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Common cat illnesses – symptoms and treatment

  • 12, Oct 2020
  • Read time: 12 mins

Day to day, look out for your feline friend by understanding these common cat illnesses and the signs that show they’re feeling under the weather.

It’s important to contact your vet if you do spot anything unusual about your cat's behaviour or health. If you’re unable to get to your vet, MORE THAN pet insurance customers can call the Freephone vet helpline, vetfone.

Cat undergoing a vet treatment.

Cat flu

Cat flu is a common disease amongst cats and you can often treat them at home. For some kittens and adult cats with other health problems, cat flu can be a dangerous illness.

It is possible to vaccinate against the viral form of cat flu, but there are some bacteria’s that cause flu that the vaccine can't prevent.

Symptoms

Many cat flu symptoms are similar to those of human flu, including:

  • A runny nose and eyes
  • A sore throat
  • Aches and pains
  • A temperature and fever
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite

The severity of cat flu symptoms can vary. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit a vet immediately. Even if it's not serious, a vet will check for eye problems commonly associated with cat flu.

Causes

Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) or Feline Calicivirus (FCV) causes cat flu. It is a contagious illness that can spread to other cats if they share water bowls and toys.

Treatment

Your vet may suggest antibiotics to treat certain bacterial infections caused by cat flu, but there isn’t a treatment that directly cures the illness.

The best thing you can do for your cat is to take them to the vet if you spot any symptoms. A vet can diagnose your cat and suggest treatment.

To help your cat be as comfortable as possible at home, you can:

  • Make sure their water bowl is full to help keep them hydrated
  • Gently wipe their nose and eyes to keep them clear
  • Try to give them softer food that won’t irritate their throat and show them that there is food in their bowl (if they have lost their sense of smell, they might not have realised food is there).

If you’re a MORE THAN customer, we do not cover cat flu claims unless your cat has been vaccinated against cat flu.

Cancer

Cats can, unfortunately, develop different types of cancer and it is common in older cats. Common types of cancer in cats include:

  • Lymphoma
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Basal Cell Tumour
  • Mast Cell Tumour
  • Mammary Carcinoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Carcinoma or Adenocarcinoma
  • Osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone)

Symptoms

Cancer affects cats in many ways, which makes it difficult to spot signs that your cat has cancer. Initial signs could include:

  • Poorer appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Lumps in or under their skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Unexplained bleeding or unhealed wounds

It’s important to remember that all these symptoms are also linked with other illnesses. If you spot these signs or any changes in your cat’s behaviour, a vet will be happy to check on them.

Causes

The underlying causes of cancer in cats are often unknown and they can develop for a variety of reasons.

Treatment

There are different types of treatments available for cats with cancer. For some tumours, surgery could be the best option and chemotherapy injections.

Your vet can suggest the best treatment for your cat to help their comfort, recovery and quality of life.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a common hormonal disorder found in cats. Some cases can stay under control with insulin injections and a well-balanced diet. If your cat is older or overweight, they could be at more risk of developing diabetes.

Symptoms

Spotting the symptoms of diabetes in cats can be hard because they can point to many other illnesses.

We recommend that you always seek advice from your vet if you’re worried about your cat’s health.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Drinking more
  • Eating more yet losing weight
  • Urinating more
  • Issues with their coat
  • Regular urinary tract infections

Causes

Diabetes in cats is caused by a reduced response to insulin.

Treatments

You may need to give them insulin at home and manage their diet. Your vet can tell you the best treatment for your cat’s diabetes and how often they need to visit the vet. Some cats can go into diabetic remission with lifestyle changes, such as diet and weight loss.

Lungworm

Lungworms are parasites that travel from animal to animal to burrow into. Though lungworm is less common than other worm diseases, your cat will need urgent treatment if infected.

Symptoms

Like other common cat illnesses, lungworm can have similar symptoms to other conditions. Some symptoms include:

  • Coughing fits
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Not interested in playing anymore

Causes

Lungworm parasites infect your feline friend through water or infected prey.

Another cause could be if your cat has missed their regular deworming medication. This gives lungworms a chance to infect your cat, so make sure to keep up to date with their treatments.

Treatments

Once diagnosed by a vet, your cat will likely need a parasiticide to clear the lungworm infection.

Cat allergies

When a cat’s immune system becomes sensitive to their surroundings, they can develop allergies.

Symptoms

As your cat’s body tries to get rid of the allergens, their body can show all kinds of signs and symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Increased scratching
  • Runny or itchy eyes
  • Itchy back or base of tail
  • Itchy ears and ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
  • Paw chewing or swollen paw

Causes

  • Food
  • House dust
  • Pollen
  • Insect bites
  • Fleas, ear mites and other mites
  • Bacterial infections

Treatments

Your vet can help diagnose what is causing your cat’s allergic reaction by looking at your cat’s medical history and doing a physical examination. They will likely recommend further examinations to find the exact cause.

When the allergy is diagnosed, your vet can advise on the best treatment. Depending on the diagnosis, there are a few things you can do at home to help relieve your cat’s allergies:

  • Pollen: bathing your cat a couple of times a week may help remove pollen allergens from their skin. Chat with your vet for recommendations on the best shampoo to make sure your cat’s skin doesn’t dry out from regular bathing
  • Fleas: prevention is important for fleas. Keep up to date with a routine treatment for your cat to keep fleas at bay
  • Dust: regularly clean your cat’s bedding and hoover your house to get rid of any dust that settles. If you cat uses a litter tray, you can buy dust free litter

Never try to guess what is causing your cat’s allergies. Always visit your vet for a diagnosis and advice on the best treatment.

Cat skin problems

The condition of your cat’s skin can tell a story about their general health. Their skin should be pink or black, depending on their breed, with shiny coats.

If you spot that your cat’s skin isn’t as healthy as usual, there could be an underlying health problem. Take your cat to see their vet as soon as possible.

Symptoms

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, as they could be signs that your cat is suffering from a skin problem:

  • Crusting skin
  • Itching lots
  • Scaling skin
  • Black or white spots
  • Bald patches
  • Dull coat
  • Inflamed areas
  • Redness around the ears
  • Brown discharge from the ears

Causes

There are many reasons why your cat may have developed a skin problem, such as:

  • If your home is too warm
  • Fleas, ticks or mites
  • Allergies
  • Alopecia
  • Insect bites
  • Bacterial infections
  • General poor health
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • An underlying disease

Treatments

The treatment that your vet recommends will depends on the cause of the skin problem.

By understanding the signs and symptoms, you will be able to help get them treated sooner.

Urinary tract

If your cat is having problems urinating, they might have a feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

There are different types of urinary tract infections, such as cat cystitis or a blocked urethra in male cats.

Symptoms

Your cat’s behaviour and health can change if they have a urinary tract infection. Some common signs include:

  • Urinating in places around the house that they usually wouldn’t
  • Crying out when they urinate
  • Lack of appetite
  • Licking their genital area more than usual
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Causes

Each type of urinary tract conditions in female and male cats are caused by different things. They can be caused by new illnesses or a condition that your cat is already suffering from. Examples vary from stress, a bladder infection, stones or hormonal diseases, or even a pre-existing medical condition.

Treatment

Your vet should be able to prescribe a treatment to help ease the cause of the urinary tract infection.

Vomiting

Vomiting is often normal in cats and can happen 1 – 3 times a month. If it becomes more frequent, you should consult your vet to find out what is causing them to be sick. Otherwise, your cat could become dehydrated and unwell.

Symptoms

Usually, before a cat vomits, they will let out a meow, retch and heave. Symptoms that show more serious issues can include:

  • Your cat not eating as much as usual
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Continuous retching
  • Stomach pain

Causes

The most common reason why a cat will vomit is because of a hairball. If your cat is retching or seems to be struggling with a hairball, there is food that can help.

Sometimes, vomiting can be the sign of an underlying illness. A visit to your vet will put your mind at ease and help your cat.

Treatment

You can't always prevent cats from vomiting, but there are a few things you can do at home to comfort them:

  • Check for harmful objects around your house to minimise the risk of them eating something toxic
  • Make sure they have access to water at all times to keep them hydrated
  • Slowly reintroduce them back to food by offering small amounts of plain food
  • Keep to a feeding routine that works for your cat to ensure they are having the right amount of food daily.

Liver and kidney disease

Liver and kidneys are vital organs that help to keep your cat healthy. Their liver works hard to support their digestion and control their immune system, while their kidneys remove any toxins in their body and maintain healthy blood pressure.

Symptoms

Signs of liver and kidney disease in your cat can often be like many other illnesses and diseases, such as:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Urinate more and drink more (this is a specific kidney disease symptom)
  • If the kidney disease is severe, the whites of the eyes and the gums of the mouth can appear yellow

Causes

From bacterial infections to your cat eating something toxic, there are many causes that can lead to liver and kidney diseases in cats.

Treatments

Once your vet has diagnosed your cat, they can offer treatment depending on the severity of the disease.

Often, the treatment is a mixture of medicine prescribed by your vet and a change to their diet.

Dental problems

Cats can get problems with their teeth, gums and tongues at any age. Your cat should have their teeth looked at by a vet once a year to keep dental diseases at bay.

The sooner you find a dental problem; it's easier to treat and lowers the chances of teeth getting removed.

Symptoms

Often, cats won’t show any signs until the dental problem needs some vet attention. Bad breath and avoiding hard food can be signs they could be suffering from a dental problem.

Causes

Some cats can develop dental problems from a young age. There are many factors that can cause dental problems, such as:

  • Genetics of your cat may make them more prone
  • Tooth alignment
  • Bacteria in their mouth
  • Plaque and tartar build up

As a cat owner, you can help your cat’s dental health by feeding them a good diet and keeping up a dental routine.

Treatment

If you’re struggling to clean your cat’s teeth every day and you’re worried about plaque build-up, your vet can assist. Try not to leave your cat’s teeth unbrushed because you can’t clean them yourself. This can lead to them needing extracting to prevent further dental problems.

Get regular check ups

Knowing the signs and symptoms of common cat illnesses is all part of being a responsible cat owner.

Sometimes it takes a professional to notice something isn’t quite right, so regular vet check-ups are important.

As well as regular check-ups, our vets here at MORE THAN recommend the following:

  • Annual vaccinations up to date
  • Regular parasite control, including flea and deworming
  • Good quality dry food
  • Lots of fresh water bowls around the house
  • Regular grooming, including daily brushing of teeth

If you’re ever worried about your furry friend, contact your vet and they can advise on what to do.

Covering your cat

Cat insurance is there for you and your feline family when you both need it most. Have added peace of mind knowing that your furry friend is covered if they fall unwell with our Basic, Classic and Premier pet insurance cover types.

Take a look at our cat insurance and get a quote today

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