The 20 Most Common Cat Health Problems

Cats make wonderful house pets and they are companions that are also known to be good for most humans’ health. They are often used as therapy pets because they help to lower anxiety and reduce blood pressure.We owe a lot to our cats. Although they may seem like independent creatures, they really do depend on their owners for their well-being and continued good health. There are several different health conditions that can afflict felines. It’s important to know more about these potential threats and how to recognize them. There is no substitute for taking your cat to a veterinarian for regular checkups and immunizations. This is the best way to prevent common health issues or to catch them in the early stages for more successful treatment options. Here are the 20 most common cat health problems you should be aware of.

Fleas and ticks

Even if you keep your carpets well vacuumed and your house immaculately clean, your cat can still pick up fleas or ticks. If there are other animals in the neighborhood, they could pass fleas on to your cat with just a simple encounter. Fleas feed on the blood of the animals that they infest. They bite your cat and cause itching and some major discomfort. Ticks are also easy to pick up during certain times of the year. From early spring to fall is when they are at their worst. They are also parasites the embed into your cat’s skin and feed off the blood. Ticks carry a range of diseases that can be transmitted to humans and animals. It’s a good idea to inspect your cat’s fur on a regular basis,and if you notice any signs of ticks, have them removed immediately. It’s best not to pull them off, because the head will remain lodged in place and could cause blood poisoning. Apply a thick oil to the entire outside are of the tick to cause it to back out, then dispose of it. If you can’t get the tick out, take your cat to the vet to have it safely removed. You can also consult with your vet about the best flea control options. There are shampoos, powders, collars, spot treatment liquids and dips available.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats are just as prone to upper respiratory infections as people are. Viruses or bacteria invades the throat, nose and sinuses.These are most common in shelters or places where larger numbers of cats are gathered. Most of these illnesses are airborne. When a cat sneezes, the germs are passed throughout the area where the others are housed and it can infect every cat in the area. Most of these are highly contagious for cats and can be passed by shared water and food dishes as well as shared sleeping quarters. The best way to protect your cat from developing upper respiratory infections is to limit the contact that they have with cats who are already infected, or strays who are in questionable health. Keep your cat indoors and monitor outdoor time. Symptoms of these infections include a nasal discharge, runny nose, obvious congestion, fever, changes in appetite and in some cases, rapid breathing. If your cat has the symptoms of an upper respiratory system, it’s time to see the vet as he may need antibiotic treatment. He’ll also need plenty of available fresh water, healthy food and isolation so he can rest and recuperate.

Dental issues

It is common for cats to develop feline gingivitis, irritation or gum disease. Your cat should see a vet regularly for an examination to detect the beginning of any of these conditions. Infected teeth or gums can lead to more serious complications including loss of teeth, problems eating, or infection that can spread to the organs of the body.


Whether your cat is an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, he is still susceptible to getting worms. One of the most common types is roundworms. Cats get them from eating birds, rodents or insect that have been infected. They can also get them just from walking on soil that is contaminated. The roundworms infest the intestines first, then can spread to the bloodstream and get into organs. If your cat has a dull coat, distended belly, changes in appetite or diarrhea, it’s a good idea for him to be seen by a vet. If enough roundworms invade the system of a kitten the results can be fatal. Tape worms are less common, but they are a concern. Cats get them fro ingesting fleas that have eaten tapeworm eggs. If you notice a grainy substance that is shaped like grains of rice in the feces or around the anus, your cat could have tapeworms. It can lead to weight loss and a mild case of diarrhea. Your local vet can treat the cat to rid him of all infestations of these fairly common worms.

Urinary tract infections

Cats are prone to urinary tract infections which happen in the bladder and in the urethra. Symptoms include painful urination and blood in the urine. There are several possible causes for this condition including dehydration, cystitis, some cat foods containing high concentrations of minerals and ash, or bacterial infections. Regular medical examinations can help to catch urinary tract infections early so they may be treated. Some of the more common treatments include the prescription of medications, changes in diet for better nutrition and keeping your cat in a low stress environment during the healing process. It usually takes ten days for the treatment to clear the condition. Keeping fresh clean water constantly available for your cat is also important.

Feline Kidney failure

Feline Kidney failure is another common health issue found in cats. This happens when a cat accidentally ingests antifreeze, or from eating a diet that is very poor in nutritional value. When caused by a poor diet, it takes years for this condition to develop. Once it begins, the condition gradually gets worse. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a progressive and incurable condition, but if your cat is diagnosed, there are treatments which can help to keep him more comfortable and healthier for longer. In most cases, it is irreversible because of the severe damage that it causes. Symptoms include frequent urination, extreme thirst, dehydration, bad breath, weight loss and drooling. Changes in diet are often recommended along with keeping plenty fresh clean water available, and keeping your cat in a low stress environment. Your vet will assess the damage and first seek to remove the toxins form your cat’s system, and restore the electrolyte balance. The recovery time is totally dependent on the amount of damage that exists.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV)

FLV is a retrovirus that cats only get from one another. They pass it on from cat to cat through shared water or food bowls, communal living, open woulds or through bites or scratches. This disease can also be passed on through litter boxes or shared toys. The virus is found in the bodily fluids of the cat. once a feline is infected, the virus is quickly replicated and growing. This virus compromises the functioning or the immune system and makes it more likely that the cat will develop other diseases.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV, like FLV, is a retrovirus that is spread through the same ways the FLV is in cats. It attacks the immune system and weakens it, making it far more likely that the cat will develop other illnesses and diseases. There are several different strains of this cat virus that have been identified. Researchers are still working non the development of a vaccine that would cover a wide spectrum of these strains, but they have not yet perfected one. The best course of action to keep your cat safe from FIV is to keep them indoors and away from other cats that may potentially carry the virus.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a type of coronavirus that has been mutated. It is an incurable infection that usually remains dormant within cats that are infected with it. It is passed on through feline bodily fluids and feces. This infection is the most dangerous for cats with weak immune systems including the very young (kittens) the very old and cats who have other health issues.

Feline Distemper

Feline Distemper is a virus that is often referred to as the “cat plague.” It’s a common viral infection among cats, but is highly preventable. Vaccinations are available to protect your cat from developing this disease. When infected the cat develops digestive tract complications. It attacks white blood cells as well as red blood cells. It is commonly passed on through excretion or exposure to infected habitats and soils.


Arthritis is a joint condition that most commonly affects older cats. In recent studies, it was found that ninety percent of elderly cats who are 12 years an older have some signs of arthritis in their joints. If your cat is stiff and sore, or has mobility issues, he may have developed arthritis in his joints. If your cat shows any symptoms of this condition, it’s best to schedule an examination with your local vet for a diagnosis. There are treatment options available for effective management and reduction of pain and discomfort. Some remedies help to restore mobility and better lubrication of the joints which could make your cat’s golden years more enjoyable.


The development of cancer is more common in elderly cats that are ten years of age or older. It is estimated that thirty percent of all cats who reach this age and older will develop some type of cancer. The most commonly occurring type in felines is lymphosarcoma. The warning signs are loss of appetite, weight loss, bumps or lumps that grow in size, sores that do not heal, or any type of unusual bleeding from the anus, mouth or nose, strange odors coming from the body, lethargy, trouble eating or swallowing, difficulty walking, breathing problems or issues with defecating or urinating. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, he should be seen by a vet immediately.

Failing vision

As cats get older, there is a tendency for them to develop poor eyesight. It can happen in younger cats as well. Some of the potential causes of poor eyesight are detached retina, glaucoma or cataracts. Some of the signs of failing eyesight in cats include whiteness or a milky appearance of the lens or other parts of the eye, pupils that remain dilated or the obvious signs of bumping into things and spatial misjudgments. If you notice any of these signs in your cat, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian for an examination. Depending on the cause of the condition and the severity, there are medications as well as other treatments that are effective in helping. Even cataract surgery is an option if your cat is having problems getting around, but this is generally not recommended, because most cats do a really good job of navigating around by using their keen sense of smell. Keeping the house organized in a familiar pattern will help cats with poor eyesight to learn the lay of the rooms and avoid bumping into things so often.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is another health condition that develops more commonly in older cats. Just as with humans, as cats age, they begin to lose the ability to hear well. It’s a part of the aging process and there have not yet been hearing aids engineered for use by felines. When your cat loses his hearing, it’s best to have a system of sign language for communications. you can easily teach cats to read hand signals. You can also stamp your feet so he will feel the vibrations, even if he can’t hear what you’re saying. It’s always a good idea to have a medical examination to make sure that your cat doesn’t have some type of blockage in his ear before assuming that it’s just old age.


Older cats have a tendency to develop hyperthyroidism. While you may be very happy that your cat is filled with so much energy and has a great appetite, these could be the symptoms of an underlying medical condition, especially if they are new behaviors. Hyperthyroidism is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland in your cat. It makes more than his body needs. The energy boost might be cool, but Hyperthyroidism can lead to other health complications including hypertension, with may have a domino effect and lead to heart disease or kidney failure. If you have any concerns that your cat may be developing this condition, it’s wise to take him to a veterinarian for an examination and testing. This disease is one that has treatment options, but if left to go too long, it can cause serious, perhaps even fatal health consequences in cats.


One of the most common health issues in cats is vomiting. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat is getting a dreadful disease, it could be a sign of something serious. An occasional yack now and then probably means that your cat either has a stomach bug, or he ate something that didn’t agree with him. It happens to cats, dogs and humans now and then. Some of the obvious and non-life threatening causes of vomiting include eating too fast or too much at one setting, eating foods that are too rich, allergy to a food, feeding your cat food that is non-nutritious, and so forth. However, if your cat vomits more than once, or if vomiting persists, you should schedule an appointment with your vet for an examination. It’s always a good idea to have your cat screened to make sure that the vomiting isn’t the start of a more serious health problem. Cats who are vomiting can become dehydrated very quickly.


Diarrhea is another very common health issue in cats. If it happens for a day or so, look for the most obvious causes first. The cat food that you bought may not agree with your kitty, especially if you just switched to a new brand or type. If your cat has eaten any table scraps, or gotten into the garbage, this could be the cause. Any time that diarrhea lasts over a day, there is concern enough to schedule an appointment for an examination by your vet. It’s best to catch any potentially serious problems while they are just beginning. Diarrhea in cats can lead to severe dehydration.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is another fairly common condition that is found in cats. There are several different types of cardiac issues that can develop. Cats who are not fed a consistently nutritious diet, consisting of the right kinds of fats, and are loaded with the wrong kinds of fats are more prone to developing heart disease. Aging is the most common factor in feline heart disease, but it is possible in the younger cats as well. A few other causes of of feline heart disease is a heartworm infestation. This can lead to heart disease in cats of all ages. Finally, obesity in cats can also lead to heart disease. Treatments for feline heart disease do not reverse the damage, but they can help your cat to live a longer more normal life than if they didn’t receive the treatment. The symptoms that your cat may have heart disease include: shortness of breath, or other breathing problems; a cough that often causes gagging; increased lethargy and difficulty when getting exercise; weight loss or gain; abdominal swelling. If your cat as any combination of these symptoms, it is reason for concern. They may indicate heart disease or another serious medical condition. You should schedule an appointment with your vet for a thorough examination. Vets typically check for heart murmurs and fluid in the lungs, palpitation and abnormal heart rates or pulses. They may order X-rays to check for enlargement of the heart and your vet may also perform an EKG to search for abnormal heart activity. Urine and blood tests are also standard procedures when your cat has these symptoms. This is to check for heartworms or any other parasites or health conditions that could be affecting the internal organs of your cat. Often, cats who are diagnosed with heart disease are placed on a low sodium diet to slow the build up of fluid in the lungs and allow the heart to work at its best possible efficiency.

Allergy and Food Intolerance in Cats

Allergies can make your existence miserable to say the least. Cats are as prone to developing allergies to foods as people are. It can be difficult to find out what it is that is making your cat sick, because he can’t tell you when he feels ill after eating a certain thing. Signs that your cat has a food allergy or intolerance include vomiting, diarrhea, skin irrititations, loss of hair and other signs of an unhealthy coat. If your cat develops these symptoms it could mean that he has a food allergy. The only way to find out which food is causing the problem is by the process of elimination. This can take a long time, but it’s well worth the effort. If the symptoms are severe, you should take him in to be checked out by a vet. The veterinarian may be able to provide your cat with some medications to help get through the worst of it while you’re trying to eliminate any foods that are making him sick. Some of the more common foods that cause cat allergies are associated with the protein sources in cat foods. Your cat may be allergic to a certain kind of meat, or even a corn filler that is commonly found in cat food formulations. It’s worth the effort to try a new food formula that contains lamb, duck or egg and go from there. If you’re unsuccessful in finding a blend that works on your own, consult with your veterinarian for advice on the best foods to feed your cat.

Obesity in cats

You may own a big fluffy cat, and as long as the fluffiness is from the fur, good for you. It’s when your cat is truly overweight that the health risks increase. Just as being obese is unhealthy for humans, it is also the same for cats. If your cat is overweight, consult with your veterinarian for the optimum diet to safely reduce his weight and increase his exercise to get him back on the track of fitness and good health.

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