitty will receive the help she needs right away.

Some cats don’t eat very much at a time and leave lots of food; other tend to clean the bowl and require small, frequent meals. Some kitties enjoy playing in and drinking lots of water. Others are careful, occasional sippers. Any of these can be normal, but consistency is what’s vital.

Most cats slow down in older age, but if your cat exhibits a sudden decrease in activity level, she could be sick or hurt. Cats are master nappers, but should she not rouse when disturbed, she needs emergency help.

Carefully pet her entire body frequently so you recognize normal bump and lumps. Ask your cat groomer to let you know about any strange findings and notify your vet about anything new.

Most cat owners and cat sitters want to clean the liter box as quickly as possible; however, it yields health clues and it’s worth noting what’s in there. If the stool is exceptionally foul smelling or loose, she could have eaten something she shouldn’t have. If this symptom continues, see your vet. Cats can get dehydrated quickly.

Very hard stool can indicate the cat isn’t drinking as much as she should or that she is passing hairballs. Offering a different water dish and brushing the cat more may help.

Cats typically defecate once or twice daily to once every two or three days. Anything in that range is normal. Some older cats may eliminate less frequently than they used to. Ask your vet about what may help if your cat strains to defecate.

Anytime your cat seems “off” and your gut tells you that something is wrong, follow your instinct. Make sure your pet sitter also tells you right away if your cat doesn’t seem her normal self. As your partner in cat care, your kitty sitter can help you stay more aware of your cat’s health.