Last updated: February 5, 2017
Your cat is a sensitive biological machine, just like you are. However, when he’s not feeling well he can’t just jump up on your lap, tap you on the shoulder and say: “hey, Ma – I need to go to the vet! My tummy hurts!” So when your cat feels sick, How do you know? How can you tell what’s wrong with my cat? If your cat is constantly meowing, chances are he’s trying to tell you it hurts. The illnesses besetting our feline friends are many and varied, and we can’t deal with all of them today, so let’s just deal with a few, beginning at the beginning!
What’s wrong with my cat? Kittenhood can be a very dangerous time for cats. Although their mother’s milk has antibodies that protect them from many diseases, their immune systems have not yet developed sufficiently for them to fight off all of them.
What’s wrong with my cat? Think of a heavy cold. Your nose is running, your eyes are streaming, you’re sneezing, coughing, hot one minute and cold the next. That’s OK for you because you’re a big human who knows what’s going on, but when you only weigh half a pound (225grams) and you’re fighting for nipple space with five brothers and sisters this sort of thing can really ruin your day!
Fleas, ear mites, roundworms, hookworms all want a piece of your little guy!
Ear mites look a bit like red-brown coffee grounds and are so yukky they don’t bear thinking about. They feed on the wax and oils in poor kitty’s ears and irritate them so much that he scratches himself, bleeds and gets infections from the sores.
Fleas are also nasty pieces of work. They can cause such severe blood loss that he becomes anemic. Fleas can also be carriers of other sicknesses, (remember the Bubonic Plague?) which can spread like wildfire among a litter of kittens.
Worms are very common and easily spread, so deworming should take place regularly as well as fecal examinations (get your vet to do this!).
Diarrhea is one of those general things that can be a symptom of many things: stress, leaving the mother, new and different food as well as those nasty squirmy wormy things.
Among the serious sicknesses to afflict kittens is Feline Leukemia. This is a serious, life-threatening illness. When the kitten is showing signs of the illness not much can usually be done, but before the symptoms appear a program can be put in place that keeps your kitty in good shape for a long time to come.
Feline Distemper (FPV) was once quite a common disease but with vaccines, it’s been largely wiped out. Symptoms are diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, and vomiting.
Your little fluffball has now become a big boy or girl. So NOW will the nasty germs leave him alone? Nah – you don’t get off so easily!
Have you ever walked up to someone and nearly been knocked over by the smell of his or her breath? Yuk! Cats can suffer from bad breath too. A colorless film called plaque forms over time on their teeth. You’ll know this stuff too – ever had that “furry” feeling on your teeth when you haven’t brushed for a while? Plaque can result in tartar, a hard chalky substance that harbors all sorts of germs that cause inflammation, bleeding, infection and tooth loss. Infection of the gums is called gingivitis. Feeding your cat dry cat food can help scrape away some of this yukky stuff. There are also specially formulated cat foods for this condition, and as usual, your go-to guy for advice is your local veterinary superhero!
According to a 2011 study, almost fifty percent of American pets are overweight, so either they’re eating too much or exercising too little, or both. This could lead to serious conditions like diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease, arthritis, hypertension and a host of others. If you suspect that your pet is overweight, take him for a thorough body assessment by your vet. It’s amazing how many pet owners are in denial! “What? My cat? He’s in great shape! Round is also a shape!” Remember that unneutered cats use fewer calories and tend to put on weight more quickly, so even if you’ve done the right thing by sterilizing your kitty, it’s time to do the next right thing and help him lose those extra pounds. Your vet can help you in this regard by advising on portion sizes, specially formulated foods and the rate of weight loss, as well as keeping an eye on his general condition.
The most serious diseases in older cats are generally the ones we see in older human beings too. There are too many to make a detailed study of them all, but here are some and their symptoms:
Diabetes: Increased thirst and urination, weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting.
Bladder stones: Problems with urination, blood in the urine, rubbing their bottoms on the floor.
Heart disease: Avoidance of exercise, difficult, fast breathing, loss of weight, paralysis of the back limbs.
Hyperthyroidism: (Increased Thyroid Gland Activity) Weight loss, more activity, bigger appetite, constant thirst and urination, vomiting, panting, higher pulse rate.
Kidney failure: This is very similar to bladder stones with the addition of excessive thirst, weight loss, depression, diarrhea, bloody vomit, black stools and ulcers in the mouth.
Cancer: This is one of the most serious of all diseases in humans and animals but it can be managed if caught early. The symptoms are persistent swellings and lumps, cuts that don’t heal, discharge from any orifice, bad smell, trouble eating, drinking, swallowing and breathing. Urination and defecation can also be affected.
Problems We Cause
Smoking isn’t just bad for you – it’s bad for cats too. Studies have shown that cancer is three times more prevalent in cats living in a household where a pack of twenty or more cigarettes is smoked every day. The type of cancer – squamous cell carcinoma – is also one of the most fast-growing types in of mouth cancer in cats.
So that’s it. While we can’t list every disease in catdom, these are some of the nasties we need to worry about. And we worry because we love our kitties!