From Your Observations, Can Cats Sense Illness In Humans?

Has your cat ever alerted you to a less-than-perfect physical problem that you might have developed recently? What do you think? Can cats sense illness in humans?

You can find many stories that answer that question with a resounding “yes.” Look at my stories from the book, “Super Cats” to find some of them. If your cat has such a skill, how can you use this talent to your advantage?

Grey tiger cat loving human

Often, if the cat senses that you don’t feel well, he shows you more attention and affection than usual. Many times he will want to be near you. Take advantage of this desire: cuddle with the cat and feel the full effect of that healing purr.

When I had a knee replacement, Carlos, my cat, could tell right away when I came home from the hospital that something was not right. I used a walker and obviously had trouble moving. When I got to bed, an ice machine was hooked up to a cold pack around the knee, to keep it at a cool temerature.

Nevertheless, the cat got under the covers and stretched out next to the knee. There he stayed for three days, getting up only when I did. After three days, he must have decided I’d be okay, as he moved out from under the covers again.

Cats can sense health problems in two ways. One stems from their incredible sense of smell, and the other from their powers of observation. When we have an illness, we smell different. When we are in pain, our facial expressions often give us away.

Oscar, The Therapy Cat

One great story centers around a therapy cat, Oscar, who lived in a nursing home in Rhode Island. Oscar, adopted to bring happiness to the residents, had another special talent. He could predict the death of residents in the home.

Between 2007 and 2010, Oscar correctly predicted the deaths of  50 patients in the home. His case gives great proof that cats can sense serious health problems.

Usually, when the owner becomes sick, the cat responds by being more affectionate than usual. He might follow his owner everywhere and do his best to comfort by giving attention and affection.

therapy cat in VA hospital
Therapy Cat In A VA Hospital

How Can A Cat Sense Illness In A Human?

The reason behind this ability of the cat to sense illness comes from the immense power of  the cat’s senses. These allow the cat to detect changes in our bodies that we insufficient humans cannot sense. The cat senses changes in smell, temperature, and habits. Let’s look at these three tools available to the cat detective.

1) Changes In Smell

A cat’s nose has over 200 million smell receptors. Their sense of smell measures at 14 times stronger than a human’s. That means they can smell things we cannot, and from a greater distance.

Our body scents change when we become sick. The reason has to do with hormonal fluctuations created in our bodies with illness. Nearly every illness will create some kind of hormonal shift, especially with illness that directly affects the endocrine system and our hormone levels.

When a woman becomes pregnant, the cat can sense the hormonal changes, and kitty will become clingy.

Cats will become drawn to new smells due to their curiosity. Thus the cat may not know that you are sick, but rather that you smell different.

2) Changes In Body Temperature

If you develop a fever, your body will become hot to the touch. Here you have a reason for a cat to sleep near a sick owner. The warm temperature draws them.

Though seeking that extra warmth, the cat can also sense that things do not seem right with you. You have changed your routine. The cat will notice, and may feel the need to become over-protective and affectionate.

3) Changes In Habits

The changes in routine act as a warning signal to your cat that all is not well. You may spend more time in bed. You may not go to work as much. Perhaps your appetite has dropped.

Because the cat observes your behavior, he will sense that something is wrong. Why did you feed him late? Why haven’t you gotten out of bed? What is wrong? Your cat will want to know.

What Illnesses Might Your Cat Sense?

First of all, your cat will more likely sense a more severe illness than a mild one, such as a cold. As we see in the case of Oscar, the therapy cat, a cat might find it easier to detect when a person nears death. However, the cat will sense other conditions as well.

Cats sleeping with humans

Mental Illness

For example, if a person suffers from mental illness, they tend to behave differently. Mental illness comes about because of a change in chemicals in the brain. These can alter hormonal production in the body, creating an imbalance. The cat can sense this imbalance.

High Blood Pressure

If blood pressure spikes and sets the heart to racing, the cat might stay with with you out of concern or may run away from you because he becomes scared of your racing heart.

A Broken Bone

Your cat can tell if you suffer pain. With a broken bone, you will definitely show signs of pain, either through facial expression or through wincing. The cat can pick up on these signs.

As you will not move around so much, you may spend more time in bed. Kitty will know something’s wrong.


Anecdotal evidence suggests that cats may be able to detect cancer with their noses. We have stories about cats sniffing out a body part where a doctor later discovered cancer.

Cancer in the body will increase the number of compounds in the body known as polyamines. These coupounds have a pungent smell, and cats can recognize the odor.


The cat’s nose can easily detect diabetes, as this disease causes hormonal imbalances. The insulin supply shows a lack, and the body has a sickly-sweet smell because of excessive glucose

The cat will not like the smell, and may paw at your clothes as if trying to remove the odor.

Heart Attack

A cat could detect a heart attack because the human’s body temperature will increase to higher than normal, and the cat can sense this rise in temperature.

Shortness of breath and facial expressions showing pain can all alert the cat that something has gone wrong. Though they won’t understand what is the matter, they will indeed understand that you need help.

How Can Cats Help With Sickness?

cat talking on phone

The most obvious way the cat can help comes from their desire to comfort you with their affectionate presence. If your cat senses some physical illness, he may amp up the attention as a way of trying to help.

On the other hand, depending on his temperament, he will act in different ways. If you have an anxious cat, he may respond by hiding. Because he senses something different about you, he may act overly aggressive.

Don’t punish the cat for this aggression — try to figure out what triggered it. Perhaps it’s a condition that would warrant a call to your doctor.

Besides having such a fine sense of smell, your cat has a healing purr. Though the cat can’t cure cancer, he can help you recover more quickly from minor illness.

The cat’s purr comes about because their voice box vibrates. Interesting that the vibrational frequency of purrs occupies the same frequency that is used in humans for vibrational therapy.

This list will give you the benefits of the cat’s purr:

1) The muscles in your whole body will relax. Thus, the purr can help lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, and help in the recovery of injured muscles.

2) Stimulates the production of osteoblasts. These cells in our bodies produce bones. The stimulation of osteoblast production can help broken bones heal more quickly. Issues in the joint will ease.

3) Stress levels lowered because of the calming effect. Relaxing the body allows it to recover more quickly. It will also help improve mental health by lifting depression.

Though the cat can’t take the place of a doctor, and cannot treat the problem, he can give an early alert that you have a problem. If it’s a minor one, kitty might even be able to help  you recover.

Monitoring your health becomes just another good reason to keep your cat happy and healthy, and he will try to do the same for you.

References I used for this post: 

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