What are some common cat illnesses & symptoms?

causes of cat illness

Cats are wonderful companions, known for their independent and sometimes mysterious nature. While they are generally resilient creatures, just like humans, they can fall ill. As responsible cat owners, it’s vital to understand common cat illnesses and recognize their symptoms early. This knowledge can make a significant difference in ensuring your feline friend enjoys a long, healthy life. This comprehensive guide will explain various common cat illnesses in plain, simple terms and detailing their associated symptoms.

cause of illness in cats

Understanding Your Cat’s Normal Behavior

Before diving into specific illnesses, it’s essential to understand what’s “normal” for your cat. Every cat is unique, with its quirks and habits. Knowing your cat’s typical behaviour is the first step in noticing when something might be amiss. Here are some key aspects to keep an eye on:

Appetite and Thirst:

Cats can be picky eaters, but significant changes in their eating habits, like refusing food or excessive hunger, could be cause for concern.
Pay attention to their water intake; a sudden increase or decrease might signal underlying health issues, such as diabetes or kidney disease.

Energy Levels:

Cats have activity patterns, but if your usually active cat becomes lethargic or overly hyperactive, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Grooming Habits:

Cats are known for their grooming prowess. Any changes, like excessive grooming, mats in their fur, or neglecting grooming altogether, might be a red flag.

common cat illnesses & symptoms
Litter Box Habits:

Keep an eye on your cat’s litter box habits. Changes in urination or defecation, such as more frequent visits, straining, or alterations in stool consistency, should be noted.
Now that we’ve established the importance of understanding your cat’s normal behaviour let’s delve into various common cat illnesses and their symptoms.

Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)

Think of URIs in cats as similar to the common cold in humans. These infections are highly contagious and often affect cats in crowded environments like shelters or multi-cat households. The symptoms can include:
Sneezing: Cats with URIs may sneeze frequently.
Coughing: Like humans, cats can develop a cough with a respiratory infection.
Nasal discharge: You might notice your cat has a runny nose.
Watery eyes: Their eyes might appear watery or teary.
Lethargy: Cats with URIs might become less active.
Loss of appetite: They may eat less or lose interest in food.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs can be painful for your cat and lead to severe complications if not treated promptly. Signs of a UTI include:
Straining to urinate: It could be a sign if your cat appears to be struggling or spends more time in the litter box than usual.
Frequent trips to the litter box: Cats with UTIs often urinate more frequently.
Blood in urine: You might notice pink or bloody urine.
Vocalization during urination: Your cat may cry or meow in discomfort.
Excessive genital licking: Cats with UTIs might lick their genital area more than usual.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a broader term encompassing various urinary issues, not limited to infections. Symptoms can include:
Straining to urinate: Your cat might seem to have difficulty urinating.
Frequent urination: They may visit the litter box more often.
Blood in urine: Pink or bloody urine can indicate FLUTD.
Inappropriate urination: Your cat might start urinating outside the litter box.
Excessive grooming of the genital area: Cats with FLUTD might groom their genital area more than usual.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes in cats is somewhat similar to diabetes in humans, affecting insulin production. Signs to watch out for include:
Increased thirst and urination: If your cat drinks more water and urinates frequently, it could be a sign of diabetes.
Weight loss: Despite a good appetite, diabetic cats may lose weight.
Lethargy: They may seem less active or tired.
Changes in appetite: Diabetes can lead to an increase or decrease in appetite.

Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is more common in older cats. Symptoms may include:
Increased thirst and urination: Cats with kidney disease often drink and urinate more.
Weight loss: Despite eating, they might lose weight.
Vomiting: Cats with kidney disease may vomit periodically.
Poor coat condition: You might notice their fur looks unkempt or dull.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Cats can experience a range of gastrointestinal problems, including:
Vomiting: Occasional vomiting can be normal, but frequent or severe vomiting is a concern.
Diarrhea: Loose or watery stools may indicate a problem.
Constipation: Infrequent or painful bowel movements are a sign.
Loss of appetite: A significant decrease in eating can be problematic.
Lethargy: Your cat might become less active when their stomach isn’t feeling well.

Dental Disease

Oral health is essential for cats, and signs of dental issues include:
Bad breath: Persistent foul breath can indicate dental problems.
Difficulty eating: Cats with dental issues may have trouble chewing food.
Drooling: Excessive drooling can be a sign of mouth pain.
Swollen gums: Inflamed or swollen gums are a concern.
Tartar buildup on teeth: Yellow or brown tartar on teeth should be addressed.

Heartworm Disease

While less common in cats than dogs, cats can still get heartworm disease. Symptoms might include:
Coughing: Cats with heartworm disease may develop a persistent cough.
Difficulty breathing: Labored breathing can be a sign.
Vomiting: Frequent vomiting could indicate a problem.
Weight loss: Despite eating, they may lose weight.
Lethargy: Cats with heartworm disease may appear tired or listless.


Hyperthyroidism is common in older cats and results from an overactive thyroid gland. Signs to be aware of include:
Increased appetite: Your cat might eat more than usual.
Weight loss: Despite their hearty appetite, they may lose weight.
Restlessness: Hyperthyroid cats can be more active and restless.
Vomiting: Frequent vomiting can be a symptom.
Diarrhea: Loose stools might occur.


Cats can develop various types of cancer, with symptoms varying widely based on the type and location of the tumour. Some general signs include:
Lumps or bumps: Feel for unusual growths on your cat’s body.
Unexplained weight loss: Weight loss without a change in diet is concerning.
Changes in appetite: Increased or decreased appetite can be a sign.
Lethargy: Cats with cancer may become less active.
Difficulty breathing or swallowing: If your cat seems to struggle with these actions, it could be related to cancer.


Sum Up

It is important to remember that this guide provides an overview of common cat diseases and their symptoms. If you notice these symptoms or suspect that your cat is not well, consult your veterinarian immediately. If you live in Toronto, do not forget about regular veterinary examinations at Parliament Animal Hospital because regular checkups are the best way to stay healthy.

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