Cute cat being held by owner in loving way.

9 Behavior Changes To Watch Out For In Cats

If you're like me, you probably find immense joy in deciphering the mysterious language of your feline friend. Cats, with their quirky behaviors and unique personalities, have a lot to tell us—if only we know how to listen. 

Take proactive steps when you observe these behavior changes in your cats. These signals may offer insights into their well-being or signal potential health issues. Stay attentive and responsive to ensure your feline friend's happiness and health.

Exploration and Curiosity

Cat exploring and hiding under the couch.
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Cats are born adventurers. From climbing bookshelves to investigating the contents of your grocery bags, their curiosity knows no bounds. A healthy cat will show a keen interest in its surroundings, and trust me, that's a good sign. My friend’s cat, Ginger, loves to explore every nook and cranny of the house, ensuring nothing escapes her watchful eyes.

Any sudden change in a cat's curiosity or interest in its surroundings might indicate an underlying problem. For instance, if a once-adventurous cat becomes unusually withdrawn or disinterested in exploring, it could be a sign of potential health issues or stress.

Grooming Habits

Cat grooming itself and licking its paws.
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Have you ever wondered why cats spend hours licking themselves? Well, grooming is not just a beauty routine for them—it's vital to maintaining good health. A well-groomed cat is happy, and it's not unusual for them to purr contentedly after a thorough self-cleaning session.

Changes in grooming behavior can be indicative of underlying issues. A decrease in grooming might signal discomfort, pain, or illness. On the other hand, excessive grooming could be a response to stress or skin problems. Pet owners should pay attention to alterations in grooming habits, as they can provide valuable insights into the cat's health and well-being.

Playful Behavior

Cat playing on couch reaching out to swat at toy.
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Watching a cat play is like witnessing poetry in motion. Whether chasing a feather or pouncing on a toy mouse, playful behavior clearly indicates a cat's mental well-being.

Cats have evolved highly specialized adaptations that make them masterful hunters. They have more musculature along their spinal columns, unlike us humans, who have cartilage and ligaments. This allows cats to have more agility and elasticity in their movements, as is evident in their ability to always land on their feet if they fall or are dropped.

If there is a decrease in activity or disinterest in playtime, it might be a sign of something else going on. Try a new toy, especially one with some cat nip in it. If, after a few days, your cat still doesn't seem to be “in the mood,” it might be time to visit the vet.

Sleeping Patterns

Cat Sleeping on couch.
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Cats are masters of relaxation, spending a significant portion of their day napping. Ancient felines would hunt their prey during the night as most small mammals are nocturnal.

The modern cat still has that hunting schedule hardwired in its genes and sleeps around 12-16 hours a day (PetMD), but don't be alarmed if your furry companion seems to snooze a bit more or less. However, take note of your cat's typical circadian rhythm. If that pattern seems to shift in a short period of time, it might be an indicator that there is something wrong.

Changes in Appetite

Cat eating out of bowl.
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One red flag in a cat's behavior is a sudden change in eating habits. If your once voracious eater starts turning their nose up at meals or can't seem to get enough, it might be time to investigate.

Cats are obligate carnivores, so meeting your cat’s dietary needs can sometimes seem daunting, particularly if you have a fussy eater. Cats can also be prone to kidney disease due to their genetically low thirst drive. They can survive on less water than most mammals and are more sensitive to how the water is presented.

Litter Box Habits

Cat slowly crawling out of litter box.
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Keep an eye on your cat's bathroom etiquette. Changes in litter box behavior, like avoiding it altogether or going more frequently, could indicate underlying health issues. 

“At least 10% of all cats develop elimination problems. Some stop using the box altogether.” (ASPCA)

We once were pet-sitting a cat, Oliver, and it became unusually finicky about his litter box. After a vet visit, it was revealed that he had a urinary tract infection that needed prompt treatment.

Social Behavior Changes

Cat hiding in enclosure being anti social.
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Cats are social creatures, and alterations in their interactions can signal trouble. While all cats love to sneak away, if your once affectionate cat becomes suddenly distant or displays uncharacteristic aggression, it's time to pay attention. 

Likewise, if your cat used to be the queen of cuddles but then starts swatting at you, and it's not playtime, it very well could be in pain or have something else requiring medical attention.

Vocalization Patterns

Cat meowing to camera.
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Cats are known for their diverse vocalizations, from the melodic purring to the insistent meowing. However, excessive meowing or sudden silence could be signs of distress. These are the most common reasons why cats meow:

  • To greet people. 
  • To solicit attention. 
  • To ask for food. 
  • To ask to be let in or out. 
  • To find a mate

Although not an emergency per se, when my cat Buddy is excessively vocalized, it usually means he needs food…or wants my attention. 

Physical Manifestations of Stress

Cat overly licking its paws.
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Stress can manifest physically in cats. Keep an eye out for changes like excessive grooming, overeating, or even changes in fur texture. Over-grooming to the point of developing bald patches should be cause for a vet visit to help uncover any underlying stress issues. 

Seeking Veterinary Attention: When in Doubt, Consult the Experts

Cat getting routine checkup at the vet office.
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Regular vet check-ups are crucial for maintaining your cat's well-being. Don't hesitate to consult your vet if you notice any significant behavior changes. In my experience, early intervention makes a world of difference. 

Deciphering the Feline Code

Cat closeup reaching up to camera.
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So there you have it—a guide to understanding your feline friend's behavior. Cats are mysterious creatures, but you can decipher their signals with a bit of observation and a lot of love.

Whether it's the joy of a playful cat or the concern of detecting a behavior change, being attuned to your cat's needs is the key to a happy and healthy life together. Here's to many more purrs, whisker twitches, and delightful moments with your furry companions!