The Most Common Diseases in Cats

Graham Harper
By Graham Harper, Journalist specialized in animal welfare. August 28, 2017
The Most Common Diseases in Cats

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If you are a cat owner or you are thinking of introducing one of these furry felines to your family, you must be prepared. There are many important factors to consider and things to bear in mind for their necessary care. Among the most important things to know, are the diseases that they can suffer.

In this AnimalWised article we will tell you the most common diseases of cats. Remember that the best way to prevent any of these diseases is to attend veterinary check ups when needed and to comply with the vaccination schedule.

You may also be interested in: Most Common Hamster Diseases
  1. The most common deadly diseases in cats
  2. Other common health problems in domestic cats
  3. General prevention of cat diseases

The most common deadly diseases in cats

Like any living being, cats can also suffer from various diseases, some more serious than others. It turns out that in the case of cats, the vast majority of these diseases are caused by different viruses. Fortunately, with adequate prevention, many vaccines can be avoided.

The following are the most common serious diseases that felines suffer:

  • Feline leukemia: Leukemia is a viral disease in cats produced by an oncovirus, i.e. it is a type of cancer, which is transmitted by the physical contact of bodily fluids. For example, in cat fights there will usually be a bleeding wound, so when grooming and licking one another, they are exposed to the saliva of others. Similarly, if a cat shares a litterbox they may come in contact with the urine and feces of other cats. An infected mother who nurses her offspring can pass the virus through her milk. This disease usually affects small cats and young kittens. It is common in large groups of cats like in breeding grounds and street colonies. It is one of the most serious diseases because of its ease of transmission and the extent of the damage it causes, including death. Tumors occur in different organs of the body of the affected feline and present increased ganglia, anorexia, weight loss, anemia and depression among more symptoms. The best way to prevent this viral disease is to vaccinate and prevent our cat from contacting any potentially sick cats.
  • Panleucopenia felina: This feline disease is caused by a parvovirus, which is somehow related to canine parvovirus. It is also known as feline distemper, enteritis or infectious gastroenteritis. The contagion is given by contact with body fluids of an infected cat. Its most common symptoms are fever and later hypothermia, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness, dehydration, anorexia and when performing blood tests we discover a significant decrease in leukocytes and/or white blood cells. This viral disease more severely affects young cats and kittens. The treatment basically consists of intravenous hydration and antibiotics among others, depending on how advanced the disease is and the state of the sick cat. This disease is deadly and that is why we must quickly isolate any sufferer from healthy cats.
  • Feline rhinotracheitis: In this case the virus that causes this disease is a herpesvirus. The virus is lodged in the airways causing infections in the respiratory system. Between 45-50% of respiratory diseases in felines are caused by this virus. It especially affects unvaccinated young cats. Symptoms include fever, sneezing, nasal mucus, conjunctivitis, tearing and even ulcers in the cornea. It is spread by contact with fluids such as nasal secretions and saliva. This disease can be prevented with adequate vaccination. There is no specific treatment for this disease as just their symptoms are treated. Felines that recover can still become carriers because they no longer suffer the symptoms but continue to harbor the virus and can infect other individuals. Prevention is best with vaccination.
  • Calicivirosis or feline calicivirus: This feline viral disease is caused by a picornavirus. The symptoms include sneezing, fever, lots of salivation and even ulcers and blisters on the mouth and tongue. It is a widespread disease with high morbidity. It causes 30% - 40% of cases of respiratory infections in cats. The affected animal that manages to overcome the disease, will remain as a carrier for life and therefore can spread this disease.
  • Feline pneumonitis: This disease is produced by a microorganism known as Ch lamydia psittaci that produces a series of infections known as chlamydiosis that are characterized in cats by rhinitis and conjunctivitis. These microorganisms are intracellular parasites that are spread by direct contact with body fluids and secretions. It is not a mortal disease in itself, but to avoid complications which could end in the death of the feline we must go to the vet as soon as possible to commence treatment. Feline pneumonitis, together with calicivrosis and feline rhinotracheitis, form the well-known feline respiratory complex. The symptoms of feline pneumonitis are excessive tearing, conjunctivitis, red and sore eyelids, abundant yellowish or greenish ocular discharge, sneezing, fever, cough, nasal mucus and lack of appetite, among more symptoms. Treatment should be based on antibiotics in addition to eye cleansing with special drops, rest, high carb diet and perhaps serum fluid therapy will be required. As in most diseases, the best prevention will be to keep your cat's vaccines up to date and avoid potentially infected cats.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency: The virus that causes this disease is lentivirus. We commonly know this disease as feline AIDS. Its transmission usually happens in fights and during the reproduction process since it is transmitted through bite. It affects non-sterilized adult cats greatly. The symptoms that will make us suspicious of this disease are a huge decline of the immune system and opportunistic secondary diseases. These secondary diseases are usually the ones that ultimately cause the death of the affected cat. We are working to find a reliable vaccine, but there are cats that develop resistance to this disease by being in frequent contact with sick cats.
  • Infectious peritonitis: In this case, the virus that causes the disease is a coronavirus that mainly affects young cats and occasionally older adults. Its predominantly spread through the feces of infected cats and when a healthy cat sniffs the virus, it is introduced through the respiratory tract. It occurs more commonly in breeding grounds, colonies and other places where large numbers of cats live together. The most notable symptoms are fever, anorexia, enlarged abdomen and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. This is because the virus attacks the white blood cells causing inflammation in the membranes of the thoracic and abdominal cavities. If it occurs in the pleura, it produces pleuritis and if it affects the peritoneum, it produces peritonitis. There is no vaccination against this disease, and once contracted it is deadly. So, it is better to follow the vaccination protocols and prevent our cat from getting it. Only symptomatic supportive treatment can be given to relieve the pain and discomfort in the cat. The best prevention is to have their vaccines up to date and to avoid situations that weaken our cat and cause them stress.
  • Rabies: This virus-causing disease is widespread throughout the world and is transmitted between various mammalian species, including humans, so it is a zoonosis. It is spread through the saliva inoculated with the bite of an infected animal to another. Fortunately it is eradicated or at least controlled in many areas of the world since reliable vaccination exists, and is obligatory in several countries.
The Most Common Diseases in Cats - The most common deadly diseases in cats

Other common health problems in domestic cats

In the previous section we talked about the most serious major diseases, but we also want to comment on other health problems and diseases that are also common and important for cat owners to know of:

  • Conjunctivitis. Cats have delicate eyes, so they can develop conjunctivitis easily. Read about it conjunctivitis on AnimalWised.
  • Periodontal disease. This disease that occurs in the mouth of our feline is common especially in older cats and if not treated in time can be fatal.
  • Otitis. Otitis is not only very common in dogs, in cats it is one of the most frequently treated health issues.
  • Obesity and overweight. Obesity is a very common problem in domestic cats today. Check out all about how to prevent obesity in cats.
  • Colds. The common cold, even if only due to a draft of air, is also very common in cats. In this article you will be able to consult home remedies for the cold of the cat in case you think your cat has developed one.
The Most Common Diseases in Cats - Other common health problems in domestic cats

General prevention of cat diseases

As we mentioned, the most effective method for your cat to avoid contracting diseases is the regular prevention of the agents that can cause them. You should go to the veterinarian periodically and whenever you detect any symptoms or observe behavior that is not the norm.

Respect the vaccination schedule, as vaccines precisely function to prevent some common and very serious diseases.

It is vital that we maintain both internal and external deworming. In the case of internal deworming there are products such as pills, tablets and other chewable solutions with the antiparasitic dose suitable for cats. For external deworming we have sprays, pipettes and necklaces. Never use any of these products that are not specifically made for cats. Even if you give your cat a lower dose of medication for dogs, it is quite likely to intoxicate them inadvertently.

Finally, try to stop your cat from contacting any strange cat if you do not know their health status, especially if their appearance makes us a little sceptical. It could be that they are suffering from one or more of the aforementioned diseases.

The Most Common Diseases in Cats - General prevention of cat diseases

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to The Most Common Diseases in Cats, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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What did you think of this article?
There is a stray cat that comes around and it literally looks like it's fur is coming off in 1 piece like a coat or almost like a snake with fur .
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Joe,

There are many reasons this could be happening, whether it is malnutrition, a result of trauma or a pathological cause. We provide more info here:
Hi, thanks this article is very helpful. Only the coronavirus info seems a little incorrect. In the article it says: it is better to follow the vaccination protocols and prevent our cat from getting it. ... There is no vaccination against coronavirus nor FIP. I know this for sure, because all of my cats, who used to be stray, are infected with this virus. One of our cats died due to FIP recently. If there was a reliable vaccination, I would know of it. Hopefully one day someone will find a cure or vaccination for this deadly disease...
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The Most Common Diseases in Cats