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Common Cat Illnesses & Their Symptoms

Common Cat Illnesses & Their Symptoms

Cat's are experts at hiding signs of disease from their owners, so it can be difficult to tell if your cat is sick. Here our New Ulm vets share some common cat illnesses and their symptoms.

What are common cat illnesses?

As a cat owner, you need to be observant and prepared to visit the vet if needed, especially because cats often instinctually isolate themselves when they feel sick. Here are the 3 most common illnesses to watch for, and the symptoms associated with them.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Viruses and bacteria can cause infections in your cat’s upper respiratory tract, sinuses, nose, and throat.

This illness is seen commonly in multi-cat households and shelters, cats can develop feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus by sharing food and water bowls, coughing, sneezing, and grooming each other. Once one cat contracts the virus, it won't be long before others can become infected too.

Symptoms of upper respiratory illness in cats include:

  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Decreased or lost appetite
  • Congestion or drooling
  • Runny nose or nasal discharge


If your cat doesn’t produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar, diabetes mellitus results. Poorly controlled diabetes can shorten your cat’s lifespan and lead to nerve disorders, numerous health problems, and severe emergency situations. Treatment for diabetes in cats is focused on management rather than cure and can include insulin injections. Obesity can contribute to diabetes, making it among one of the common indoor cat illnesses.

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to several serious symptoms, including:

  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting
  • Increased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Death
  • Coma
  • Motor function problems


Cancer can affect a wide range of cells and organs in your cat’s body. The disease first starts to grow within a cell, before attaching to tissue underneath the skin and potentially spreading to other areas of the body.

Symptoms of cancer in cats may include:

  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Odor from the mouth
  • Chronic weight loss

  • Marked increase or decrease in appetite
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Unexplained discharge
  •  Lumps or bumps that change in size or shape

Feline Leukemia Virus (which cats can be vaccinated against) is a common contributor to cancer in cats. Other potential causes of cat cancers include toxins in the environment. If detected early during a physical exam, your cat will have the best chance for successful treatment.

Early detection is key when it comes to treating cat cancers. Other factors which influence the success of treatment include the type of cancer, extent of its spread, and the location of the tumor. 

If your cat is diagnosed with cancer your vet might recommend a number of options such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy be used to help treat the illness.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Unwell

If your cat is exhibiting any of the cat illnesses and symptoms above, it is essential to bring them to a vet as soon as possible. Many cat illnesses progress quickly and can become very serious in just a short period of time.

At New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center in New Ulm, our compassionate veterinarians and board-certified specialists extend services provided by your primary care veterinarian. We work with your vet to provide first-rate specialty and emergency care for pets in North Carolina.

If your cat is showing any of the tell-tale signs of illness, book an appointment right away and we will help your kitty get back to their normal selves. If your cat is experiencing an emergency, get in contact with us right away.

 Welcoming New Ulm Animals to our Animal Hospital

We are happy to welcome pets and livestock to our family! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of your companion pets and large animals. Get in touch today.

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