How to Recognize Most Common Cat Illnesses

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This article will detail how to recognize symptoms of the most common cat illnesses, how to treat them and how to avoid them if possible. When a beloved pet becomes sick it can be a scary event for the whole fanily. Hopefully these tips will help you know what to look for, recognize what you are seeing and understand what type of treatment to seek.


ILLNESS: As with humans cancer is a leading cause of illness and death in cats. Also like humans cats are susceptible to several different types of cancer such as skin, stomach, and kidney.

SYMPTOMS: One of the main indications that something is wrong is if you notice a lump somewhere on your cat’s body, or a skn lesion that doesn’t seem to heal. Symptoms of internal cancers can include changes in behavior, weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, suddden lameness, diarrhea or vomiting. Though cancer can occur in cats at any age, it is most prevalent in cats over 8 years of age. There is no known prevention for internal cancers, though some studies suggest feeding the highest quality nutrition available will help lengthen a cats lifespan.

Skin cancer occurs most frequently in cats with white or light colored heads and ears. Ask you vet if your cat may be at risk. If so, keeping your cat indoors is the best prevention for this type of cancer.

TREATMENTS: For a visible lump or lesion the first thing to do is get a biopsy to confirm a cancer diagnosis. After that other tests can determine if the cancer has spread. Some cancers can be cured, but if your cat’s cancer is not curable you can certainly take measures to make her life as comfortable and pain-free as possible.


ILLNESS: Diabetes is a very complex disease in cats. As in humans it is either a lack of the hormone insulin, or inability of the cat’s body to process and use it normally. This results in a condition known as “hyperglycemia” or extremely high levels of sugar in the blood system. For some reason male cats are more prone to this disease than female cats.

SYMPTOMS: If you notice you cat’s water or food bowls are being emptied faster than usual, or your cat is urinating more frequently this could be a sign that glucose levels are going unregulated. Excess glucose in the bloodstream will make a cat thirsty when they are not usually thirst driven. A siimple blood test at the vet can confirm a diagnosis of diabetes.

TREATMENT: Although there is no cure for diabetes it can be controlled with injections and pills to control glucose, and dietary changes. Some cats, particularly overweight cats who successfully lose weight, can stimulate their pancreas to begin functioning normally again and overcome the need for continued medication. This is the best possible outcome, and the cat can continue to live a long,healthy and happy life.


FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)            

ILLNESS: A cat with this virus can live symptom free for years, but once the illness takes hold it can create many different health problems even before reaching the chronic stages. Once symptoms begin to develop they can continually worsen.

SYMPTOMS: Some of the most common signs to look for are: enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, dull messy coat, diarrhea, discharge from eyes or nose, wounds that don’t heal, or any other significant behavior change.

PREVENTION: Since this disease is mainly transmitted from cat to cat through deep bite wounds during fights, usually over territory or during mating (another good reason to keep kitty indoors)! It doesn’t seem to be transmitted through the sharing of food bowls or litterboxes. The most susceptible cats are free-roaming intact males. Cats which are kept indoors are the least likely candidates for infection.

TREATMENT: Unfortunately there is no standard protocol for treatment of FIV. There are things that can be done to help an infected cat stay healthy and live as long and as comfortably as possible. There are medications for secondary infections, healthy diets, fluid replacement therapy, and immune system enhancing drugs. And you definitely want to spay or neuter and keep an infected cat indoors only.


FeLV (Feline Leukemia)                                 

ILLNESS: Feline Leukemia can be difficult to distinguish due to the widely varied symptoms that can be displayed. These can include loss of appetite, poor coat condition, uneven pupils, infections of the skin and respiratory tract, weight loss, litter box avoidance, and recurrance of other viral ailments. Some cats can be asymtomatic carriers and have no symptoms of disease, sometimes for years.

Feline Leukemia is passed from cat to cat through close contact with infected saliva and mucus through biting or even grooming.

The infection rates are much higher in stray city dwelling cats than in rural cats simply due to the increased contact they have with each other.

PREVENTION: There are now vaccines available in both the U.S. and Europe to aid in the prevention of Feline Leukemia, although none is considered 100% effective. Serious side effects have also been reported as a result of the vaccine in a small number of cats, the worst being the development of an aggressive tumor at the injection site. More often than not your veterinarian will still recommend the annual vaccination.

TREATMENT:  For the past 8 years in the U.S. and Europe there has been an injectible treatment aid available which can reduce the mortality rate from approximately 50% to around 20%. It can only be administered to cats over 9 weeks of age in non-terminal stages of the disease.


IN CONCLUSION: While the possiblilty of a beloved cat contracting one of these serious illnesses may be worrisome, it is far better to be educated and aware of the possibility than to ignore it altogether. With the help of a trusted veterinarian most of these common diseases can be prevented, or at the very least treated with an early diagnosis. We do it for ourselves and for our children, we should do the same for our furry companions.

If you have questions about how to prepare you cat for a trip to the vet check out the tips here:

Let me know your thoughts, comments and discussion are always welcome!

Kyle Ann


*Information courtesy PetMD and Wikipedia  *photos courtesy Pexels

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22 thoughts on “How to Recognize Most Common Cat Illnesses”

  1. Hi Louisa!

    Thank you for taking time to read my blog.
    I am a worrier myself, so I think it’s important to keep educated about all the potential risks and how to handle them.
    Come back soon to see what’s new, and feel free to ask any questions as they come up.
    I appreciate your comments very much.
    Kyle Ann

  2. Hi Joe,

    My what a variety of experiences you have had with four legged companions!  I had horses at one time myself but  my ill health wouldn’t allow me to maintain their upkeep so I downsized to a small townhouse in town and reduced my pet population to a dog and two cats. 

    A good relationship with a trusted veterinarian can be invaluable.

    You are fortunate to have found a trusted friend to care for your property and animals.

    Thanks for taking time to read my post and add your comments. Please come back soon to see what’s new.

    All the best,


  3. Hi Kyle Ann,

    Thanks for your post on cat illnesses, very informative.  All of my kids have had four legs as well as tails–1+ dogs, 8 horses, and cats–many, many cats…lost count.

    We moved (with two dogs) to a farm in Indiana 27 years ago and started with two horses, and eventually grew to eight horses and one time nine dogs…all the while cats wandered in to barn, and stayed.  When my wife passed away three years ago, I re-homed our last two horses to a family that had kids to ride them. 

    The four or five barn cats then became carport cats.  Two years ago, I rented out the place next door to a single mom/daughter, and they brought their five horses to my barn/pasture.  About a year ago, there seemed to have been a cat explosion–three females with litters of two, three, and six, plus a mix of others…total population was 24!!!  Into action, spaying and neutering and finding homes for some, and the last male was neutered about a week ago.

    After my move to Florida this past May, she now rents my home in Indiana also, and is caring for the cats (as well as her six dogs and horses).  “I’m not a cat person” she declared to me two years ago, and although she has a favorite of the eight or nine cats left there, none of which will be sent to other homes, she still declares “I’m not a cat person”…she will definitely get the valuable information you provided here…thanks a bunch!!!

    Keep up the good work, and best wishes,

    Joe (joejr49 in WA)

  4. Hi Barbara,

    I have dogs as well as cats myself.  My dog is such a sweet soul she tends to act as a mother to the cats.

    She will clean their faces and their bottoms, and if they are scared (especially during thunderstorms) they run to her side.

    I feel they each have their special qualities to give us, and if they all get along it make for a very fulfilling situation.

    Hopefully your dogs and cats get along too!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post, and for adding your comments.

    Please come back soon to see what’s new.

    Kyle Ann

  5. Hi Gary,

    So sorry you and your furry companion are having to deal with chronic cystitis. It is unusual that no underlying cause has been determined since it is usually brought on by such things as bladder/kidney stones, or even small tumors somewhere in the urinary tract.

    It is also less common in male cats than females, so it looks like your poor kitty got hit with a double whammy! I don’t know if you are familiar with either of his parents, it could also have a hereditary component.

    At least you are doing all you can to make him as comfortable as possible, and I commend you for addressing his needs.

    Thank you for taking time to read my post, and for adding your valuable comments to make everyone aware of this condition as well.

    I wish you all the best, and if you find out any additional information please come back and comment again.

    Kyle Ann

  6. Hi!

    I am a pet owner. I have two dogs and two cats. I`ve always preferred dogs over cats but my two girls just adore cats so we ended up with both dogs and cats. It`s good to know something about the most common cat illness and on which symptoms, we should be paying attention to. 

    Your post is very detailed, informative and easy to understand. Thank you for this! Keep up the great work!


  7. Another common illness in cats is cystitis. One my my cats has suffered from it continuously, on and off from the age of 6 months (he’s now 5 years old). He’s a nervous cat and the anxiety associated with that seems to be a trigger factor. None of the prescribed medications to treat cystitis have worked for him. He’s now on a daily dose of Metacam – a pain relief medicine. That really does seem to help but it looks like both of us have to live with this as a long-term condition.

  8. Hi Juba, so sorry to hear your cat is having health issues once again. Many times a litter box aversion is caused by a failure of success internal organs such as liver or kidneys.

    It would only be caused by anxiety if there has been a major change lately, like moving to a different home or having one of his main caregivers (your children) leave home for college…something like that.

    Otherwise this usually only occurs in older cats, but could also be due to the rough life he lived before he was rescued by your family. (bless you for that!) You didn’t say how old he is now.

    I would definitely recommend a thorough examination by a veterinarian to determine a cause and a treatment if one is available.

    Thanks for sharing your story, let me know how it works out.


  9. Thank you for sharing this blog about ‘how to recognize most common illness in cats. ‘
    I am a cat owner with two cats in the home. I am a worrier when my cats are ill. This information to know about sick cats.Sometimes we just don’t know what to do for them. I am going to bookmark this page for future reference. I look forward to more great readings like this.

  10. Hello there!

     Tonight I will sleep smarter, thank you for that 🙂 

    Actually, we have a cat that we saved from a bad familly, it may seem horrible for you to hear what’s coming but it is true. His first familly used to throw him from the window… we actually stole him but we are proud for doing so. Btw that is another story. 

    Our cat had multiple problems due to eating carbage outside, and he had a serious problem in the penis. It was a virus that could have killed him. 

    After that he contracted another virus in the lip, it was gross, inflamation of the mouth. He was hurt and the doctor said it was an allergy caused by his plastic bowl. We changed to seramic and it continued. We discovered then that it was cat’s acne. It was not really sever but he was not eating properly. He lost a lot of weight. 

    Then we cured him and he’s quite healthy now. 

    I said quite for the comming reason, He’s getting older and he’s starting to poo in the house and he pied twice in our son’s bedroom. We don’t know if it is due to anxiety or due to another thing. He has everything and he always did where he’s supposed to do his affairs. What do you think? 

    Thank you for your advice. Really nice article. 


  11. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for taking time to read my post and for adding your comments.

    It is hard to know when a cat is truly in dire need of medical attention, some situations can arise very quickly. But education is a big part of prevention which I felt it was so important to make this information available.

    Having a good relationship with a trusted veterinarian is also important so you have that “go to” person for a professional opinion should the signs arise. I’ve had to do the weekend emergency visits myself and you’re right, it isn’t cheap!

    I wish you many happy healthy years with your furry companions.

    Please come back soon to see what’s new, or to ask a question should one come to mind.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  12. Hi Noke,

    Thanks so much for taking time to read my post, and for adding your valuable comments.

    You are absolutely right, education is a big part of prevention. Having a good relationship with a trusted veterinarian is also important so that you have a “go to” professional to confirm if any unusual behaviors are serious or not.

    I’m so glad you are enjoying being a pet parent, and that your furry companions fill the void of an empty nest, which is exactly my situation as well.

    Please stop by again soon to see what’s new, or just ask a question if something comes up.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  13. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. I’m happy to hear you are a pet parent with a happy healthy cat, and that you enjoy her so much!

    Some people that if a cat is kept indoors and not exposed to other animals there is no need for regular visits to the veterinarian. That is simply not true, and it is so important to develop a relationship with a trustworthy vet who can be your “go to” person if a question ever arises about a pets health.

    Thanks for your comments, and please stop by again soon to see what’s new!

    Kyle Ann

  14. Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for taking time to read my post. It’s always good to meet a fellow cat parent!

    I hope you learned something new and helpful, that’s my reason for starting this site.

    Please come back again soon to see what’s new, or to ask a question that might come up.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  15. Hi Ed,

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your buddy. Cats each have such unique personalities and quirks and can work their way into our hearts with very little effort.

    Bless you for taking care of a stray who might otherwise have starved, been hit by a car or become prey for falcons or owls.

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience, and I hope someday another cat will be fortunate enough to have you as its pet parent.

    All the best, please stop by again soon to see what’s new.

    Kyle Ann

  16. Hi Andrejs,

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your cat Mikanoss. That experience can be especially difficult for children.

    Unfortunately yes, some ticks can cause death to both cats and dogs. There is one particular species of tick, called the “paralysis” tick which injects a paralyzing agent into the bloodstream of the animal and if not caught early enough will cause the internal organs to shut down. It is only found in certain parts of the world and not knowing where you live I can’t be certain if that was what happened in your case.

    All pets who spend time outdoors are susceptible to fleas, which can cause tapeworms when swallowed, and ticks which may be the cause of several diseases in small animals. There are preventive medicines which can be supplied by your veterinarian to prevent both fleas and ticks from staying alive on your pet long enough to cause disease. Some of these are given orally and other are applied topically. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet and find out which would be the most effective for your area and your animals.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and for the great question. Please check back soon to see what’s new!

    Kyle Ann

  17. Just lost a cat that showed up approximately 11 years ago, the only cat that I have ever been around, he was an outside cat, enjoyed his freedom, in many fights, he knew when to show up to eat.
    I bought an Igloo dog house for him, bought an animal heating pad, put an electric blanket in it also. Would not come into the garage unless I picked him up and brought him in. Over the years he became my yard buddy, had no fear from the lawn mower, water hose, weed eater, he learned to trust me 100%.
    This summer his left eye started running, I thought it was allergies, after several months he started sneezing and had a running nose, so I took him to vet, lump on the left side of the neck, I had to euthanize him within a month.
    One of the hardest thing that I have done, he was my little buddy.

  18. Thank you for posting this information.  Too many of people have pets that they think are healthy because they miss the warning signs.  Our pets can’t speak to us and let us know that something is wrong.  I learned this the hard way years ago when my cat had to go to an emergency clinic during on a weekend.  This weekend emergency visit ended up costing a lot of money that I could have avoided spending (it was worth it though…he is part of the family) if I had known the signs to watch for.  We need to pay attention to the different behaviors of our pets so we will know when something is not quite right. 

  19. Hi Kyle and thanks for this helpful post.
    I am cat owner for about fifteen years. In our childhood, there was no pet in our family as we lived in apartments, so mother and father did not want to bother with cats or dogs.
    My first cat was British Shorthaired I bought him as we moved to a private home. My kids and I loved Mikanoss, and we considered him a full member of the family.
    About three years ago one beautiful summer morning he passed away just lying on the grass next to the doors. He was active and did not see any signs of disease. The only thing they had was a fair amount of ticks. They were big full of blood that fell themselves because it was hard to see the long hair.
    My question is, Can ticks be the cause of the death of a cat?
    Thanks in advance.

  20. Kyle,

    That’s great information to have considering I’ve been a pet own most of my life. Dogs mostly, but I did have one cat. The little guy never really hung around much and sort of did his own thing. 

    Came around for some food and a little bit of attention, scratch behind the ears, and then he was off doing whatever cats do. Honestly, I don’t think I would have noticed if things were going on with Buddy, that was his name. He was a great alarm clock. Always around the time I had to get up, he remarkably knew this somehow and would dig his little claws into my chest. And yes, even if the time was later or earlier, he always manage to know. Really weird. 

    Yes, we do love our pets. Reason I can recall such things, and they do deserve no less attention to their health because they are part of the family. Our children literally when all others have grown and left the nest.

    Our pets never ran short of love and caring in my house, my children always loved they pets and if something was wrong, they always knew. It should be normal for any pet owner to know when their little guy is sick. I think anyways. 

    Buddy never suffered from any major illness, upset stomach from time to time by chewing on some grass for relief, someone had told me long ago, helps their upset stomach. He was always fine. But your information is useful to know, and I’m sure similar conditions can affect our dogs and knowing such changed behavior can alert us to these possible illness. Simple fact I believe, knowing, educating and preventing is all part of caring.

    Thanks for the info,


  21. Thank you for this great post. I think it is important for all cat owners to know how to spot the signs of illness and this guide will really help me do that, although, of course, I hope that my Moggy never gets ill herself!  We have been lucky so fr and she is  happy healthy cat who is a joy to look after!

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