A guide to cat health: Top tips

Cats are our favourite fluffy companions - how do we make sure they're in the best of health at all times?

Cat illnesses can of course be diagnosed by a vet, but it's very important that owners still look out for symptoms and signs that medical treatment may be needed. If you’re unable to get to a vet but are unsure of your cat’s health, you can call the freephone vetfone helpline.

Irregular eating habits

A cat not eating can often be cured by simply changing its food. Just like us, they get bored of the same thing every day. Cats shouldn’t turn their noses up for more than a meal or two however, so book an appointment to see a vet if it’s been a day or longer.

Alongside not eating, the below are all signs that underlying diseases may be present:

  • Continuously sleepy
  • Sitting or lying strangely
  • Irritability and being upset, particularly when going to the loo or if its tummy is touched
  • Irregular purring
  • Drinking a lot
  • Urinating a lot
  • Straining excessively to urinate
  • Behavioural changes

Cat flu

Many cat flu symptoms are similar to those of human flu such as a runny nose and eyes, a sore throat, aches and pains as well as a temperature.

While some cats can be treated at home for the flu, for kittens and adult cats with other health problems, cat flu can be dangerous, so if you notice any of the above symptoms, visit a vet immediately. Even if it's not serious, a vet will check for eye problems commonly associated with cat flu, which are potentially permanent if left untreated.

It is possible to vaccinate against the viral form of cat flu, but the illness can also be caused by bacteria for which a vaccine won’t work. If you have a kitten or a vulnerable cat, visit a vet to discuss a cat flu vaccination for your pet.


Vomiting is something some cats commonly do and so isn’t always a cause for concern. Most often a cat will vomit because of a hairball. If your cat is retching or seems to be struggling with a hairball, certain types of cat foods are available to help. Grass may help release hairballs, so don't be alarmed if they seem to be eating it for this purpose.

Sometimes vomiting can be the sign of an underlying illness in a cat. If the vomit looks out of the ordinary or is accompanied by prolonged sleepiness, or other abnormal signs, it’s worth visiting a vet. Do take a sample of the vomit with you as well – it could indicate diabetes, kidney or liver problems.

Be aware that continued vomiting can leave your cat seriously dehydrated too.


As irritating to the owners as they are to cats, neither of you should put up with fleas - your vet will advise on the best treatment for your pet's problem. Vet practices also sometimes run flea clinics, which can be a great source of help.

Don’t forget to decontaminate your home too. You will need to use an anti-flea spray on carpets, soft furnishings, and in nooks and crannies. You may have to do it several times to make sure they are entirely gone.

If the cat is still in discomfort after using shop-bought remedies or has created patches that are red and bleeding, take he or she to the vet to make sure there's no infection. Stronger flea remedies are available on prescription.


Like fleas, cats can easily get worms from their environment. This is particularly likely if they are outdoor cats and often hunt or interact with other cats, but it's important that all cats are regularly wormed as a preventative measure.

And if you think your cat may already have worms (look out for vomiting, losing weight, and being unusually hungry), your vet can prescribe tablets.

Liver and kidney disease

Not quite as common in younger cats, but older cats can experience problems with their liver or kidneys.

Typically a cat will lose weight, be very thirsty, urinate more or not be able to hold it until they reach the litter tray (this is also a sign of a urinary infection). Liver and kidney diseases may also be another reason that your cat might not be eating.

It sounds serious but many cats can live a long time with these diseases provided they eat the right diet and are monitored regularly. Of course, visiting the vet often for check-ups is a must too.

Dental problems

Cats can get problems with their teeth, gums or tongue fairly easily. Dental problems in particular come with really bad breath. If you notice this, it’s definitely time to visit the vet. You might also notice that your cat begins favours certain types of food. This could be a sign that their teeth hurt and that they are opting to eat softer things. Definitely visit the vet if you spot this.

Read more information on our Cat Insurance here.

Related Links