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The Signs & Symptoms of Common Cat Illnesses

The Signs & Symptoms of Common Cat Illnesses

Cats are very talented at masking their pain or when they are feeling unwell, which makes it hard for their owners to detect their kitty is ill. Here, our Houston County vets share the symptoms of common cat illnesses and how you can tell if your cat is sick.

The Health of Your Cat

Cats are aloof animals and are experts at hiding signs of illness. Most of the time cats will actually hide that they are feeling ill, which could make it very hard to tell if your cat is sick. However, as a cat parent, it's essential to monitor your pet's health and take the necessary steps if your cat does start showing signs of feeling unwell.

Common Cat Illnesses

Among cats, some illnesses are more common than others, however, there are several you should be aware of if you have a cat in your family. Here are some of the most common illnesses that our Houston County vets see in cats.

Upper Respiratory Infections (Cat Colds)

Viruses and bacteria such as feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus can make your cat develop upper respiratory tract infections that could affect their throat, nose, and sinuses.

These illnesses spread very easily among kitties that live in multi-cat households and shelters or those that spend time outdoors and interact with other cats. Feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus are spread during normal activities including grooming, sharing a water and food bowl, or coughing and sneezing. Cats infected with the virus could easily transmit the illness to other felines in the same household, or in the neighborhood. The most common symptoms of an upper respiratory illness in cats are:

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

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV as it is commonly called is most often seen in outdoor male cats that have a tendency to fight. This potentially serious cat illness is often spread through bites obtained during fights, however, in rare situations, it could be passed from a female cat to her kittens.

FIV is a slow-acting virus and sometimes cats might not display any symptoms until years after they initially become infected. That said, FIV can severely weaken your cat's immune system once the disease takes hold making your feline friend susceptible to a range of serious secondary infections.

With the 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 they might not become visible for months or even years, or they might be intermittent. If your furry friend is exhibiting any of the symptoms below they could be suffering from the Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and need veterinary care as quickly as possible to help keep the symptoms from getting more severe.

Common symptoms of FIV include:

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


If your cat can't produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar it will develop diabetes mellitus. If it goes untreated, diabetes can shorten your cat's lifespan and lead to nerve disorders, numerous health issues, and severe emergency situations needing immediate veterinary attention. The treatment for cats with diabetes is focused on managing the disease instead of curing it and could include insulin injections. Common signs of diabetes in cats are:

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


There are a number of cancers that our vets often see in cats. Cancer first begins to grow within a cell, before attaching to the 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:

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

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 any of the symptoms discussed above, it's imperative to bring your kitty to the vet as fast as possible. Lots of cat illnesses can progress quickly and could become very serious in a short time frame. 

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.

If you believe your cat is sick or showing signs of any of the illnesses discussed above contact our Houston County vets immediately to schedule an appointment for your feline companion.

New Patients Welcome

Smith Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Houston County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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