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Cat Illnesses and Symptoms to Watch For

Cat Illnesses and Symptoms to Watch For

Cats will instinctually hide when they don't feel well, making it very challenging for even the most attentive pet parents to recognize when their feline friend is sick. In today's post, our Ambler vets share some common cat illnesses and their symptoms.

Your Cat's Health

Our feline friends are stoic creatures and extremely good at hiding signs of illness. In many cases, cats will actually hide when they feel unwell. This can make knowing when your cat is sick very challenging. That said, as a pet parent it's important to monitor your pet's health and head to the vet for care if your kitty does begin to show signs of feeling unwell. Below are a few common illnesses seen in both indoor cats and outdoor cats.

Common Cat Illnesses

Some illnesses are more common than others when it comes to cats, and the illnesses most commonly seen in indoor cats aren't necessarily the same as those seen in outdoor cats. Nonetheless, there are a number of very common cat illnesses that all pet parents should be aware of. Here are some of the most common illnesses that our Ambler vets see in cats.

Upper Respiratory Infections (Cat Colds)

Viruses and bacteria such as feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus can cause your kitty to develop upper respiratory tract infections that affect their sinuses, nose, and throat.

These illnesses are easily spread between cats who live in multi-cat households and shelters or those that spend time outdoors where they can encounter other cats. Feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus are spread through normal activities such as grooming, sharing a food or water bowl, or coughing and sneezing.  Cats infected with the virus can then easily go on to transmit the illness to other cats within the household, or within the neighborhood. Common symptoms of upper respiratory illness in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Drooling
  • Sneezing
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV as it is commonly called is most often seen in male outdoor cats with a tendency to fight. This potentially serious cat illness is often passed along through bites sustained during fights, although in rare cases it can be passed from a female cat to her kittens.

FIV is a slow acting virus and in some cases symptoms may not show up until years after the initial infection occurred. That said, FIV can severely weaken your cat's immune system once the disease takes hold making your feline friend susceptible to a number of serious secondary infections.

With appropriate treatment, infected cats that are kept in an indoor, stress-free environment can live comfortable lives for a number of months or years before the disease reaches its chronic stages.

If your cat is infected with FIV symptoms may not become apparent for months or years, or they could be intermittent. If your kitty is displaying any of the following symptoms they may be suffering from Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and require veterinary care as soon as possible in order to help prevent symptoms from becoming more severe.

Common symptoms of FIV include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor grooming
  • Disheveled coat
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal appearance
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Inflammation of the gums and mouth 
  • Skin redness or hair loss
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating outside of litter box
  • Behavior change


If your cat is unable to produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar they will develop diabetes mellitus. Left untreated, diabetes in cats can shorten their lifespan and lead to nerve disorders, numerous health issues, and severe emergency situations requiring immediate veterinary care. Treatment for diabetes in cats is focused on managing the disease rather than a cure and may include insulin injections. Signs of diabetes in cats include:

  • Increased urination
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coma
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Motor function problems


There are a number of cancers that our vets commonly seen in cats. Cancer first begins to grow within a cell, before attaching to tissue underneath the skin and potentially spreading to other areas. If detected early, cancer in cats may be treatable. Symptoms of cancer in cats can include:

  • Marked increase or
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Lumps that change in size or shape
  • Difficulty urinating 
  • Bad breath
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Unexplained discharge

Early detection is essential for good outcomes when it comes to treating cancer in cats. Some other factors which influence the success of cancer treatment include the type of cancer, the extent of its spread, and the location of the tumor. Recommended treatments for cats diagnosed with cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

What To Do If Your Cat Is Sick

If your cat is showing signs of any of the illnesses listed above, it's important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Many cat illnesses progress quickly and can become very serious quickly.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your cat may be sick? Contact our Ambler vets at Spring House Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your kitty.

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