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 family. 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 skin lesion that doesn’t seem to heal. Symptoms of internal cancers can include changes in behavior, weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, sudden 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 your 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 your 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 simple 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 the 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 recurrence of other viral ailments. Some cats can be asymptomatic carriers and have no symptoms of the 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 injectable 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 possibility 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 your 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


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

  1. 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!


    1. 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

  2. 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.

    1. 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

  3. 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.

    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

  4. 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. 


    1. 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.


    1. 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

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