When Your Cat “Ain’t Doing Right”

If you can’t quite put your finger on what seems to be making your cat feel a little under the weather, it’s time to see the vet.

ADR cats seem more quiet than usual. If this is the case with your cat, get her checked out. By: tambako

Have you heard of TLAs?

I hadn’t, until I met my husband.

When we first met, he was in the Royal Navy, an organization rife with TLAs — or “3-letter abbreviations.” When telling me about his day, he had to translate the TLAs into English so I understood what he was talking about — for example, GYH (get you home), HDT (home to duty travel) and MOA (meals out allowance).


In fact, TLAs are everywhere but can mean different things in different circumstances. DNA can mean “deoxyribonucleic acid” or “did not arrive,” depending on the context.

Veterinary medicine is also packed with 3-letter abbreviations, such as SPP (senior pet profile), RTA (road traffic accident), PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) or one of my favorites, ADR — “ain’t doing right.”

“Ain’t Doing Right” Cats

You may well be familiar with the ADR cat.

This is the animal who:

  • Isn’t quite him- or herself
  • Is eating, but not with their usual gusto
  • Is drinking a bit more than usual, but not hugely so
  • Seems quieter than normal
  • Was a bit sick yesterday, but then they do that from time to time…

In other words, the ADR cat is the cat who gives you cause for concern but with no obvious cause.

However, this doesn’t mean that nothing is wrong — far from it. A cat who is “not quite right” needs to be taken seriously.

As a vet, I fully respect when people feel something is wrong but can’t put their finger on it because the gut instinct can be an invaluable early warning of trouble. It is in the nature of cats to conceal when they are unwell — and they are masterful at it.

Cats are good at concealing illness, so look for subtle signs. By: dizao

Checking Out the ADR Cat

Outwardly, an off-color cat may just be quiet, sleep more and not eat as well.

That’s where your veterinarian comes in. By performing a thorough physical exam, we get clues as to where the problem lies.

For example, it might be the cat is running a fever or having breathing issues or a stomach ache, which the cat is determined to conceal because in nature to reveal a weakness makes them vulnerable.


If your cat has been in a fight or picked up a bug, they may run a temperature.

The contrary character of cats means they may be happy to heat-bathe in a stiflingly hot conservatory, but they have all the resilience of wet lettuce when running a fever.

Prompt treatment with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics is often required to get cats back on their paws again.

Breathing Difficulties

Some problems are literally “silent,” such as when a cat develops fluid around the lungs.

The only sign you get is the cat spending more time asleep and losing their appetite because they are concentrating all their efforts on breathing.

There are many reasons that breathing problems develop, from a protein imbalance in the blood to the trauma of an accident, from cancer to heart disease, but they all have one thing in common — urgent treatment is needed.


Cats may happily munch away on things we consider unpalatable, such as mice, but when it comes to a tummy ache, this will stop them in their tracks.

Having stomach gripes brings out the diva in cats, and they either pick at their food or stop eating.

A common cause of abdominal pain is pancreatitis, a condition caused by a leakage of digestive juices from the pancreas. The latter is an organ responsible for producing insulin and the digestive juices that break up the fat in food.

Here are more signs to look out for if you think your cat isn’t feeling 100%:

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the “safety seals” start to leak.

Those strong fat-digesting acids attack the pancreas itself. This is very painful.


Not only that, but eating stimulates the pancreas to release more digestive juices, so the cat feels worse. As a result, the cat stops eating or vomits.

The severity of pancreatitis varies, as does the treatment.

  • Some patients need mild pain relief and a bland diet.
  • Others require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and aggressive supportive care.

One thing is for certain — early diagnosis and treatment helps your cat feel better more quickly and gives the best chance to get better.

A Final Note

The next time your cat is a little off color, remember how accomplished our feline friends are at concealing problems.

ADR cats may just be feeling a bit sorry for themselves — but to be on the safe side, get them checked out by your veterinarian.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Nov. 2, 2018.


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