Keep your feline in fine form by knowing how to recognize the most common health problems cats are susceptible to, and what to do about them.
Most cats are basically healthy creatures. But almost every one will experience some kind of health problem, big or small, in its lifetime. The good news is that you can prevent some of these illnesses from occurring, and minimize the harm that other maladies cause.
On these pages you'll find a brief rundown of some common cat health problems, with advice on what to do if they affect your pet.
If your cat has an allergy, you can't cure it, but you can give her some relief by identifying the cause and eliminating it from your pet's environment. There are four main types of pet allergies:
1. Contact allergy: The animal's skin is irritated by something that touches it, such as a wool blanket or a flea collar.
2. Food allergy: The cat develops an allergy to something in its food, often an animal protein.
3. Inhalant allergy: The animal is allergic to substances in the air, whether from outdoors (such as pollen) or indoors (such as dust, mold, and mildew).
4. Flea allergy: The cat is allergic to proteins in the saliva of fleas, which come into contact with the cat's skin when these tiny insects bite.
Just as in humans with arthritis, your cat's joints can become inflamed, causing pain and swelling.
These tiny pests take up residence in an animal's fur and are extremely difficult to evict.
This diagnosis refers to any one of several disorders that affect the urinary tract. Some of these disorders are potentially life-threatening.
There are two broad categories of worms that cause concern among cat owners. Your cat might be fortunate enough never to be bothered by either, but forewarned is forearmed.
This is a mosquito-borne disease in which worms infest the animal's heart and nearby blood vessels, often with fatal results.
Worms and other forms of intestinal parasites can infect your cat's stomach and intestinal tract. Most often these worms are transmitted via contact with other animals' feces.
Calicivirus, herpesvirus, FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), and Feline Panleukopenia are serious viral infections particular to cats. Fortunately, some of these illnesses can be prevented with vaccines.
These viral infections of the upper respiratory system can lead to serious complications if not treated. Extremely contagious, they easily spread from one cat to another and are thought to cause 80 to 90 percent of infectious feline upper respiratory tract disease.
This virus suppresses the immune system, allowing normal bacteria to cause severe infections.
Similar to FIV, this virus also suppresses the immune system, paving the way for infections and cancers. (Contrary to its name, FeLV is not itself a form of cancer.)
This virus causes severe gastroenteritis (inflammation of the digestive tract). Panleukopenia is highly contagious and can be deadly if not treated promptly.
The following problems are uncommon in most cats, but are among the diseases for which vaccinations are available.
This viral disease is a serious threat to outdoor animals or those that come in contact with other outdoor animals. It is also a threat to humans, which is why vaccinating against it is so important.
Rabies is most often transmitted via a bite from an infected animal, or the virus can enter through broken skin. No animal treatment is available; animals who contract rabies die within a few days of developing symptoms.
Most common symptom: an unexplained change in the animal's behavior; a wild animal may be unafraid of humans, while a pet may turn aggressive.
A skin disease caused by a fungus, the spores that cause this disease can live in upholstery or carpeting for years and infect new animals long after a prior case was treated.
This bacterial infection is transmitted from contact with an infected cat.
This parasitic infection has been linked with gastrointestinal-tract disease. It can be contracted via direct or indirect exposure to an infected animal (indirect exposure could include drinking contaminated water or sharing a litter box). An outdoor cat who catches and eats prey is also at increased risk.