Common Health Issues in Cats

Oct 21, 2021

Your cat may be a confident hunter and an excellent groomer, but it’s your job to look after your cat’s health. There are many common health issues that affect cats. Some are as simple as the occasional hairball, while others can be quite serious. In this article, we’ll look at common health issues and diseases that can affect cats. 

1. Vomiting 

While vomiting can be a common occurrence for cats, it can have a variety of different causes. Eating something they shouldn’t have, and hairballs are likely why your cat is vomiting.  Unfortunately, vomiting can also be caused by infections like urinary tract disease or diabetes. If your cat is nauseated, they may be restless, licking themselves, drooling, and meowing a lot. 

2. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)

It’s always an emergency if your cat can’t urinate (pee). Signs of FLUTD are drinking more, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, urinating outside of the litter box, crying while urinating, licking the groin (this is because of pain), depression, dehydration, lack of appetite, and vomiting. This is a health issue that calls for a vet visit. 

3. Fleas

Fleas are very common among cats. Even indoor cats are at risk of catching fleas since people and other animals can bring one in from outside. Thankfully fleas are very treatable with combing, bathing, and different flea treatments like collars and monthly medicine applied to the skin. Fleas can live for a year and cause anemia, or low iron, in your cat. If your cat eats a flea, that can lead to your cat developing intestinal parasites. 

4. Tapeworms

Most often the result of a swallowed flea, tapeworms are easily treated by medication. However, if you have a flea infestation, it’s important to clear up any flea issues before treating your cat for tapeworms. Treatment includes medicines that can be injected, taken by mouth, or applied to the skin. 

5. Diarrhea

If your cat has watery or loose stools (poop), make sure they have access to lots of clean water. This is to prevent dehydration. Then, don’t feed your cat for 12 hours. If your cat is still sick after a day, it’s time to take them to the vet. 

6. Eye Problems

Common eye problems in cats are conjunctivitis, which is a mild infection, corneal ulcers, cataracts, and glaucoma. If your cat has watery eyes, tear-stained fur, cloudiness, red or white eyelid linings, gunk or mucus in the corners of the eye, is squinting, or pawing at their eye, take your cat to the vet. Eye problems should be considered emergencies.  

Common Diseases in Cats

Now we’ll look at some of the common diseases that cats can get. Don’t worry though, with a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food, and lots of love, your cat can live a long and healthy life. Talk to your vet at your next visit about alternative health strategies for your cat. They might mention acupuncture, CBD, or nutritional supplements like hemp seed oil. However, forewarned is forearmed, so learning about diseases that could impact your cat gives you the information to potentially identify any early warning signs, which will allow treatment to start sooner rather than later. 

1. Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin. It is contagious to humans and dogs, so wash your hands thoroughly, wear gloves when handling your cat, and keep your cat separated from other animals in the household if you think your cat has ringworm. This skin parasite is known to leave red, scaly rings on the skin, and can lead to patchy areas of hair loss on cats.

2. Worms

Intestinal parasites are a gross, but common occurrence among cats. Thankfully, they are easily treated. Some cat worms are potentially transmissible to humans as well, so wash up and get your cat to the vet once you notice symptoms. Outdoor cats are more susceptible to worms, but indoor cats can get them by eating a flea. 

3. Upper Respiratory Infections

One thing you and your cat have in common is that you both can catch colds. Like with humans, this illness can be caused by a host of different viruses and bacteria. Soothe your kitten’s breathing by steaming them in the bathroom with the shower running. You can also use a saline solution and drip it into their nasal passages, or nose, which your kitty is sure to enjoy. If the infection doesn’t resolve, you’ll need to take your cat to the vet for antibiotics.  

4. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a retrovirus that attacks a cat’s immune system. The good news is that infected cats can lead happy, normal lives for a long time. This will involve medical care, a lack of stress in their day-to-day life, and being kept indoors. They will be susceptible to secondary infections, however. Symptoms may not show up for years after the initial infection happened. Once the virus starts affecting a cat, it will seriously weaken their immune system, which is why this illness must be managed with lifestyle. 

5. Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV)

The feline leukemia virus is one of the most common causes of disease and death in cats. Since this virus can lay dormant and not cause any symptoms, it is imperative that all cats, especially rescues, are tested before being exposed to other cats in a household. This disease weakens cats’ immune systems, which makes them susceptible to a variety of infections and illnesses. 

6. Heartworm

The insidious heartworm is spread through the bite of infected mosquitos. Heartworms typically affect the lungs, causing disease and illness in cats. Many monthly flea meds that are applied to the skin contain heartworm prevention. Prevention is the best way to defend against this dangerous parasite. If you live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, talk to your vet about ways to prevent heartworm infection.

7. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common disease found among aging cats. It is most commonly found in a cat’s legs, making movement difficult, and possibly painful. Common causes of arthritis include a lifetime of wear and tear on joints, joint developmental issues, injury, genetics and obesity. If you’ve observed your cat moving with more difficulty and resting more than normal, take your cat to the vet. If they diagnose arthritis, they’ll discuss treatments like pain relievers and acupuncture with you. 

8. Rabies 

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the brain and spinal cord. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, making this a contagious infection. The best way to treat rabies is through preventative vaccines and avoiding animals who might be infected. Unfortunately, most cases of rabies are most often 100% fatal, so make sure your cat is up to date on their shots.

9. Cancer

Cancer is a serious but treatable disease. Signs of cancer to look out for include lumps, swelling, persistent sores or skin infections, strange fluid discharge from any part of the body, bad breath, excessive sleepiness and other marked changes in behavior or energy, weight loss, sudden lameness, diarrhea, vomiting, scaly and/or red patches of skin, decreased or loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, difficulty urinating (peeing) or defecating (pooping), and changes in behavior.

10. Diabetes

Diabetes involves the digestive hormone, insulin, and your cat’s ability to use it. Sometimes diabetes is caused by the pancreas not making enough insulin. Other times, a cat’s body may not respond or use the insulin it is making. This affects your cat’s blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous. Diabetes is a manageable disease with lifestyle changes and this disease can go into remission or cure itself. 

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