Cats are exceptional at hiding how they are feeling, and when they are unwell they are unable to tell us. In the wild, predators will pick out the weakest as they make the easiest targets. So, it stands to reason that when smaller animals (such as cats) are feeling sick, they will try to hide it. The eagle-eyed cat owner can pick up subtle cues.
A hunched over cat will sit with all four feet on the ground, which is a typical position for a cat, however, instead of having his head up, being alert to his surroundings, his head will usually be bent forward and his shoulders rounded.
Hunching over typically occurs when your cat is feeling unwell and/or is in pain (particularly in his abdomen). Other subtle signs may be withdrawal from the household (sitting alone), loss of interest in surroundings, change in litter tray habits (urinating small amounts/more often or straining to urinate), crying in the litter tray, lethargy, sleeping more, waning appetite. The coat may lose its shine and lustre.
Pet owners should always be on the watch for these slight changes in your cat's demeanour and habits. While hunching over can be subtle, it is usually a sign that your cat is not well or in pain and should be checked out by a veterinarian.
There are many possible reasons your cat may be hunched over, far too many to cover in this article. Anything that causes pain or discomfort in your cat may result in a hunched over appearance.
Some common causes may include:
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
- Kidney disease
- Feline panleukopenia
- Urinary tract disorders (infection, blockage, inflammation)
Cat hunching over water bowl:
This can be a sign that your cat is suffering from kidney disease. Increased thirst is a common symptom. More than 70% of the kidney's function can be lost before symptoms become apparent. We had a cat assumed this pose over his water bowl in his final days with kidney failure.
You may notice pain and discomfort if you stroke the back of a hunched over cat. This can be indicative of abdominal pain, which has a number of possible causes.
What will my vet do?
This depends on how your cat presents as well as a medical history provided by you. Your veterinarian will perform a complete medical assessment of your cat. Hunched over cats quite often have a painful abdomen, so your veterinarian will gently palpitate it to check for signs of discomfort, swollen bladder, kidney size, and shape. He may want to perform some baseline tests such as complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis which can give him a clue as to how the organs are functioning, if your cat has any crystals or stones in the urine, how concentrated the urine is. Once these tests are performed, he may decide on some further tests based on the results of the baseline tests.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
To summarise, while subtle, a hunched over cat is generally a cat who is not feeling well, it is always a good idea to see a veterinarian if you notice this in your cat.