We want our fur babies to be happy and healthy, of course. It’s not fun thinking that they could get sick. It is helpful, therefore, to know what are common cat health issues. If we know the signs, we are better prepared to help kitty return to health. Let’s take a look at some common problems.
1) Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Known by the acronym, FLUTD, feline lower urinary tract disease can cover a number of different conditions that can affect your kitty’s bladder and urethra. If you see your cat straining at the litter box but producing no urine, it could be FLUTD. Other symptoms might include blood in the urine and excessive licking of the genital area.
Both female and male cats can get FLUTD. Often this condition occurs in cats that are overweight or unfit in some way, or who eat dry food. Stress can be a cause, as can a multi-cat household. Sudden changes can raise the cat’s risk of getting this condition; just remember that it’s always an emergency of your cat can’t urinate.
If your cat shows these symptoms, and especially if straining to urinate, see the vet immediately. If your cat has a urethral blockage, it could be fatal.
My last cat, Carlos, got FLUTD when he became very stressed over an injury received by his best friend cat. I became concerned because he seemed to be scratching in the litter box vigorously but producing no urine. Then he came and told me he had a problem — he jumped up on the table next to my seat and gave what was definitely a “pain yowl.”
I took him to the vet immediately. She laid him on the floor, and applied pressure along the path of the urinary tract. He gave one cry of pain but didn’t struggle. She extracted bloody urine. She gave him a shot and gave me pills to give him, and he recovered from the problem.
She said I got him in to her before he contracted infection, and the quick action saved his life. That was the only time he had that condition. The lesson here: don’t wait if your cat has a similar problem, or you may be too late.
We don’t see fleas a lot in Alaska, though they can occur. However, the problem is very common in other places. Fortunately, it an be treated. Here are signs your cat may have fleas:
- Flea dirt, which looks like tiny black dots, on the cat’s skin
- Scratching constantly
- Frequent licking
- Skin looking red or irritated
- Actual skin infection, or hot spots
I recently wrote a review of the Seresto Flea Collar, recommended by a friend who has used it with great success. You can order one by following the link on the review.
3) Infectious Diseases
Most common cat infectious diseases attack the upper respiratory system. Some of these can be prevented with vaccination.
Symptoms might include runny nose, eyes tearing, sneezing, cough, fever, or mouth sores. Most of these infections are viral, so there isn’t much that can be done. However, it’s important to take your cat to the vet for evaluation. Some upper respiratory infections can be fatal.
Here are two viruses that can cause serious problems for your cat and can even bring about death:
a) Feline Immune Deficiency Virus (FIV)
Though the cat may be infected, the symptoms of this virus may not show up until years after the initial infection. Though it is slow-acting, it severely weakens the cat’s immune system. Thus it can make the cat susceptible to a number of secondary infections.
If an infected cat has supportive medical care and lives in a stress-free indoor environment, he may live comfortably for months to years before the disease becomes chronic.
b) Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV)
This virus is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that was first discovered in the 1960s. This virus can severely inhibit the cat’s immune system. FelV is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats.
As with FIV, the symptoms don’t always manifest right away, so it is a good idea to have any cat new to your household or any sick cat tested for FelV.
4) Kidney Disease
This disease reduces the cat’s ability to excrete waste into their urine. This inability can lead to a dangerous build-up of toxins in the blood stream. A number of factors can cause this disease: High blood pressure, exposure to toxins, infection, kidney stones and cancer.
Kidney disease is very common in older cats. My 16-year-old cat, Pogo, has kidney disease. Watch for these symptoms: decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea, and lethargy. To make diagnosis more difficult, some cats do not show symptoms at all.
If your cat is having kidney problems, be sure you give him plenty of water. He drinks a lot of water with this disease because he needs it to help flush out his system. He will pee more often, so make sure you keep his litter box clean.
5) Dental Disease
Does your cat have bad breath? This could be a sign of either digestive problems or gingivitis (gum disease.) Does he have problems chewing, or difficulty eating? These could indicate dental problems.
Are his gums discolored, swollen, or red? What about ulcers on the gums or tongue, loose teeth, or excessive drooling? Is he constantly pawing at his mouth? Poor kitty — his teeth and/or gums hurt.
Take your cat to a veterinary dentist. It is also good if you brush your cat’s teeth regularly with a toothbrush and toothpaste especially made for felines. Give your cat a chewy toy to help exercise those gums and remove tartar.
With this disease, cells grow uncontrollably, invading surrounding tissue and perhaps spreading to other parts of the body. A cat can get various kinds of cancer. It might be confined to one area, like a tumor. Or, it may be generalized, spread throughout the body.
Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the lymph system. This cancer, associated with the feline leukemia virus, is the most common type of cancer found in cats, especially white ones.
Cancer symptoms in cats might include lumps, swelling, persistent skin sores or infections, lethargy, weight loss, sudden lameness, diarrhea or vomiting. The cat might also be having difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating.
Treatment decisions need to be made with a vet who specializes in oncology.
7) Vomiting and Diarrhea
These two are usually associated with something the cat ate. However, it could also be a sign of something more serious. You will note when you read through these diseases that vomiting and/or diarrhea might be a symptom for more than one of them.
Once in a great while is not usually a cause for concern. However, if one or both of these are persistent, take your cat to the vet to make sure something more serious isn’t going on.
There are a variety of intestinal parasites that may prey upon your cat. The cat might show very little outward signs of infection, allowing it to go undetected, which could lead to a serious health problem. Some feline parasitic worms are also hazards to human health.
First, a warning: Please don’t attempt to treat your cat yourself, as the animal must be treated for the specific type of worm he has. See your vet to determine the proper course for treatment.
Here are some types of worms in cats:
These are the most common internal parasites in cats. They resemble spaghetti, and when adult can be three to four inches long. Nursing kittens can get them from their mother if her milk is infected. Adult cats can get them by ingesting roundworm eggs from the feces of another cat.
These are much smaller, being less than an inch long. They live in the small intestine. They feed on the cat’s blood, which can cause life-threatening anemia, especially in kittens.
Hookworm eggs are passed in the stool, where they hatch into larvae. A cat who ingests these of comes int skin contact can become infected.
These are long, flat, segmented parasites. They range from four inches to 28 inches long. If your cat has these parasites, it can cause vomiting and weight loss.
Cats can get a tapeworm by ingesting an infected flea or rodent. If your cat is infected, you can often see actual pieces of the worm, resembling grains of rice, in the fur around the cat’s hind end.
As the name suggests, these parasites reside in the lungs of the cat. Most cats won’t show signs of having lungworm, though sometimes they develop a cough.
Cats are usually infected after eating a bird or rodent who has ingested an intermediate host, perhaps a snail or slug.
How to prevent your cat from getting worms
- Keep the cat indoors and away from infected cats
- Keep home, yard, and pets flea-free
- Wear gloves when changing cat litter or handling feces
- Dispose of stools frequently
- Check with your vet if you believe your cat needs treatment
Here are symptoms of worms in cats:
- Worms visible in stool or segments near anus
- Bloody stool
- Bloated or pot-bellied abdomen
- Weight loss
- Breathing trouble
Remember, see your vet for treatment. The vet can determine what kind of worms the cat has and the proper treatment.
Keep in mind that not all dog medications are safe for cats, and some over-the-counter deworming medications can do harm to your kitty if not used appropriately.
The references I used for this post are as follows:
This post hits many high points, giving you information about common problems. There may be others. To help you keep your cat in optimum health, you might like one of these guides, available through Amazon. Please note: as an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a small commission if you purchase one of these books.
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