Do you love your cat? There is no doubt about it. But studies have shown that veterinary visits differ for dog and cat parents.

When it comes to anytime visits, 90% of dog owners have no problem popping in at their favorite vet. But only 40% of kitty lovers will take the turn to the animal hospital. Why is that? 

Cats are also at risk of developing health issues. While they may be masters at deception, your cat's health needs to be your top priority. 

13 Common Health Issues for Cats

It's tough to know when your cat is sick. But when you know the signs and take your cat for regular visits to the vet, then common health issues can be avoided. Common signs of illness in cats include depression, a change in grooming habits, toilet trouble, sudden weight changes, and a lackluster appearance. 

Here are the most common ailments that you may identify in your furry feline.

Vomiting 

Cleaning up vomit is par for the course for pet owners. It's unpleasant, and you hope that they use the lawn next time and not your heirloom Persian rug. Vomiting in cats can be either chronic or acute, but both indicate a problem. Keep an eye on your kitty for any other symptoms, and remember to replenish lost fluid. 

  • Acute vomiting may be once-off or last for a day or two. Things that can cause sudden and short-term vomiting spells include eating something inedible, hairballs, a sudden switch of their cat food, medication, post-operative nausea, parasites, gastrointestinal bacterial infection, toxins, and more

  • Chronic vomiting is ongoing and regular. Food intolerance, allergies, digestive health problems, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal obstruction, neurological disorders, a long-standing parasite infection are common culprits. 

Whatever the cause, seek medical treatment if your kitty is lethargic, dizzy, or weak. If you suspect ingestion of a toxin, call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)

A change in litter box habits is a sign that your furry friend is ill. Cats can suffer from feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) that affect the urinary tract, bladder, or urethra of felines. Most (64%) of these diseases are idiopathic, meaning their cause is unknown. For the rest, urinary crystals, stones, or infection can cause FLUTD. Symptoms of FLUTD include:

  • Straining to urinate

  • Blood in the urine

  • Painful urination

  • Frequent urination (but only a little at a time)

  • Excessive licking in genital or abdominal areas

  • Incontinence

  • Increased thirst and dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

A visit to the veterinarian will be necessary to uncover any underlying issues. Your vet may prescribe some antibiotics to clear up any infections. 

Fleas

Fleas are irritating, itchy, and cause discomfort in furry friends. These pests are not just annoying critters, but they affect your cat's health by causing flea bite hypersensitivity or allergic flea dermatitis.

When it comes to skin diseases, flea infestations are the most common problem in pets. Long-suffering cats can even suffer from anemia if their flea problem is left untreated. 

When constant scratching, red skin, hair loss, or flea dirt alerts you to the problem, it's a good idea to find an effective flea treatment. Combating fleas is a lifelong issue, and regular flea control is vital for every pet. Depending on the severity of the infestation, you can try aggressive or natural options. 

Diarrhea

Loose stools are a common symptom of a range of diseases. Typically, diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms and signal health problems in your companion pet. As with vomiting, diarrhea can be acute or chronic.

A one-off episode of messy stools may be a reaction to a minor stomach bug. Still, if diarrhea occurs regularly or consistently for a few days, your cat may need to see your veterinarian. 

Diet is often the culprit when it comes to diarrhea. Sudden diet changes, low-quality meals, or food allergies can trigger gastrointestinal upset. Other cat health issues to consider include:

  • Bacterial or viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract

  • Bacterial overload of the intestine

  • Parasites

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as gastritis, pancreatitis, enteritis, and colitis

  • Kidney failure

  • Medication contraindication

  • Poisoning

Look out for worrisome symptoms such as lethargy, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, or the presence of blood in the stool. Switching up your cat's kibble and introducing probiotics can solve diarrhea problems, or the issue may require intensive medical treatment for underlying health problems like kidney disease.

Worms

Intestinal parasites, or worms, are contracted when a cat comes into contact with parasite eggs or infected feces. Infestations in your cat can cause various symptoms, with few outward signs of infection. Therefore, it is imperative to have preventative measures in place and regularly drug the whole family (humans and dogs included) for intestinal parasites.

Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and lungworms are the most common parasites and come with their own set of health problems and symptoms.

Signs of a worm infestation can include diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, vomiting, visible worms in stool, anemia, poor coat condition, coughing, and trouble breathing (lungworm). 

Obesity

When a feline becomes overweight or obese, its vulnerability to a range of illnesses shortens life expectancy. The cat's body takes the strain, and they're more likely to be diagnosed with one of the following cat health problems:

  • Diabetes 

  • Oral Cavity Disease

  • Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease

  • Arthritis and general joint stress

  • Cancers

  • Respiratory Disease

  • Urinary Infection

  • Non-Allergic Skin Disorders

  • Heart Disease

  • Lowered immune system

  • High blood pressure

Obesity is common in older cats due to lowered energy levels and less exercise. Diet and portion control need to adjust during the various life stages of your cat so that their weight remains healthy.

More activity will also help your furbaby to shed some weight. Keeping them active, providing a low-carbohydrate diet, and limiting treats are a few small lifestyle changes that can keep your kitty slim.

Not sure whether your cat's flabby belly is a problem? To measure your cat's ideal weight, your veterinarian must do a body condition scoring assessment. 

Discharge from eyes or nose

Snotty nose, runny eyes, does my cat have a cold? A bout of flu is plausible. Look out for other flu-like symptoms like fever, sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Plus, your cat may be moodier than usual.

Cat colds typically last about one to four weeks. You should monitor solids and water intake to make sure your vulnerable kitty doesn't lose weight. When your cat is experiencing discharge from the eyes or nose, it usually signals an upper respiratory tract infection. 

Cat-eye discharge can also signal other common health problems: corneal disorders, cat eye infection, conjunctivitis, epiphora (excessive tear production), allergies, uveitis, cataracts, glaucoma, or more.

Skin Irritation or Hair Loss

Hair loss, dandruff, or skin infections are frustrating conditions for pets. They may signal something like environmental or food allergies, external parasites, fungal infections, atopic dermatitis, or the presence of ringworm, a fungus that infects the skin, hair, and nails.

When problems like this affect your furchild, excessive grooming, scratching, or gnawing of the irritated area are common reactions which result in hair loss.

Natural options like coconut oil may bring some relief to inflammation of the skin, but it's best to seek advice from the experts if your cat's condition isn't improving. Your vet can suggest some treatment options that deal with the root cause of the skin irritation or skin infection. 

Limping 

Cats that are limping could be doing so for several reasons. 

A sudden limp may indicate a traumatic injury, a joint dislocation, a sting or bite on their paw pad, or a claw or nail injury. These are common, especially if your wild friend loves to explore the outdoors.

Cats can get into fights with neighborhood pets, and a bite on their leg could be causing them some pain. Identify the injury's location and take your pet to the animal hospital if they're inconsolable, lame, or have a broken limb. 

A gradual limp is one that gets worse over time. If your cat is hesitant to jump one day and then refusing to do it at all the next, there may be a severe problem that needs attention as soon as possible. Chronic underlying conditions that can slow your cat down include:

Upper Respiratory Infections

Infections of the nose, throat, and sinus area are known as upper respiratory infections. These infections can be viral or bacterial and caused by many issues:

  • Feline herpesvirus displays as a head cold in cats. Kittens or cats with low immune systems are more susceptible to the virus.

  • Feline calicivirusis prevalent in multi-cat households, shelters, and catteries. Vaccines can prevent it.

  • Heartworm disease is spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause respiratory problems and lung disease. 

Diabetes 

Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by the insufficient production of insulin or insulin resistance. It is common in obese or older cats but can happen at any age. Cats with diabetes can develop high blood sugar levels, kidney problems, or hypertension (high blood pressure).

Cats may show signs of diabetes in the following ways:

  • Weight changes

  • Excessive thirst and dehydration

  • Increased urine loss

  • Lethargy

  • UTIs.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) attacks the immune system, making them vulnerable to various illnesses. House cats mainly contract the virus through bite wounds from an infected cat.

The slow-progression of the sickness makes a cat with FIV incredibly susceptible to secondary infections. Blood tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is a common health problem in cats. Older cats are 50-90% more likely to suffer from some form of dental disease, so it is essential to care for your cat's teeth and go for regular checkups. Symptoms of gum illness include bad breath, excessive drooling, bleeding gums, and lowered appetite. 

Ignored dental disease increases liver, heart, and kidney disease risk.

Your Response to Common Health Issues

Diseases and illnesses that are left untreated can progress and eventually cost your cat its life (or cost you a lot in veterinary bills). Avoid many of these concerns by monitoring your furchild's behavior and taking them for regular veterinary visits. 

Take care of your sick tabby and follow any medical instructions from your vet. We never want to see our cat suffer, and assisting them in dealing with pain or discomfort may become our focus.

With acute conditions, heeding advice, and following prescription protocol can eliminate problems within a few days or weeks. Allow your cat to rest while monitoring their solid and fluid intake. 

When to See a Vet

Visit your veterinarian immediately if your feline is showing concerning signs such as seizure, lethargy, unconsciousness, or if they have not eaten for more than 24 hours. A cat that has ingested a poison or is struggling to breathe will also need emergency care. 

If you suspect that your furbaby has any of the above illnesses or conditions, then a routine medical exam is a good idea. Cat owners generally neglect annual exams for their pets. Even if your cat seems healthy, it's essential to take them for their usual checkups.

Generally, cats should visit the vet once a year. As they enter their senior years, multiple visits will serve them well. Early detection and preventative care are vital if you want your cat to live a long life. 

How to Prevent Illness in Cats

Illness prevention needs to form a part of your daily habits and routines with your cat. Here are a few tips on how to keep your kitty at optimum health:

  • Boost their immune system. Cat owners can support their cat's immune system with CBD tinctures or other supplements recommended by your vet. Speak to your vet about additions to your pet's diet that can provide necessary vitamins and oils.

  • Exercise your cat, mentally and physically. By introducing regular playtime your cat will shed some weight; stay fit and healthy; and be mentally stimulated.

  • Give them the best diet you can. A healthy, high protein diet is vital for your cat. Cats' diet needs change as they get older, so speak to your vet about your cat's specific needs. Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent obesity. 

  • Preventative care makes all the difference. Taking your cat to the vet, getting them vaccinated, neutering them when they're young, and practicing good flea and worm prevention can prevent a range of common health problems.

Cat Health Illnesses, Stay Informed

Knowledge is power. Now that you know the common health concerns found in cats and are ready to take steps to keep them at optimum health, your furry family member can reward you with extra cuddles in this life.   

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know my cat is sick?

It's tough to know when your cat is sick. But when you know the signs and take your cat for regular visits to the vet, then an early diagnosis can save your cat.

Common signs of illness in cats include depression, a change in grooming habits, toilet trouble, sudden weight changes, and a lackluster appearance. 

When should I take my cat to the vet?

Generally, cats should have a visit to the vet once a year. As they enter their senior years, multiple visits will serve them well. Early detection and preventative care are vital if you want your cat to live a long life. 

How do I keep my cat healthy?

Illness prevention needs to form a part of your daily habits and routines with your cat. Exercising your cat, feeding them a nutritious diet, and taking your cat to the vet for vaccinations, neutering, and general wellness care can prevent a range of common health problems.