There are many reasons why your cat may become sick, however there are a few signs that should never be ignored and often indicate that your cat is fast approaching a medical emergency. This article will highlight the top causes.


A urinary obstruction is a very painful, life-threatening condition that is most often caused by a buildup of tiny crystals in the urinary tract (the urethra) that prevents cats from urinating. The crystal formation is often secondary to their diet and lack of water intake (cats are notorious for not drinking enough water). Signs of a urinary blockage includes straining in the litterbox, vocalizing in the litterbox, or blood in the urine. These symptoms can quickly progress and can lead to the bladder rupturing within 24 hours. Any cat that hasn’t urinated in at least 12 hours or is struggling to urinate should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Any cat that is exhibiting even a slight increase in their breathing while they are resting should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Cats normally breathe between 20-25 breaths per minute when they are sleeping (time it for yourself and see!). The top 2 causes of respiratory distress in cats are due to heart disease and feline asthma. Heart disease in most cases is caused by a murmur in the heart and can often go undetected for years. Feline asthma is very similar to children that develop asthma attacks. Any increased effort or rate of breathing can quickly lead to a medical emergency, and these symptoms should not be ignored!


The third condition is called aortic thromboembolism and is caused by small blood clots that dislodge from the heart and obstruct the major blood vessels in the front or hind legs. These clots will cause a rapid onset paralysis of the affected limb and is an extremely painful condition. If you notice that your cat suddenly becomes very lame (or not placing weight) on any of its legs, do not wait to contact the vet!


Although constipation is not a true medical emergency, it is a common problem seen in cats and causes a lot of discomfort for them. Constipation can quickly lead to megacolon, which is a severe distention (enlargement) of the colon. It is important to pay attention to your cats’ litterbox habits, both for the peeing and the pooping!

Dr. Lizete Valdmanis
Dundas West Animal Hospital