Common Cat Health Problems

Health Problems In Cats
 by: Ron King

It may come as a surprise, if you're a new cat owner, that many health problems may befall your feline friend. Some problems are easily preventable, while others are hereditary.

Hairballs are among the most common of cat health problems. Cats groomthemselves almost constantly, and swallow the loose hair that comes off theirtongues. Occasionally, the hair gathers into a ball and lodges in the cat'sdigestive tract instead of passing on through the body. If your cat startscoughing and hacking, he probably has a hairball. While the end product isunpleasant for the owner, most cats don't have a problem dislodging hairballs.

However, hairballs can occasionally pass into a cat's intestines and cause ablockage. This can be a life-threatening problem. There are a few signs to lookfor to see if your cat's hairball is dangerous. If your cat is constipated, offhis feed, or is lethargic with a dull coat, then he could have a seriousblockage. A vet exam is definitely in order.

To prevent hairballs, groom your cat frequently to remove loose hair. Inaddition, feed your cat food that helps control hairballs.

For many cats, worms are a recurring problem. Roundworms, tapeworms, andhookworms most commonly infect cats. Cats can occasionally develop heartworms,as well. If your cat seems unable to gain wait, is infested with fleas, or haswhite specks that look like grains of rice in his stools, take him to theveterinarian for worm testing.

Worms are easily cured with a few doses of medication, but if left untreated,they can be fatal.

Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are another common health problem in cats. Thisinfection is particularly common in unneutered male cats, although female catscan also develop this problem. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box,a urinary tract infection is suspect. If your cat's urine smells strong, againa urinary tract infection may be the cause. These infections need to be treatedby a veterinarian. Ask about cat foods that reduce the likelihood of anotherinfection.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
FIP is caused by a mutation of the corona virus. According to some experts,cats living in multi-cat environments tend to test positive for enteric coronavirus. Cats can live with that virus remaining quietly in the intestines withno sign of disease for their entire lifetime. In other cases, probably agenetic pre-disposition, the virus mutates into FIP.

Once a cat has contracted FIP, it will display symptoms of a mild upperrespiratory infection: sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. It may alsohave diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy. Most cats fully recover from thisprimary infection, although some may become virus carriers. A small percentageof exposed cats develop lethal FIP weeks or even years after the primaryinfection.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV, or cat AIDS, is not always fatal. FIV decreases the ability of the cat'simmune system to fight infections. Cats with FIV may remain free of symptomsfor years. It is when the cat contracts other illnesses in the chronic stage ofFIV infection that FIV is first suspected. This long list of illnesses includesoral-cavity infections, upper-respiratory infections, weight loss, earinfections, kidney disease, and many others. Although there is, as yet, novaccine, all cats should be tested for the virus. The virus is transmittedthrough saliva, usually when a cat is bitten in a cat fight.
Feline Leukemia Virus
FLV was, until recently, the most common fatal disease of cats. But with avaccine now available, the number of cases is dwindling. Although the nameleukemia means cancer of the white blood cells, this is only 1 of the manydiseases associated with this virus, such as other types of cancer, anemia,arthritis and respiratory infections. FLV is preventable if the cat isimmunized before being exposed to the virus. Although the disease is not alwaysimmediately fatal, cats with FLV rarely have a long life expectancy. NEVERbring other cats into your household when you have a cat with FLV.
Lyme Disease
If your cat spends time outdoors, you should check him regularly for ticks. Ifyou find a tick on your cat's body and he has been lethargic and acts as if heis in pain, ask your vet to test for Lyme Disease. This disease is transmittedto people and animals by deer ticks.

Some cats may show subtle symptoms while others may show none -- symptoms arehard to recognize and often may be confused with other illnesses or old age. Beobservant of your pet's behavior. It is the only way to know if your pet hascontracted Lyme disease if no tick was found. Some symptoms of Feline LymeDisease include:

  1. lethargy,
  2. reluctance to jump or climb stairs,
  3. limping, or reluctance to put weight on a paw,
  4. loss of appetite.

The key to dealing with Feline Lyme Disease is prevention and early diagnosisand treatment. You should reduce the tick population around your home withsimple landscape changes and spraying.

Good Healthcare

Taking your cat for a regular check-up with the vet, and keeping all vaccinations on schedule will help assure your cat a long and healthy life. Prevention is the first line of defense for most feline illnesses.

Many owners keep their cats indoors to protect them from cars, from cat fights which may expose them to deadly viruses, from ticks, and other hazards.

Outdoor cats will enjoy greater freedom, but require a watchful eye, loving attention to their health status, and regular visits to the veterinarian.

About The Author

Ron King
Visit to learn more. Copyright 2005 Ron King. Ron King is a full-time researcher, writer, and web developer.