Common Cat Diseases and Symptoms For cats, there are a


Common Cat Diseases and Symptoms

For cats, there are a number of health issues that are never thoroughly explained, since it is often rare to find serious illnesses in cats. While rare, they do happen and it is very important to know the signs to look for. Here you will learn more about common cat diseases and the symptoms that go along with each.

These diseases (or disorders) are:

Lung Diseases

Several lung diseases and disorders are possible with cats. Some more-so than others. The most common types of lung diseases (and disorders) in cats are asthma, fungal pneumonia, FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis, bacterial pneumonia, pyothorax, and chylothorax.

Below you will learn a little more about each and the symptoms to expect with each one as well.

Disease/Disorder Description Symptoms
Asthma Considered to be one of the most common diseases in a cat that is included in the lung disease category. It occurs when the passageways of the lungs become inflamed. The inflammation is basically the swelling of these passageways and it makes it very difficult for air to pass through.

Allergens can be one cause and can include dust, perfume, mold, pollen, certain types of cat litter, cigarette smoke, and even certain cat food ingredients.

Pre-existing conditions, even heart conditions, are a possibility. Other causes could be parasites, obesity, and intense stress.

  • Persistent coughing (like coughing up a hairball, but very dry)
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Easily exhausted
  • Breathing is labored
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy
  • Discoloration of lips and gums (a bluish color)
  • Breathing could be rapid and erratic
Fungal Pneumonia With fungal pneumonia, infection is the root cause for this type of lung disease. A cats lungs will become very inflamed and swell, making breathing difficult. Weight loss and fever are the two most common symptoms that accompany fungal pneumonia.

Some causes can be blastomyces
(a fungus that is found in moist soil that may contain mold as well), Histoplasma (a fungus found in damp soil that also contains feces from bats and birds) and aspergillus (a type of mold that can be found in grass, straw, hay, and dust).

  • Fever (even a cats fur will feel hot to the touch)
  • Weight loss
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Trouble breathing (wheezing sounds when breathing)
  • Coughing (strained cough as if they are trying to cough something up)
  • Blindness
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) A condition that focuses on young kittens or very old cats. The abdominal cavity becomes inflamed. It is also possible for the chest cavity to be inflamed as well. Effusive (wet) and non-effusive (dry) are the two types associated with this condition.

There is no known cause of feline infectious peritonitis.

Wet (Effusive):
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abdomen is very swollen
  • Fluid can collect in the chest (rare)

Dry (Non-Effusive):

  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
Bacterial Pneumonia This usually develops from an upper respiratory infection. If a vet hears a crackling sound when listening to a cats lungs, it means the upper respiratory infection has progressed to bacterial pneumonia.

The types of bacteria that are often responsible for this condition are Moraxella, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and Pasteurella

  • Crackling sound in the lungs
  • Consistent coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting (rare)
  • Fur feels rough
  • Fur looks very dull
Pyothorax A very rare condition in which an already present infection starts to leak pus into the chest cavity. This makes it very difficult for the cat to breathe properly.

Some of the known causes are a foreign body traveling to an area of the cat’s body where it does not belong, damaged trachea, or a wound that has penetrated directly through the chest wall.

  • Constantly breathing through an open mouth (not the nose).
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Fever
Chylothorax Lymphatic fluid starts to build within the chest cavity. This could be because of lymphoma or a duct that has ruptured. Other times, there may be no known cause of the condition.

Sometimes, as a preventative measure, the herb known as rutin can be used to avoid another episode of chylothorax, but this is not a guarantee.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Breathing through the mouth (not the nose)
  • Depression (rare)
  • Avoiding prolonged movement
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss (rare)
  • Fatigue

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Many of these lung diseases and disorders treatment options depend on how soon they are discovered.

After making a visit to the vet and having the issue diagnosed, your vet may approve the use of certain treatments at home. Asthma is usually the main one that you can use assisting supplements.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

The most notable sign of feline leukemia is the buildup of fluid in the chest cavity. While rare, it can happen in young cats and kittens. There are six stages to the feline leukemia virus and each stage has its own unique signatures.

Stages Description
Stage 1 The point at which the virus actually enters the cat’s body. White blood cell counts start to rise rapidly and lymph nodes are the first site that those blood cells will reach.
Stage 2 The virus gets really active and spreads to the blood stream. Once the virus infects the blood stream it begins to move throughout the entire body, using the blood stream as its source of transportation.
Stage 3 At this point, the system in cat’s body that helps produce the much needed antibodies to fight infections (the lymphoid system) is the next target for infection. With lymph nodes being located throughout a cat’s entire body (just like humans) the viral infection becomes widespread.
Stage 4 The immune system is infected and also the intestines. If the immune system manages to fight off the virus, this is the point at which the body will start to heal itself from the damage that has already been done. If the body is not able to fight it off, the infection will then progress to the next stage.
Stage 5 The viral infection becomes deeply rooted. It spreads to bone marrow. Infected blood cells found within the bone marrow (monocytes, lymphocytes, and neutrophils…to name a few) are released into the body. At this point, there is no way to cure the virus. It is permanently fixed in the cat’s body.
Stage 6 The infection has completely overrun the cat’s body. The virus keeps replicating over and over, infecting the bladder, salivary glands, esophagus, pancreas, intestines, stomach, and trachea.
  • Through physical contact with other cats (biting included)
  • From the mucus and saliva of other cats
  • Sharing litterboxes or food bowls (rare)
  • Fur is rough (no shine)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bladder infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Seizures
  • Lymph nodes are swollen
  • Lesions on the skin
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Gingivitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Anemia
  • Skin infections
  • Weight loss
  • Not using the litterbox

*These symptoms can show up at any stage, but will not show at all in cats that are asymptomatic carriers.

This type of viral infection can spread to other cats easily. Any type of nasal secretions can hold the virus. One cat can spread it to another by pawing at their face, getting the secretions on their paws or fur, and then rubbing against another cat.

If cats groom each other, this is another way that the virus can spread to other cats. Saliva contains the virus as well. For cats that repeatedly groom themselves (and other cats) the virus can continue to travel from one cat to another, in a never-ending loop.

Female cats that are pregnant and infected with the feline leukemia virus, can also transmit it to their unborn kittens. Also, if a mother cat were to contract the virus just after giving birth, she can pass it to her kittens when they consumer her milk.

This is why it is incredibly important to catch this early on in a cat’s life. Kittens can start getting their vaccines when they are around six to eight weeks old so always have your cat or kitten tested for feline leukemia virus if you suspect they may have been around a cat that has it. Early detection gives your cat the best chance at being treated.

Heart Disease

With heart disease being one of the more prominent diseases in cats, it is important to know that there are two types to be aware of: adult onset and congenital heart disease.

Adult onset is the type of heart disease that comes from a cat’s heart being damaged at some point during their life. The result of this is the heart not functioning properly. In rare cases, this can even be a hereditary disease. A very common type of feline adult onset heart disease is cardiomyopathy. This is when the heart muscle itself is damaged.

Congenital heart disease (in cats) usually occurs during the developmental stage and can show around the time of birth. However, sometimes it can take years before a cat shows any sings of this type of heart disease. For cats, congenital heart disease can mean that the heart has not formed properly in the developmental stage of their life. In a litter of kittens, one kitten is usually affected, but on rare occasions, it could be more.

For adult onset and congenital heart diseases, the causes and symptoms are identical.

  • Breed (Persian, Maine coon, American shorthair, British shorthair, and Siamese breeds are predisposed)
  • Thyroid glands that are overactive
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight loss
  • Growth defects (mostly in kittens)
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paralysis of the hind legs (usually from blood clots and can include pain, but this is rare)
  • Collapsing episodes

Kidney Disease

Kidney diseases are common in cats, but usually in adult cats. In rare cases, it can show up in younger cats. There are several previous diseases that can lead to the development of kidney disease. Some of these can include Hyperthyroidism, hypokalemia, hypertension, and diabetes.

Feline kidney disease comes in four stages with each one having progressing symptoms.

Stages Description Symptoms
Stage 1 Kidney functions begin to decline. They are only working anywhere from 33% to 99%. The kidneys have no problem filtering waste and toxins.
  • There are no obvious symptoms at this stage.
Stage 2 Kidney functions have been reduced to anywhere from 25% to 33%. The cat’s kidneys are still able to filter waste and toxins from the body, but it is a little bit difficult at this point.
  • Excessive protein in the urine (through lab work)
  • Electrolytes are low (shown through lab work)
  • Drinking more water
  • Slight increase in urination
  • High blood pressure
Stage 3 Kidney functions have been reduced to anywhere from 15% to 25%. The kidneys are struggling to filter waste and toxins, but it is not enough.
  • Increased water intake
  • Excessive urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Bladder infections are possible
Stage 4 Kidney functions are at 15% or less. Kidneys cannot filter any waste or toxins from the body.
  • Phosphorus levels are increased (shown in lab work)
  • Excessive bouts of nausea
  • No interest in food
  • Extreme fatigue

Catching this type of disease early on is essential, so speak to your veterinarian if you suspect your cat may have kidney disease. There are treatment options available.

Dental Disease

Looking into the health of your cat’s mouth, there are several diseases that can possibly develop. Feline periodontal disease is the most common among them all and it can come in multiple stages (also known as grades).

Stages Description/Symptoms
Stage 1
  • Labeled as “early gingivitis”
  • Slightly red and swollen gums
  • Small amount of plaque on the teeth
  • Bad breath that comes and goes
Stage 2
  • Labeled as “gingivitis”
  • Gums start to detach from the teeth (about 25% loss)
  • Increased inflammation of the gums
  • Cats may start to paw at their face
  • Bad breath that continues
Stage 3
  • Labeled as “early periodontitis”
  • Gums detached from the teeth (30% loss)
  • Gums start to bleed a little
Stage 4
  • Labeled as “complete periodontal disease”
  • Gums detached from teeth (+50% loss)
  • Gums easily bleed
  • Teeth are very loose
  • Teeth are missing
  • Pus located at the gum line

The most common cause of this dental disease in cats is bacterial infection. This can be from food particles that that have become trapped in their teeth. Those food particles start to decay and causes plaque to build up. Plaque contains several types of bacteria and this bacteria is what starts the process leading to periodontal disease in cats.


There are many different types of cancers that can occur in a cat. While it is not common for cats to develop many of these cancers (or cancer in general), some breeds like the Siamese, are predisposed to all of these.

Cancer Name Description Symptoms
Fibrosarcoma Found within soft tissues and showing itself as a tumor. It can spread to other parts of a cat’s body, but it is a slow moving cancer in this aspect.

The main areas that this is usually found in are facial tissues, chest, legs, back, and sides.

  • A painless mass that appears beneath the skin
  • Anorexia
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
Lymphoma The most common type of cancer in all felines. These are tumors that can develop in several areas of a cat’s body.
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
Gastrointestinal Cancer Usually starts from somewhere within the small intestines. Tumors can form and begin spreading quickly.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting (may have blood present)
  • Diarrhea (with blood)
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Straining while using the litterbox
  • Pale gums (from anemia)
  • Swollen stomach
  • Infection in the stomach
  • Stomach pains
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Tumors that are malignant and mostly found within the mouth. They can grow very quickly.
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bleeding from any area within the mouth
  • Jaw swelling (can be upper or lower jaw)
  • Trouble eating
Mammary Carcinoma Usually occurs in cats that are ten years or older. These tumors can develop along the armpit area down to the groin area.

Even though the tumors start from within the mammary glands, they can spread to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and lymph nodes.

  • Painless lumps (may be filled with fluid)
  • Discharge from the nipples
  • Trouble urinating
  • Dark stools
  • Strong odor from stools

If you suspect that your cat may have any of these types of cancers, it is best to act fast. Some can spread very quickly and veterinarians will need to start treatments as soon as possible in order to have a positive outcome.

Bowel Diseases & Disorders

There are a few bowel diseases and disorders that are common in cats. Constipation, gastritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and gastrointestinal ulcers are among the most well-known.

Disease/Disorder Description Symptoms
Constipation Difficulty passing stools or passing none at all. There may be an obstruction within their intestines that does not allow anything to pass or it could be trouble with digestion.

Anything that a cat is not able digest properly can get trapped within the intestines causing constipation.

Another common cause of constipation is dehydration. Many cats do not drink enough fluids, leading to recurring episodes of constipation.

  • Hard and dry stools
  • Straining when using the litterbox
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach is sensitive to the touch
Obstipation A cat is hardly able to pass any stools through their colon. If they are able to pass anything, it will likely not be much and this extreme form of constipation will continue to progress.
  • Hard and dry stools (or little to no stools at all)
  • Passing liquid-like stools (may contain trace amounts of blood)
  • Excessive straining when using the litterbox
  • May not try to use the litterbox
  • Vomiting (frequent bouts)
Megacolon No stools are able to pass through the colon at all. Repeated or one severe round of obstipation can cause the colon to permanently dilate, leading to megacolon. There may be a large amount of nerve damage as a result as well.

Some cats are affected by this more than others. There is not specific reason and it does not have to do with breed classifications.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme vomiting
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Extreme dehydration
  • Weight loss
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Shown as extreme irritation of the lining found within the small intestines. It can sometimes cause scar tissue that can gradually start to build up over time.

One cause could be stress that comes from being left alone for periods of time or boredom.

Food allergies are another possible cause. It could be ingredients in wet or dry food. It can even come the treats they are given.

Cats are meat eaters so grains, in large amounts, can also lead to inflammation of their bowels.

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting (this will mostly be liquid)
  • Eating normally, but no weight gain
  • Pain when using the litterbox (Hard stools are a possible symptom with this)
Gastrointestinal Ulcers These are wounds that are found within the stomach, but can also be found in the intestines. They are not very common in cats, but can happen suddenly.

The cause is an overproduction of stomach acid or an increase in digestive enzymes. However, there are times when there is no probable cause for these ulcers.

  • Bleeding of the stomach lining
  • Bleeding in the intestinal lining
  • Vomiting (blood may be present)
  • Dark stools
  • Pale gums

* In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all.

Gastritis When the stomach becomes inflamed, it can lead to a cat vomiting constantly. It is usually caused by something that the cat has eaten and does not agree with their stomach.

Some other possible causes of gastritis could be poison, parasites, tumors in the stomach, medications, or infections.

  • Extreme vomiting that comes on suddenly
  • Slight vomiting that is long-term
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness (barely able to walk or stay standing)

For all of these feline bowel diseases and disorders, it is necessary to see a veterinarian. Something that seems as simple as a little constipation, could be a sign of something more serious. It is also a good idea to visit a vet because many of these are treatable if they are caught early on. A veterinarian may suggest digestive enzymes or treats
to go along with their own treatments options.

Memory Loss

Memory loss is something that many cat owners do not think about when caring for their feline friend. It is a condition described as CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). As cats start to get older, their brains age right along with them. For some, the progression can be more than their brain can handle. This leads to changes in many everyday habits of cats.

  • There are no known facts as to why some cats develop Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and some do not.
  • Irregular use of their litterbox (may be confused on “how” to use it or they may find other places to relieve their bowels)
  • Wandering around (appears to be lost, even in an environment that should be familiar)
  • Restlessness
  • Constant vocalization
  • Disorientation (can be very confused, stares at the wall continually, does not know how to find food or water bowls)
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Erratic behavior (anxiety, irritated easily, or shies away)
  • Grooming slows (may not groom themselves at all)
  • Loss of appetite (may eat a little or not at all)

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

With urinary tract infections in cats, there can be more than a few causes. Interstitial Cystitis, Bacterial Cystitis, and Urinary Stones
(Crystals) are the causes that are commonly known. Some of the main symptoms are the same, but each cause has some unique symptoms to go with it as well.

Cause Description Symptoms
Interstitial Cystitis A unique cause that is stress induced. The lining of the bladder becomes severely inflamed. There is no specific research on what stressful events may cause the development of interstitial cystitis.
  • Dehydration
  • Blood in urine (trace amounts)
  • Frequent urination
  • Not using the litterbox at all (urinating in other places)
Bacterial Cystitis The most common cause of urinary tract infections in cats. Urine becomes infected with bacteria and spreads to the bladder. The bladder then becomes infected.
  • Blood in urine (may not be easily noticed in the litterbox)
  • Urinating in places other than the litterbox
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive licking (grooming)
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Straining during urination

*Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.

Urinary Stones (Crystals) Stones (or crystals) that form within urine. Either the urine is too acidic or too alkaline. It does not happen in all cats and a cat’s diet is often responsible.
  • Noticeable crystals in the urine
  • Straining when urinating
  • Urine has a very strong odor
  • Blood in urine (trace amounts)
  • Vocalization (because of pain)
  • Appetite loss (rare)
  • Hiding (rare)


Your cat’s health is always important to you and you want to make sure they have the best quality of life. Many of these diseases and disorders are treatable, but it requires paying attention to your cat’s behavior and lifestyle. Anything out of the ordinary should be taken seriously and you should make a visit to the vet immediately. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it is better to know for sure, than not.

Keep all of these things in mind so you and your feline friend can live a wonderfully happy and healthy

Jonathan Wallace

Hi There, I absolutely love animals. I didn't major in animal science, I actually received my M.B.A. at Florida Tech University, (Go Panthers), But I enjoy writing about animals. I Enjoy learning, and helping people. I conduct all of my own research prior to publishing any article anywhere. I have four paw-panions right now, they are all angels, as are yours i'm sure. So thank you for taking the time to read my BIO, enjoy. If you would like to know more please visit the about me page

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