When a beloved puss is poorly it’s understandable to ask ourselves ‘should I take my cat to the vet?’ It’s because we love them so much and can’t bear the thought that something may be seriously wrong and we could miss it and our cat deteriorate, or worse. So, we begin to trawl the internet to search the symptoms and find an answer, or ask a group, forum, friend or neighbour for advice. And then we weigh it all up and ponder on whether to ‘bother’ the vet over something which may be nothing, or risk the conditioning worsening. (Obviously we’re talking of illness or conditions which are NOT immediately life threatening here – if puss is seriously poorly, there’s no question to ask. They go to the vets and quickly!)
So, should we take puss to the vet or not?
So, you’ve gathered all the info and now need to decide. No-one but you can do this and ultimately, if your cat isn’t right and you don’t know for sure if serious or not, then take them to the vet. Because, no website or person other than a qualified vet can tell you for sure what’s wrong. Yes, of course there are common ailments which can be treated at home, but if the cat is ill and you don’t know why, and they’re at danger of becoming increasingly poorly, why not take them? If it turns out to be something minor and likely to clear up in 24 hours, then that’s a great result. Why not phone them for advice if you’re sitting on the fence, and let them advise you? At the end of the day, not only do we love our cats, we want to do the best we can for them and it’s our duty to protect them from pain, suffering and illness (as per the Animal Welfare Act 2006).
A few years back we took our new kitten to an emergency vet appointment on a Sunday because our older cat had played rough and bunny kicked the little guy in the head. At home the kitten staggered around, unable to walk or stand. On the phone we were prepared for the worse. But upon arrival at the surgery Freddie waltzed out of his carrier and wandered around the examination room like Lord Muck, nose in air (of course he did, because he’s a cat…!). The vet raised his eyebrow, we quickly put Freddie back in the basket, and we left feeling a bit silly (and with a lot less money in our bank account!) But it was better to be safe than sorry.
Sometimes your cat needs to go straight to the vet
Don’t even ask ‘should I take my cat to the vet’ if it’s an emergency, or obviously serious. Get your lovely cat to a vet, and quickly. A delay could be the difference between life and death, so don’t risk it. Examples include: blood loss; breathing difficulties; suspected poisoning; broken bones; burns on large areas of the skin or where the skin has changed colour; choking.
These types of issues can’t be treated at home with no vet intervention. Thankfully, this type of emergency is rare and many of our furry friends won’t find themselves so poorly.
What about when it’s less serious – should I take my cat to the vet?
Deciding what to do with a non-serious illness or injury depends on the circumstances and there are some common ailments that can be monitored for 24 hours at home before rushing them in. But again, no one knows your cat better than you and you’re in the best decision to weigh up the situation and decide. After having cats for years, experience will help you as to whether you stay put, or take them in. It’s harder if you’re a new cat owner. Plus, let’s remember that cats are great at hiding injuries and illness and can fool us into thinking everything is ok (that doesn’t help us, does it??)
Below are some common ailments where you can care for puss at home, or at least monitor for a bit before taking them in. But, it’s not to be read as an instruction! I’m not a vet, I’m not medically qualified (other than for feline first aid!) – it’s a guide only. You need to assess your cat and, based on the cat’s condition and your experience, decide what’s best to do. Iff in doubt, pop along to the vet.
Vomiting and Diarrhoea
This is probably the most common reason we ask ourselves ‘should I take my cat to the vet?’ That’s because, as with humans, it’s a common ailment and all cats and kittens at some stage will have one or the other, or sometimes both at the same time. Normally it’s caused by something minor such as a furball causing an upset or where puss has eaten something they shouldn’t. Anxiety is another big cause. If we took our cats to the vet each time they’re sick, we might as well buy them a season ticket for the consulting room… In my 50 years of being owned by a cat, it’s only a handful of times where sickness or diarrhoea has resulted in a vet check – it’s normally cleared up quickly with some love and care, a bland diet and access to lots of water.
But it can be serious depending on the cat itself and the cause. Kittens, elderly cats and those who are vulnerable due to another illness or disease are particularly vulnerable and can deteriorate quickly. Plus, if poisoning is suspected, then that’s a whole different matter. It’s to the vets for sure, and quickly!
Stay at home?
Generally if there’s no change in the cat’s normal behaviour; still has energy; no blood or mucous in the poop or vomit; only one or two episodes; clearing up within 24 hours.
Take to vet?
Cats and kittens get into all sorts of pickles which can lead to some form of injury or another. Ours behave as though they’re stunt doubles in a movie. Luckily, the damage is usually nothing more serious than their embarrassment if spotted having a tumble (because they’re cool and hate being laughed at…) But, cats are not always so lucky and their 9 lives can take a battering. Ours have definitely lost a couple of their 9.
Stay at home?
A slight limp which doesn’t cause signifant problems; no deterioration; no change in behaviour; appetite constant.
Take to vet?
Changes in posture; limping; pawing at a part of the body; hiding away; loss of appetite.
Cat scraps – they happen. If you have more than one indoor cat they can scrap A LOT, and an outdoor cat is likely to come across a rival at some stage. They fight over territory, food, feline ladies… Throw an unneutered male into the mix and it can get messy.
And it’s not just other cats. There’s a risk of bites from a dog or a wild animal, such as a fox, who they may meet whilst roaming the area at night.
Bites are serious and generally all will require a vet check. The trouble is that deep bites are deceiving as they look as though they’re healing on the outside, but bacteria can be trapped deep down and cause a nasty infection or abscess.
One of my first cats I had appeared one day with an abscess on his neck. I’d never seen anything like it, I could virtually see his insides. I couldn’t see how it would ever heal, it looked horrific. But, after a thorough clean at the vets, and a course of antibiotics, a week later you could hardly see it had ever been there.
Where nothing worse than a bruised ego!
Any puncture wound bite as it will need to be cleaned properly, especially if it turns into an abscess. Even a scratch can become infected so watch for signs of infection (swollen, red etc).
So, when asking yourself ‘Should I take my cat to the vet?’, do what you think is best, for the welfare of your cat. No one knows your cat as well as you, and no one is qualified to diagnose other than a vet – please don’t make your decision based on something you read on the internet, or from someone on a forum that once experienced something similar with their own cat. All cats are different, and only you know how yours normally behaves. If you’re worried, and / or if it looks serious, don’t hesitate. Take puss along to the vets – it’s better to be safe than sorry.