Cat Illnesses and Symptoms

Sick cat

The world of cat illnesses is vast, with several conditions sharing similar symptoms. In fact, some illnesses can arise as a secondary or even a tertiary effect of an underlying disease. It is useful for pet owners to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of the most outstanding and common feline diseases, though personal research should never preempt a veterinary's diagnosis.

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Table of Cat Illnesses and Symptoms

Amongst the more widespread feline afflictions are:

Condition Symptoms Further Information
Cardiomyopathy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lameness
  • Fainting spells
  • Listless behavior
  • Lethargy
Veterinary Medical Clinic
Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Excess urine output
  • Lack or urine output
Feline CRF Information Center
Ear Mites
  • Inflammation
  • Itching/scratching
  • Head shaking/rubbing
  • Excess earwax
  • Coffee ground-like, tarry discharge
ASPCA
Fatty Liver Disease
  • Refusal to eat
  • Excess saliva
  • Vomiting
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Seizures
PetMD.com
Feline Distemper
  • Depression
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Retinal Lesions
  • Ataxia
Merck Veterinary Manual
Feline Diabetes
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Overall run-down condition
  • Rear leg weakness
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Refusal to eat
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Eye problems
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gray gums
  • Yellowing of tissues and eyes
  • Bloated belly
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Chronic vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Mucus in stool
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Feline Kidney Disease
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Foul breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • General weakness
  • Increased urination
  • Urination in odd/inappropriate places
Feline CRF Information Center
Feline Leukemia
  • Low iron
  • Lethargy
  • Eye problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Opportunistic infections
  • Prolonged sores/wounds
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Gum Disease
  • Foul breath
  • Reduced appetite
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Tooth loosening or loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Face rubbing
PetMD.com
Hairballs
  • Retching cough
  • Vomiting wads of fur and food
  • Intestinal blockage/constipation
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Hookworms
  • Anemia
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Symptoms of malnutrition
  • Distended abdomen
University of Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine
Hyperthyroidism
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Irritability
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Infections
  • Foul odor
  • Inflammation
  • Itching/scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Head rubbing
  • Swollen ear flap
VetInfo.com
Kidney Stones
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination in small amounts
  • Urination in odd/inappropriate places
  • Tenderness in belly or along back
  • Difficulty walking
PetMD.com
Lymphoma
  • Skin irritation/ulcers
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lumps/tumors
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center
Respiratory Tract Infection/Flu
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • Runny eyes
  • Sneezing
Merck Veterinary Manual
Ringworm
  • Itching/scratching
  • Scaly skin
  • Dandruff
  • Chin acne
  • Circular patches of hair loss
VCA Animal Hospitals
Roundworms
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dull coat
  • Bloated abdomen
Dr. Foster and Dr. Smith
Skin/Food Allergies
  • Itching/scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Red, sometimes puss-filled bumps
  • Scaly skin
  • Darkened skin
  • Hair loss
  • Compulsive licking
  • Chewing/self-mutilation
  • Red stained fur
PetMD.com
Tapeworms
  • Malnutrition
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Segments of tapeworms may be visible in stool
The Drake Center for Veterinary Medicine
Urinary Tract Infection
  • Blood in the urine
  • Difficult/painful urination
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Compulsive licking of genitals
  • Urinating in odd/inappropriate locations
  • Nasal mucous discharge
  • Poor appetite
  • Excessive saliva
PetMD.com

When You Should Consult a Vet

Although every feline illness isn't life threatening, there are definitely times when a vet's expertise is required. How can you tell the difference? Call your vet anytime you are worried or if your cat is:

  • Unresponsive
  • Ill more than 24-36 hours
  • Having symptoms that dramatically increase or multiply
  • In obvious pain
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Bleeding profusely
  • Unable to have bowel movements or urinate
  • Refusing to eat for more than 48 hours
  • Not drinking

Generally speaking, use your own common sense and intimate knowledge of your cat's normal behavior to guide you. If your intuition is telling you it's time to head to the clinic, do so without hesitation.

Researching Wisely

The importance of a veterinary examination cannot be stressed enough when your cat begins to exhibit signs of disease. Many of the aforementioned cat illnesses share symptoms and a thorough examination is necessary to rule out underlying causes. Something as simple as dehydration may be the secondary effect of underlying kidney disease. Moreover, parasitic infections can mimic the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases, though the treatments differ dramatically. An imprecise diagnosis can have highly detrimental results when applied in the place of a medical assessment. A proper diagnosis is the first step towards the safe and accurate treatment of any disease.

Cat Illnesses and Symptoms