Cat Health Symptoms that Manifest as Behavior Issues

Cat health symptoms sometimes disguise themselves as behavior problems. Here are some behaviors that may be caused by medical conditions.

Inappropriate Elimination

Litter box problems are the most frequently cited reasons for leaving a cat at a shelter. While this can be a behavior problem, it may also be a symptom of a medical condition that makes going to the litter box painful for your cat. If he begins to associate the pain with his litter box, he may start to avoid it.

FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) is one of the most common reasons cats are taken to the vet. It is a painful and sometimes serious condition that may caused by a bacterial infection, bladder stones, or urethral blockage. Often, the cause is unknown.  

Arthritis causes pain and stiffness in your cat’s joints. He may find it difficult to get in and out of his litter box.

Kidney disease does not cause your cat pain while urinating, but he will have to go more frequently. He may not always be able to make it to his litter box in time.

Constipation causes hard, dry stool that is difficult for your cat to pass. This can cause him stress and pain. Constipation is common in cats and has a number of causes including diet, hairballs, matted hair, intestinal blockage and medication. Some serious conditions like kidney failure and tumors can also cause constipation.


If your cat is dragging his rear end across the carpet, this may be a symptom of an anal gland disease. Impaction is the most common of these and occurs when the fluid the glands secrete becomes waxy and thick. Other conditions are more serious and include anal gland infection, abscesses and cancer.

Excessive Grooming

Obsessive licking can lead to hair loss and infection, and can be a symptom of a number of health problems. Flea infestations, food or environmental allergies, kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease can all cause your cat’s skin to be dry or itch, making him lick more than he should.

Neurological conditions or localized pain may also lead to excessive licking.

Aggression or Shyness

If your cat hisses or growls when you pick him up or try to touch a particular part of his body, he may be in pain. Illness and pain may also cause your otherwise outgoing cat to hide.

Blindness may also cause your cat to feel insecure and unsure in his environment. He may lash out or hide as a result.

Excessive Meowing

A number of health problems can cause your cat to meow more than he used to. Feline cognitive disorder, sometimes called cat Alzheimer’s, can cause confusion and disorientation in your older cats, and he may meow more than usual.

Hyperthyroidism, caused by a benign tumor on the thyroid gland, can cause your cat to meow incessantly.

If your cat is losing his hearing, he may meow louder than normal because he can no longer hear himself.

Blindness, pain and neurological conditions may also cause excessive meowing.


If your older cat has suddenly become rambunctious, he may be suffering from hyperthyroidism, a serious condition common in cats over ten years old. A tumor on the thyroid gland causes your cat’s body to secrete excessive amounts of the thyroid hormones, increasing his metabolism and sometimes causing hyperactivity.

If your cat starts to soil the house or misbehave in ways he normally does not, take him to your vet. His behavior may be a symptom of a health problem.