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Common Cat Illnesses: Causes & Symptoms

If your kitty is feeling under the weather, you’re likely concerned - and for good reason - many cat illnesses and symptoms can affect their long-term physical health and wellbeing, or even be fatal if not treated proactively. Our Flat Frock vets provide insight and advice on signs of illness. 

What are common cat illnesses?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your cat is sick and whether they need medical attention from a vet.

As cat parents, we can watch for signs of serious illness and be prepared to visit the vet if required. Especially since cats tend to isolate out of instinct when sick, it’s up to us to take action. In this post, we explain 3 common cat illnesses and their symptoms.


If a cat’s body isn’t producing enough insulin to balance glucose or blood sugar levels, diabetes mellitus develops. If left untreated, it can lead to several symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite (since the body is unable to use energy in food) or loss of appetite)
  • Motor function problems
  • Coma
  • Death

When poorly controlled, diabetes can shorten your cat’s lifespan and quality of life, and lead to several health problems, nerve disorders and severe emergency situations. Disease management will be a main focus of treatment and may include insulin injections.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Your cat’s upper respiratory tract - their sinuses, nose and throat - can become infected with viruses and bacteria. Typically found in shelters and households with multiple cats, kitties can contract the feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus through something as simple as sharing water or food bowls.

The virus can then make its way to other cats through the same channels or during grooming. They can also catch it if infected cats are coughing or sneezing in their vicinity.

Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Gagging, drooling
  • Runny nose or clear/colored nasal discharge
  • Decreased or lost appetite


Cancer is caused by an uncontrolled growth of cells. This may impact numerous cells and organs in a cat’s body. The disease first develops within a cell before attaching to tissue underneath the skin. It can then spread to other parts of your pet’s body.

Feline Leukemia Virus (which cats can get vaccinated against) is a common contributor to cancer. Toxins in the environment can also cause this disease. If your vet diagnoses your cat with cancer, it may be treatable.

Symptoms may include:

  • Odor from the mouth
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Unexplained bleeding or discharge
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Lumps or bumps that change size or shape
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Chronic weight loss

Depending on the type of cancer and its location, as well as the extent of disease, whether it’s diagnosed in its early stages, whether effective treatment can be administered, and other factors, several potential treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery may be provided.

What to Do if Your Cat is Sick

If your cat is ill and any of the symptoms above are appearing, it’s important that they see a vet as soon as possible. At Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital & Veterinary Emergency Hospital, we have an in-house laboratory and onsite pharmacy. We are available to see pets for same-day appointments to provide the care they require. Help is also available for emergencies during regular and after-hours.

Every minute counts when your cat is sick. By starting treatment right away, their recovery time could be reduced and prompt treatment may even save their life.

When to Visit an Emergency Vet

Veterinary emergencies require immediate care and attention. If you see any of the following symptoms in your cat, it’s critical to get them to an emergency vet:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Seizures or staggering
  • Choking, difficulty breathing or continuous coughing/gagging
  • Severe diarrhea or vomiting (2 or more episodes in 24 hours)
  • Unconsciousness

There are also several more indications of an emergency to be aware of.

How to prevent common cat illnesses

A clean, happy and low-stress home with lots of fresh water to drink will go a long way to preventing common cat illnesses. Routine checkups at feline-friendly veterinarians and preventive care are also important to keep your furry friend healthy. They should also receive regular vaccinations, eat a healthy diet and get exercise.

Do you think your cat may be sick? Our vets are experienced in treating a variety of conditions and illnesses in pets. Contact our office for an appointment.

Common Cat Illnesses, Flat Rock Vet

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