Cats are good at self-maintenance, but even your fastidious feline can’t prevent some of the more common cat diseases and health issues. To help you care for kitty, here’s a brief overview of six of the most common cat health problems.
Common Cat Health Problem: Vomiting
Vomiting is a very common cat health problem, with causes ranging from eating something poisonous or inedible (like string), to infection, urinary tract disease, or diabetes.
Symptoms are usually obvious, and include drooling and abdominal heaving. Vomiting can quickly leave your cat dehydrated, so if kitty continues vomiting or acts ill, call your vet right away. And, because it’s hard for a pet owner to tell the difference between vomiting and regurgitation, collect a sample of your cat’s vomit and take it with you to the vet.
Common Cat Health Problem: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)
About 10% of cats brought to the vet have feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which is actually a group of feline diseases with multiple causes.
Female and male cats can get FLUTD, and it often occurs in cats that are overweight, unfit, or who eat dry food. Stress, a multi-cat household, and sudden changes can all raise a cat’s risk of FLUTD, and treatment depends on the type of FLUTD your cat has. FLUTD symptoms include:
- Straining to urinate
- Bloody urine
- Urinating in unusual places
- Crying when urinating
- Licking around the urinary area (often because of pain)
- Lack of appetite
It’s always an emergency if your cat can’t urinate. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your cat has a urinary tract problem.
Common Cat Health Problem: Fleas
Fleas are a very common external feline health problem, but one you can treat easily. Signs your cat has fleas include:
- Flea dirt on their skin (they look like tiny black dots)
- Constant scratching
- Frequent licking
- Red or irritated skin
- Hair loss
- Skin infections or hot spots
Fleas can live for more than a year, and your cat risks anemia if the problem becomes serious, so be sure to treat your cat’s flea problem and prevent future infestations.
Talk to your vet about which flea control would be best for your cat. Treatments include oral medication, powders, foams, and topical medication.
Common Cat Health Problem: Tapeworms
One of the most common feline health problems inside your cat, tapeworms live in kitty’s small intestine, sometimes growing as long as two feet.
Symptoms of a tapeworm infection can be subtle, but may include vomiting and weight loss. The easiest way to tell if your cat has tapeworms is to look at its feces and around its anus. If you see small white worms, or what look like grains of rice or sesame seeds, your cat likely has tapeworms.
Treatment options include injection or oral medication, but because cats almost always get tapeworms as a result of swallowing a flea, be sure to handle any flea problems your cat has before tackling tapeworms.
Common Cat Health Problem: Diarrhea
Many things can cause diarrhea in cats, including hairballs, spoiled food, allergies, infection, liver disease, cancer, and more.
Symptoms of diarrhea are loose, watery, or liquid stool. Depending on its cause, diarrhea can last for a day, a week, or even months.
If your cat has diarrhea, offer kitty plenty of fresh, clean water to prevent dehydration, then remove kitty’s food for no more than 12-24 hours. Take your cat to the vet if he or she still has diarrhea after a day, or immediately if you notice vomiting, dark, or bloody stools, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, or if you cat is straining to defecate.
Common Cat Health Problem: Eye Problems
Eye problems in cats can be caused by a number of things, including conjunctivitis, cataracts, glaucoma, trauma, viruses, inflammation, and retinal disease.
A few symptoms that may mean your cat has eye problems include watery eyes, tear-stained fur, cloudiness, red or white eyelid linings, gunk in the corners of the eye, squinting, pawing at the eye, or a visible third eyelid.
Unless you know what’s causing your cat’s eye problems, there isn’t much you can do other than wipe away any gunk with a damp cotton ball. After that, call your vet.
SOURCES: American Veterinary Medical Association: “External Parasites,” “What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?”
Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County: “About FLUTD.
“Veterinary Partner: “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).” “Vomiting and Diarrhea.”
Suevet.com: “Cat Vomiting.”
ASPCA: “Fleas,” “Worms,” “Diarrhea,” “Top Tips for Keeping Kitty’s Eyes Healthy.”
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