Common Health Problems in Cats

Cats are cute and cunning as well as easy to handle (well, some of the time). The average life span of cats is 12-14 years. Like other animals, cats face a variety of health problems. Here is the list of common health problems related to cats.

There are several inherited health problems which are life-threatening for cats from their birth. It is essential to know the early symptoms, to treat your feline as soon as the signs appear. 

Cat Cancer:

Unfortunately, the older your feline furbaby gets, the more likely she is to suffer from some form of cancer. Research indicates that at the age of 10, there is a 50/50 chance that a kitty will develop cancer. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in cats. It is caused by uncontrolled cell growth that affects a wide range of cell types and organs in the body.

Cancer in cats initially manifests as a lump or bump on any parts of the body. It overgrows in the affected cell; attaches itself to the tissue under the skin in that area; and, depending on the tumour, it can spread to other parts of the body. Although cancer accounts for approximately 32% of deaths in cats over ten years old if diagnosed early, the success rates are relatively high.

While the causes of cancer in cats are unknown, the feline leukaemia virus is suspected to be a prime contributor. Other factors suspected to increase rates of feline cancer include; toxins from the environment, passive smoking, and excessive grooming.

E.Gregory MacEwen proved in their recent study that spontaneous tumours in dogs and cats might occur most often. They can serve as an appropriate and valid model tumor system for testing cancer therapeutic agents or studying cancer biology in humans.

Eye and ear problems In Cats:

As the cats grow older, they might suffer from various eye and ear infections. Older cats are more prone to cataract, which disturbs their vision and may need to be treated by surgery.

For ear infections; cats show their discomfort by scratching or pawing at their ear, shaking, or tilting their head in the direction of a painful ear. Other symptoms include black and yellowish discharge from the ear. 

Hip dysplasia In Cats:

Hip Dysplasia is a genetic disorder that occurs and disturbs the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint; this disorder results when the ball doesn’t fit inside the socket. As a result, the weakness occurs that limits the mobility of your pet and causes severe pain.

The common symptoms related to hip dysplasia are; exercise intolerance, unwillingness to climb the heights and painful sensations during getting up or lying down. A cat’s genetics strongly influences the risk of a cat developing hip dysplasia.

[icon name=”info-circle” prefix=”fas fa-2x”] You may also be interested in our article on Cat Emotions: The Beginner’s Guide

Epilepsy & Seizures In Cats:

Unlike dogs, cats more commonly exhibit partial seizures. Your feline partners are highly prone to risks of epilepsy; this can cause seizures, which vary with severity and duration.

The duration of seizures is typically between two to five minutes. A cat might show vacant staring and mild twitching of muscles before the start of a stroke. The cat usually becomes unconscious, and their body gets rigid during the seizure. They may twitch their limbs during the seizure, and foam may appear in the mouth.

A Veterinarian will consider the duration and the time between seizures when prescribing anti-seizure medication. Usually, the drugs prescribed for seizures are either Phenobarbitone or Epiphen. Early diagnosis of epilepsy will result in a better quality of life for your cat. These drugs can only control the seizures but cannot cure them completely, which is why it’s essential to visit the vet as soon as you notice any unusual symptoms.

Cushing’s disease In Cats:

Cats are highly prone to Cushing’s disease, which is a severe yet entirely treatable metabolic disorder. The endocrine system secretes different hormones in the body, and one of the hormones is cortisol. Normal levels of cortisol help to respond to stress and modulate the immune system. The higher amounts of cortisol in the body are much damaging. Having over secretion of cortisol in the body is referred to as hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease and is one of the primary endocrine disorders that affects cats.

This disorder usually appears in middle-aged to older cats but taking high levels of steroids in medication for a longer duration can also cause the same symptoms as in Cushing’s disease. 

The symptoms vary from cat to cat and may appear in other disorders too. The common symptoms include polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyuria (increased urination), frequent urination during the night, increased panting and hunger, obesity, loss of hairs as well as energy, muscle weakness, infertility, thinning and darkening of the skin, bruising and appearance of scaly white patches on the skin.

Unfortunately, no one diagnostic test is definitive for Cushing’s disease so a vet might need to run ACTH stimulation test and perform an abdominal ultrasound to determine whether the cat has this disease or not.

Diabetes In Cats:

Not only humans but cats are also prone to diabetes. This health problem in cats appears when the endocrine gland “islets of pancreas” stop making the insulin, or the body doesn’t respond to the insulin produced.

In such situations, cats are unable to control their blood sugar level as the insulin is responsible for breaking down the sugars in the blood and maintain the sugar level. When a cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, they will need to have regular insulin injections to avoid serious complications.

The various symptoms include sudden weight loss, excess urination, increased appetite and low vision. 

Environment influence diabetes in cats: A recent study on feline diabetes suggests that diabetes in cats resembles type 2 diabetes in people. The etiology for this mechanism is not fully understood, but both environmental and genetic factors are believed to contribute.

Patellar luxation In Cats:

This disorder appears when the kneecap (patella) has been dislocated from the normal position in the groove of the thigh bone (femur). This health problem typically occurs in smaller breeds. When dislocated, it can only be returned to the normal position once the quadriceps muscles in the hind legs of animal relax and lengthen.

For this reason, the cats suffering from this patellar luxation will hold up their legs for a few minutes. The symptoms depend upon the severity and persistence of the condition as well as the amount of arthritis involved.

The cat with a dislocated kneecap has prolonged abnormal hind limb movement. They will avoid skipping and jumping and could show sudden lameness.

Once the kneecap is out of position, the cat feels pain at the moment when the kneecap slides out of thigh bone’s ridges. A genetic malformation or trauma causes the condition to the area. 

For diagnosis, X-rays are taken to detect bending and twisting of the thigh bone and larger bone. The increase in mononuclear cells is observed for analysis of synovial fluid (lubricating fluid of the joints). The vet needs to examine by touch to feel for kneecap freedom. Surgery is the recommended treatment for severe cases. The surgery will correct both affected structures as well as the movement of the kneecap itself. In 90% of cases, the surgery will help the cat from further dysfunction. 

Allergies in cats:

Allergies appear when the immune system of cats is sensitive to everyday substances, and they begin to identify them dangerous. Even if the implications are common or harmless to most animals, a cat with allergies will have extreme reactions to them.

As the cat’s body tries to get rid of these substances, they may show a variety of symptoms. These symptoms include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchy skin, skin scratching, itchy or runny eyes, itchy back or base of the tail, itchy ears, vomiting, diarrhoea, snoring, paw chewing, and swollen paws.

Some cats also face the food allergies, cats with such allergies scratch at their heads and necks, as well as show gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea and vomiting.

ginger cat laying down next to a black board with the text "lets talk cat health"

Crowded Teeth In Cats:

Like the other pets, cats are at high risk of teeth crowding. Cats have evolved to be small and have not yet become to have fewer or smaller teethe.

The symptoms of this disorder include reluctance to eat due to severe pain; bad breath caused by the trapped bacteria and inflamed gums.

The best way to detect this problem is to examine your pet and check their mouth regularly for any decayed teeth or swelling or the gums.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV):

Cats with FIV may show symptoms after initial infection occurs. The virus is typically transmitted by an infected cat biting another cat. The virus is slow-acting and attacks the immune system. The immune system becomes severely weakened once the disease takes hold. With a weak immune system, cats become susceptible to various secondary infections.

Infected cats require supportive medical care to keep them stress-free, indoor environments can be relatively comfortable before the chronic stages of the disease.

Cats diagnosed with FIV should remain inside or in an enclosed area to avoid spreading the infection to other cats.

Rabies in Cats

Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats. Since the virus travels in the saliva of infected animals, the virus is usually transmitted when an infected animal bites a cat.

Rabies vaccination of cats is essential for your safety as well as your cats. Rabies vaccines are very effective and are commonly given to kittens at three to four months of age.

This disease is very lethal to cats, and sometimes your feline companion may become a victim of it even after proper vaccination. To understand why this disease sometime occurs after vaccination, scientists conducted an experiment which you can study here, “Rabies in vaccinated dogs and cats.”

What to do if you think your cat might have a health problem.

If you suspect your fuzzy friend is suffering from a health problem, you should seek advice from a qualified veterinarian. They will be able to run a multitude of tests to find the diagnosis for whatever it is that is that’s causing your cat pain or discomfort.

The earlier diagnosis, the better! Having your cats’ health problems identified earlier will allow for a greater chance of overcoming the illness.

Veterinary treatment can be costly, so it is recommended you take out insurance for your cat whilst they are young or once you adopt them. Most insurers will not cover pre-existing conditions, and if they do your premium will be skyrocketed. So its best to get the insurance before they develop an illness or problem.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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