There are many contagious and deadly diseases out there that can infect your cat. It’s important to know which diseases your cat is most susceptible to, what signs to watch for, and how to prevent them. Here are the six most common cat diseases and illnesses, their symptoms, and how to protect your cat.

Six Common Types of Cat Diseases

1: Feline Leukemia Virus

One of the most common diseases in cats is feline leukemia virus (FeLV). FeLV is typically fatal because it significantly weakens a cat’s immune system. Luckily, there is a FeLV vaccine that significantly reduces your cat’s risk of contracting the disease. 

Cats may show no signs of the disease, or they may exhibit some of these symptoms:

  • Pale or inflamed gums
  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Poor coat
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

2: Rabies

All animals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies and the disease is almost always fatal. However, rabies is also preventable

To protect your cat, keep them indoors and vaccinate them against this deadly disease. Rabies is transmissible through the bite or saliva of an infected animal, so make sure all the pets in your home get their rabies booster every year. 

If you have multiple pets, and one starts to show rabies symptoms, quarantine them immediately, even if your other pets are vaccinated. 

Watch out for these signs of rabies:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Changes in behavior, such as aggression or lethargy

3: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Another immune system disease in cats is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cats with FIV become much more susceptible to infections, but they can still live long and happy lives.

Like rabies, FIV can be transmitted through a bite, but it can also be genetic. This disease is slow-acting, and cats with FIV might not start showing symptoms for years. 

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for FIV at the moment, but it usually only affects strays. You can lower your cat’s risk by keeping them indoors and ensuring that any new cat you adopt has tested negative for FIV before you bring them home. 

Symptoms of feline immunodeficiency virus include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Inflammation of the gums or mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Eye discharge
  • Sneezing

4: Feline Panleukopenia

Like FeLV and FIV, feline panleukopenia (FPV) weakens a cat’s immune system. FPV also attacks the nervous system and the cat’s white blood cells, causing heart problems that can be fatal. 

FPV is highly contagious, but it is most common in cats that live in the wild or in unsanitary conditions. While there is currently no cure for FPV, the disease can be prevented with the FVRCP vaccine.

Signs of feline panleukopenia include:

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Biting their tail or legs
  • Loose skin
  • Bloody diarrhea

5: Worms/Parasites

There are many types of parasites (typically called worms) that can affect cats. For instance, heartworms, which are usually spread by infected mosquitoes, cause lung problems in cats.

While worms are not technically a disease, they still belong on this list because they can severely affect your cat’s health.  

Signs of heartworms include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Persistent cough
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

Other types of worms that live in cats include roundworms, lungworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Cats with other types of worms usually experience the same symptoms as with heartworm, but further symptoms can include bloody stool, bloating, constipation, anemia, and coughing. Worms can sometimes be visible in the stool as well.

Certain medications can prevent infestations of heartworms and other parasites. You can also lower your cat’s risk by keeping them indoors and by keeping all the pets in your home free from fleas.  

6: Diabetes

Just like humans, cats can have diabetes. Cats can have Type I diabetes, which is a lack of insulin production, or Type II, which is impaired insulin production and can progress to Type I. 

The symptoms of diabetes in cats include:  

  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Urinating outside the litterbox

Diabetes is a manageable disease for cats, but it’s still best to lower their risks as much as possible. Although diabetes can be caused by genetics or by diseases, obesity plays a big role in insulin resistance. Give your cat a healthy diet and plenty of exercise to help prevent diabetes. 

Vet Clinic in Gilbert

We provide many vaccines for cats that can prevent a wide range of feline diseases, along with wellness checkups that can detect serious health conditions before they grow worse. At Anasazi Animal Clinic, we want to help ensure your cat lives a long, healthy life. If your cat is due for vaccination or a checkup, please call our clinic at 480-497-0505 today to schedule an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/12/2022). Photo by Michael Sum on Unsplash