The 10 Most Serious Cat Diseases to Be Aware Of

None of us want to think of our cats becoming ill. Unfortunately, it’s a rare cat indeed that manages to go their entire lives without the occasional sick day. Most of the time, it’s nothing to be worried about. A few days of rest and relaxation, and they’re back to their usual happy selves. But occasionally, it’s more serious. Fortunately, most serious cat diseases are preventable. The bad news is that once they contract one, it can be difficult to treat. As even minor ailments can indicate bigger health problems, it’s vital to take swift action at the first sign of trouble. Cats are notorious for keeping their troubles to themselves: by the time they become unwell enough to start displaying symptoms, the disease may already have progressed beyond the first stage. Along with early intervention, ensuring your cat is vaccinated against some of the most common and severe diseases is crucial. Likewise, being aware of what those diseases are is vital. If you know what to watch out for, you’ll be better primed to take swift action where needed. Here are ten of the most serious cat diseases every cat owner needs to be aware of.

10. Kidney Disease

As notes, while kidney disease is most common in senior cats, it can also develop in younger cats. Early intervention is key to successful treatment: if the disease is caught in time, it can usually be treated or at least managed successfully. Typical symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bloody urine
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating in the abdominal region

If your cat shows symptoms consistent with kidney disease, get them checked over by a vet as soon as possible. Diagnosis is usually made after a physical examination and bloodwork.

9. Diabetes

People aren’t the only creatures that can develop diabetes. The disease is surprisingly common in cats and can be just as serious as it is in humans. As explains, the most common symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and increased urination. Many cats will also develop a ravenous appetite. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, the disease is usually managed through a combination of diet and insulin treatment.

8. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism (or overactive thyroid disease) is a common but potentially very serious condition in cats. Symptoms will typically include a change in behavior, irritability, increased appetite, increased vocalization, vomiting, increased thirst, and increased urination. It’s caused by an elevated level of thyroid hormone. Left untreated, the symptoms can increase in severity, leading to emaciation and extreme weakness. Fortunately, treatment is very effective, especially if the diagnosis is made early enough.

7. Heartworm

Thought malaria was the worst thing mosquitoes are responsible for spreading? Think again, at least when we’re talking pets. Heartworm is a disease spread by mosquitoes that’s most prevalent among dogs. However, cats can also be affected. While the infection can be treated if it’s caught early enough, there’s no cure. If you live in an area plagued by mosquitoes, it’s wise to prevent the risk of your cat catching the disease via a monthly preventative available through your vet.

6. Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a devasting heart disease that ranks as the most common cause of sudden death in indoor cats. Tragically, it’s a silent killer, presenting very few signs or symptoms until it’s too late. If the symptoms do present, they’ll usually take the form of extreme lethargy and labored breathing. Cats may also develop a blood clot, which will display itself in pain, hind leg weakness, and a cold back paw. If your cat shows any troubling symptoms, urgent veterinary treatment will be required.

5. Feline Leukemia Virus

Unlike most disease which affect older cats, Feline Leukemia Virus is most commonly found in kittens. It’s spread through bodily fluids, bites, sharing litter trays and food bowls, and paired grooming. While some cats will begin displaying symptoms immediately, others may carry the disease for weeks or even years before becoming ill. The virus works by attacking the immune system. As a result, it can cause numerous illnesses, ultimately leading to bone marrow failure and death. The disease is not treatable but can be easily prevented through vaccination.

4. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a disease usually spread through bites. Outdoor cats are more susceptible to the illness than their indoor counterparts, with free-roaming, territorial tomcats being the most commonly affected. Once contracted, FIV can lie dormant for years. Some cats can live with the disease and remain relatively healthy, although their risk of contracting common infections will be increased. Although there is no cure for the disease (there is a vaccine, but its efficacy is questionable), infected cars that are offered stress-free, indoor environments can be kept comfortable and content for many years.

3. Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)

Feline Panleukopenia (commonly referred to as Feline Distemper) is typically transmitted from unvaccinated mothers to kittens. The disease is usually almost always fatal, even in the case of treatment. It’s highly contagious and can quickly spread through litters via bodily fluids, fleas, food and water bowls, litter trays and even clothing. As well as attacking the immune system, Feline Distemper also affects the intestinal tract, leading to diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, malnutrition, and anemia. Vaccinations are the only successful way of combating the disease – once a cat is infected, it will usually take just a few days for the disease to prove fatal, regardless of whether treatment is offered or not.

2. Cancer

While cancer used to be rare in pets, it’s now one of the most causes of death, especially in senior cats. While no one knows for sure what’s caused the surge in numbers, toxins in the environment may be to blame. Treatment is similar to the treatment offered to humans, and will usually include chemotherapy and radiation. However, the success rate is low.

1. Feline Rabies

According to, rabies is more prevalent in cats than it is in any other domesticated pet in the United States. The dangers of rabies are twofold: not only is it deadly for cats, but it can also be transmitted easily between cats and humans. Typically, cats become infected through bites or eating infected prey. Once the disease takes hold, it can take around ten days for the symptoms to present. In some cases, however, it can lie dormant for weeks or even months. Early symptoms can include out of character behavior, drooling, poor coordination, and fever. As there’s no cure for the disease, getting your cat vaccinated against rabies is crucial, especially if they’re allowed outdoors.

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