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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.

Common Cat and Kitten Health Issues

04/21/2011 by Colleen Williams
April 21st, 2011 by Colleen Williams



Keeping your cat or kitten healthy is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. There are many illnesses and ailments your feline friend can acquire, from the relatively minor – like flea and tick infestations – to more serious ones – like feline leukemia virus (FeLV). A large percentage of these conditions can be treated, if not completely cured.

The most popular cat ailments we outline in the Healthy Paws Cost of Pet Care report include stomach issues, UTIs, kidney disease and more. Here are five very common conditions, ranging from minor to the most serious, that are diagnosed almost daily at the vet:

  1. Hairballs are wads of undigested hair that cats regurgitate. They are very common, and can be prevented by brushing your cat regularly to remove the loose hair they would otherwise swallow. Another remedy is an over-the-counter gel or paste designed to dissolve hairballs; ask your vet which brand is best. If your pet is gagging repeatedly without producing anything or refusing to eat, a hairball may have passed from the stomach into the intestine, causing a blockage which will need to be surgically removed.
  2. Many conditions fall under the umbrella of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), all of which involve infection of the bladder or urethra. Urinary stones, stress, and other blockages of the urethra can all cause them. They are most common in middle-aged, overweight, and indoor cats that live a less active lifestyle and eat dry food. Symptoms include increased urination, bloody urine, and urinating outside the litter box on cool or smooth surfaces. Treatment of FLUTDs depends on the severity of the infection, and can range from medications to dissolve urinary stones to surgery to remove urethral obstructions.
  3. Like asthma in humans, feline asthma is a disorder that causes a cat’s immune system to overreact to allergens with swelling, making it hard to breathe. Symptoms of an asthma attack include shallow, rapid breathing, accompanied by a wheezing sound. Cat asthma can be caused by smoke, dusty kitty litter, pollen, mold and mildew, and even vapors from cleaning solutions. Mild asthma is infrequent and moderately interferes with the cat’s life. Severe asthma occurs daily and if it’s life-threatening, requires veterinary care. This condition is incurable, but manageable, and treatment includes includes medication through tablets, injections, or inhalers.
  4. Feline lymphoma is a cancer of the cat’s lymphatic system, which includes the thymus gland, spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. It occurs in cats of any age, but mainly senior cats, ages 10 to 12 and older. Initial signs of lymphoma range from weight loss, poor appetite, and lethargy to swollen lymph nodes in the throat or chest. Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery to remove any masses your vet might find.
  5. The genetic condition of a loose ball-and-socket joint in your cat’s or kitten’s hip is known as feline hip dysplasia. Symptoms include limping, avoiding physical activity, and expressing distress when the hip is touched. X-rays can confirm diagnosis, and treatment includes several types of surgery. A total hip replacement is an option, as is removing the ball part of the joint, which results in lameness but function of the joint.

What to Know About Kitten Health:

Kittens are more susceptible to diseases due to their developing immune system, and need particular attention and care. At about 8 weeks of age, vets encourage pet parents to get their kittens vaccinated for the core feline issues:

  • Feline distemper
  • Feline calici virus
  • Feline herpes virus type I [rhinotracheitis]
  • Rabies

Depending on your kitten’s lifestyle, you can also get them vaccinated for:

  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Bordetella
  • Chylamydophila felis
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Kittens are susceptible to parasites from worms to fleas, so make a plan with your vet to combat these little creepy-crawlies. Also, kittens can contract upper respiratory illnesses from bacteria and viruses as well – and sometimes, if the kitten is particularly young or weak, it can be fatal. If you notice cold-like symptoms (sneezing and breathing issues to start), check in with your vet.

Cats and kittens can contract a myriad of conditions, and talking to your vet can give you even more knowledge outside these common ailments. While the symptoms listed above are consistent with these conditions, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to determine what’s causing any symptoms or different behaviors in your cat or kitten. Keeping up-to-date with your annual vet visits and cat shots helps keep your cat or kitten healthy in the long-term and gives you a regular opportunity to ask health-related questions.

Unexpected accident or illness? That’s what we’re here for! Most pet parents rely on pet health insurance to pay up to 90% of their vet bills, so they can focus on what really matters: getting great health care for their pet. Find out more by getting a free quote.