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Diseases of Cats

by Margaret Schill

Cats can acquire various diseases and illnesses. Some are cat specific, such as feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Vaccines and the subsequent booster vaccines can prevent cats from acquiring some contagious cat diseases, some of which have no cure.

Some diseases can occur to any mammal, such as problems with particular body organs and systems including diabetes, asthma, cancer, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.

Common Diseases of Companion Animals Common Diseases of Companion Animals
by Alleice Summers, DVM

Gives clinical signs, keys to diagnosis, treatments, and information for a variety of diseases of dogs and cats.



Diseases and Conditions Cats can Get

Click on the links to get information about several diseases and conditions. Not an inclusive list of all diseases and conditions cats can get.


Diseases Contracted from Cats

There are very few diseases that cats can pass onto humans, and only then in very rare, select circumstances. 




All cats should be tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus when first brought to the home, especially if there are other cats in the home.; Of course, the new cat needs to be kept separated from the other cats until the testing was done and the new cat is found to not be positive for those diseases.

All cats should have yearly veterinary exams, as some problems not yet noticeable to the humans may be noted by the veterinarian, especially as the veterinarian can listen to the cat's heart and lungs and correctly interpret what is heard.; Yearly exams also provide a baseline on the cat's normal state to better assist the veterinarian in assessing a cat that is brought in due to unwellness.;

Cats should be taken to a veterinarian when something just doesn't seem right about the cat, even if one is not sure if the cat is sick.; Cats hide illnesses and pain well, and often have been sick for some time period before it is very obvious.; Some serious illnesses and diseases progress slowly over time and; have subtle symptoms in the early stages rather than the dramatic, impossible to miss symptoms that acute illnesses may have.

The sooner a problem is diagnosed, the easier and less costly it is to treat.; And of course, the less discomfort or pain the cat will have.; It is always best to err on the side of caution, as some illnesses and conditions can rapidly become life threatening, especially in kittens and elderly cats.; It is never a waste of money to find out that a cat taken to the vet is fine and healthy.;

Some general guidelines of when to take a cat to the vet include, but are not limited to, when the cat:
  • is listless and lethargic (most all cat illnesses)
  • stays in a tucked position, with the paws tucked under the body for most of the time
  • has a warmer than usual or a hot body, not due to lying in the sun or next to a heater (probably a fever)
  • has the inner eyelids showing except for when about to fall asleep or just waking up
  • has been losing weight even if eating normally (can be due to hyperthyroidism or diabetes, among other causes)
  • has not been eating much or at all for more than a day
  • has been drinking more than usual or what seems like a lot if a new cat (can be due to diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing's Disease, among other reasons)
  • has been sitting hanging it's head over the water bowl but not drinking (can be due to kidney disease)
  • has been urinating more often than usual or in larger amounts than usual (can be due to diabetes, kidney disease, or Cushing's Disease)
  • has been eliminating outside of the litter box when not due to a box not having been scooped (can be a sign of a urinary infection, diabetes-if urine)
  • has been straining to eliminate (a sign of a severe urinary infection or blockage- get the cat to the vet immediately! If it is a urinary blockage, the cat can die in as little as 24 hours!)
  • has been panting or wheezing, even when after vigorous play (can be due to asthma or cardiomyopathy. Panting should never be ignored.)
  • has labored breathing (can be due to asthma or cardiomyopathy)
  • has been coughing or gagging
  • has been sneezing more than a once or twice occurrence
  • has diarrhea more than a single episode, or blood in diarrhea even at one episode
  • has been vomiting
  • has been regurgitating food after eating, more than once in a rare while
  • has a change in gum color from the normal pink (white or blue gums are an immediate life-threatening emergency! )
  • has been licking bricks, concrete or eating clay litter (a sign of anemia, which can be due to the body not making red blood cells, not only merely from diet deficiencies. Get the cat to the vet!)
  • is limping, wobbling, staggering or having difficulty walking or jumping
  • has seizures, convulsions, twitching, trembling, acting disoriented, falls over
  • is bleeding from anywhere other than due to a small scratch (note: female cats do not bleed when in heat)
  • has lumps or swelling
  • has a swollen abdomen (can be due to roundworms, Cushing's Disease, or FIP, among other reasons)
  • appears to be in pain, or cries out or strikes out suddenly when an area of the body is touched that does not usually bothe the cat
  • cries, meows, yowls or howls more than usual (the cat is in distress, likely in pain.)
  • scoots it's rear end on the floor or licks the anal area more than normal (can be due to tapeworms or impacted/infected anal glands)
  • discharge from the anal, vaginal area, or from the eyes and nose
  • the cat smells bad or has a different, strong odor than usual (can be due to diabetes, gingivitis, bad ear infection, anal gland secretions, cancer, among other causes)
  • drooling- not counting after having given the cat bitter tasting vet prescribed medication (can be a sign of poisoning, dental/mouth problems, advanced kidney disease)
  • has a marked change in personality, either aggressiveness or overly friendly or attention seeking
  • has been excessively scratching or licking part of its body
  • has been losing fur excessively, other than normal seasonal shedding (can be due to hypothyroidism, Cushing's Disease, among other causes)
  • has developed a greasy or dry, poor looking coat
  • anything else that is not normal for the cat

Cat with Fever

Sumner has a high fever in the above picture. His inner eyelids are showing some, which tends to happen when a cat has a fever.

Health Aides

Greenies Pill Pockets for Cats icon
icon icon

Pill Pockets take the hassle out of medicating your cat, while providing a healthy treat. These are dough pockets, in which you place the pill, then present to the cat as a treat.

Made from all human-grade meats. Salmon or Chicken flavor.