Cat Disease Signs

There are several tell-tale signs that a cat is ill. An enlarged abdomen, for example, is often perceived as a weight gain. Since cats frequently have a layer of fat under the stomach, an inattentive owner may not notice the difference between a few extra layers of fat and a tummy that's bloated. In fact, the abdomen is often distended because of accumulation of liquid, which is frequently a sign of feline infectious peritonitis and liver diseases.

Since these conditions may be a secondary effect of heart disease, prompt treatment is essential. Any signs of limb pain and limping should always be investigated. Swollen belly, depression, and discoloration of the gums are the signs of a potentially fatal infection with Clostridium piliformis bacteria which cats can get through contacts with rodent feces. A young cat may have a growth disorder from stiffening of the joints (arthrosis). A thorn may have pierced the cat's paw, or it may have sustained a wound that has abscessed. Your annual visit to your veterianrian for teeth cleaning and checkup will help to keep your cat from emergency situations.


Watch For These Signs

Temperature. Normally between 101.5 and 102.5 degrees F. No matter how big the cat, its temperature can be taken with a conventional thermometer smeared with a little oil. If it rises near 104 degrees F, it's time to consult a veterinarian. If it is below 100.5 degrees F, check to see if the thermeter was put in far enough; grease it again and reinsert it gently a little farther. If the temperature is still low, see a veterinarian right away, since this could be a sign of very serious problems.

Color. The best place to look is the conjunctival mucosa, the pink tissue around the eyes It must be light pink. If it is red, the cat is congested and might also have a fever. If it is dirty or yellowish, an organ such as the liver may be diseased. Pale mucous membranes may be an indicator of a stress.

Nose. It should be shiny if the lacrymal canal is functioning normally, because tears keep the nostrils moist. To a lesser degree, the tongue fulfils this function as well. The cat regularly licks its nose, keeping it moist and cool. Cracking may indicate a local nose, eye problem or dehydration, a very serious situation. A nose that is fry, dull and warm may be a sign of a fever. Check the temperature to be sure.

Eyes should not be blinking or red. Redness may be a sign of a simple conjunctivitis, glaucoma, a serious general illness, or signal the presence of a piece of a foreign body. Brownish discharge is not usually serious; white, mucusy, yellow, greenish, or red should be reported to your vet at once.

Hair. Shiny hair usually indicates a good general state of health.. However, the coat is a delayed indicator. At the onset of a disease, the hair may still be deceptively shiny. Regardless of the cat's state of health, hair fallout may be due to climatic or hormonal factors, or stress. There should be no dandruff or "pepper" (flea feces). Long hair can easily conceal a skin disease.

Stools. Even if the cat is fasting, it will produce stools, which consist mainly of cellular debris from the digestive tract. The cat should pass stool once or twice a day. It should be formed (long) in 2 or 3 pieces, no more, and it should be softly firm and dark brown. Color depends on food. If a cat eats too many carrots, orange stools should not be taken as a sign of intestinal bleeding. Note any differences. Diarrhea is sometimes not noticed because the cat covers it and mixes it with the litter. Check the stool once a day. A too stong smell can mean intestinal infection or imbalance (flatulence or irritable bowel syndrome). Many cats get diarrhea when taking antibiotics. Since parasite eggs are microscopic, any eggs visible on the surface of the stools are probably fly eggs. If stool is not passed every day or is hard and appears in balls, it could mean constipation. Check for excess shedding, lack of dietary fiber, dehydration, or diabetes.

Appetite. Excessive appetite is not necessarily a sign of a good health. It may indicate diabetes.

Diarrhea and vomiting are the main signs of faulty diet. Third eyelids may be showing. Your cat may also develop ulcers in her mouth and her lips and gums may become pale; at this point the cat may be unwilling to self groom.

Wheezing. If your cat wheezes and sneezes, it may simply have a cold. Discharge from both eyes and nose could mean the same thing, in which case, do what people do: wait until the cold goes away. But if the cat also has a fever, it may have bronchitis or asthma, which will need professional help.

Straining. If your cat is straining in the litter box, but produces nothing, it could have a blockage. If he is unable to urinate, seek veterinarian help immediately.

A cat is reluctant to move and snaps when you touch her. This happens when hair mats develop in the armpits or groin. Besides, dandruff, bacteria and even pests will accumulate beneath the matted hairs where the cat can't clean, and the cat may develop dry and very irritated skin. All of this may hurt to walk as knotted or matted hairs in the armpits and groin are particularly painful.

Changes in behavior. Irritability and trembling are serious signs of illness.

Drinking. If your cat drinks excessively, it may point to a kidney disease disease or diabetes If a cat stares at its water dish but will not drink, it means the cat is thirsty but feels too sick to drink; it may be dying.

Vomiting is not usually serious unless repeated. Cats vomit more frequently than humans because of their short intestine. They should vomit hairballs if they swallow too much fur. If the vomited matter looks like a small wet hot dog, it is a hair ball. Cats can also vomit food if they eat too fast and too much, or it is too hot or too cold. Repeated swallowing should also be noted.

Loss of appetite is usually not serious unless prolonged. Cats don't eat the same amount every day. Temperature, stress, a recent snack, a large meal the day before, or leaving food available between meals can ruin cat's appetite. However, a low-grade infection, painful gums, dirty teeth, constipation, dehydaration, or any one of several diseases can also cause loss of appetite. Cats won't eat what they can't smell; a stuffy nose can also cause loss of appetite.

Claw biting is a normal part of the cat's grooming procedure, but it also signal an infection, a split claw with something caught in it, an in-grown claw, or it may be because of dirty cuticles.

Dirty cuticles (especially on back claws). A buildup of waxy dirt around the cuticle is a sure sign the cat is scratching at something that itches. The cuticle dirt can infect the toe. Check for waxy ears, skin problems, and tooth and gum problems, any of which can lead to dirty cuticles.

Excessive sleeping happens naturally after a big meal or if the cat is bored. It also happens during the spring and fall sheds, but it also means the cat's body is fighting off an infection. It could also signal a weak heart, liver or kidneys. Check for other symptoms.

Sitting facing the wall, or seeking warmth or coolness are signs of depression and usually mean the cat is in pain or feeling very sick. Hiding, sitting in the litter box, or pressing his forehead against things are also signs of pain.

Coughing could be a temporary irritation or something caught in the throat. If it persists, there may be a serious obstruction in the throat or windpipe, respiratory infection, pneumonia, roundworms, heart problem, or other serious disease.

Retching and head shaking may be caused by many diseases in cats. Retching can often be confused with coughing, especially in cats. Like people, cats have tonsils, which are small masses of tissue in the throat that help protect the body from invading microbes. Inflammation of the tonsils is called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis is usually accompanied by repeated swallowing and fiver (over 100°F). Most cases are caused by bacterial infections.

Because they are part of the body's immune system, they can swell when the cat is ill due to the entirely different reasons, including cancer. Repeated vomiting, periodontal disease, licking distant infected tissues, such as infected skin or anal sacs, can lead to chronic contamination of the mouth with microbes and bring on tonsillitis. If you suspect tonsillitis, your cat should be seen by a veterinarian. Veterinarian treat tonsillitis with antibiotics.[1]

Sneezing can be caused by any sudden sharp smell or by cold temperature. Dust, sigarette smoke, room deodorizer can cause coughing.

Scratching head with hind feet, shaking head could be due to ear discharge, fleas, mange mites, ear mites, ringworm, ear infection, or tumors.

Licking genitals or "scooting" on the floor and the like means irritation and/or itching. Have your vet check for possible anal sac disease (anal sacculitis). Also watch urinary habits for signs of feline urologic syndrome (FUS) and cystitis, especially if your cat continually attempts to urinate while producing a few drops of urine each time.

Urine and urinary habits. The urine output should wet at least a tablespoon of litter each time the cat goes to the box. If your cat voids a smaller amount or nothing at all and runs frequently to the litter box, take him immediately to the vet to check for feline urologic syndrome (FUS) and/or bladder stones. If he voids a normal amount or more than normal and runs frequently to the litter box, this could signal kidney disease or diabetes, especially if the urine is very light yellow and if you also note excessive drinking. Urination outside the box is almost always caused by a physical problem, early FUS or, in aging cats, weak bladder or arthritis. If your cat starts his urination in a squatting position but then gradually raises his rear until the stream shoots out over the edge of the box, this could mean arthritic hips, stress in the environment, such as a new cat, or straining because of urinary infection and possible blockage. Report to your vet.

Coat. Except in the shedding seasons (February through April and September and October) shedding should be moderate. Skin should be clean, hair free of dandruff and oil.

Bad smell can indicate serious problem. It is usually caused by germs, infected or dirty ears, intestinal blockage, impacted anal glands, worms, dirty teeth, licking coat with dirty mouth, or soil on the fur near the anus.

Twitching skin can be caused by dry skin due to indoor heating during the winter months or from lack of fat in diet or vitamin E deficiency. Examine the cat for scabs and parasites. Twitching skin can also happen because of heart or brain disease.

Dehydration is sometimes difficult to judge. There are several signs you can look for such as lack of appetite, constipation, and/or frequent drinking. Sitting with the head over the water dish, the coat separating into "clumps,", or eyes that apear to be sunken, are signs of dehydration. This is an indication of serious illness, usually high fever, and is often the last stage before collapse.

Breathing that is shallow and fast happens when the cat is purring and means nothing. On the other hand, shallow and fast breathing can also be caused by heat, stress, fear, fluid retention, or tumor in the chest or abdomen, pain, or nausea. breathing with the mouth open is a very bad sign and may indicate a severe bronchopneumonia.

Pale whitish ears, gums, or tongue can mean anemia, shock, or weak heart.

Signs of epileptic seizures include drooling, facial twitching, tremor, rapid running, excessive salivation, urination, and defecation. During a seizure, a cat can remain rigid or can show running or climbing activity. Seizures might be particularly violent. Generalized seizures might involve the whole body.

Weight loss, unformed feces, poor hair coat, loss of appetite or increased appetite, lethargy, watery diarrhea, and vomiting can be signs of pancreatic disease.

Cat Symptom Of The Day
Occasionally, your cat may sneak in the "great" outdoors and have some very unpleasant encounters with local wildlife. After some time, she may become restless, weak, vocalize loudly and even howl and if she has excessive salivation, diarrhea and vomiting, take her to the vet as soon as you can.

Stilted gait, weight loss, appetite loss, increased thirst, head and tail tremors, and poor movement coordination could be signs of chronic wasting disease, a fatal, untreatable disease of the central nervous system affecting members of the deer family (e.g., white-tailed deer, American elk, moose and woodland caribou). Chronic wasting disease can be spread by close contact between animals or by exposure to a contaminated environment. There is evidence the disease may remain infectious in the environment, such as in soil, for years.

Internal parasitic infestations may cause very different clinical signs, from mild gastro-intestinal disorders and failure to thrive, to anemia, particularly in kittens with heavy parasitic infestation. Infected cats can have chronic coughing, labored breathing, vomiting that is not associated with food intake, and diarrhea. Some may die suddenly without any warning signs.

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Cats with sudden vomiting, fever, and diarrhea may have an acute liver disease

If your cat has frequent episodes of vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, is losing weight, passes abnormal feces (from slightly soft feces to watery diarrhea), has poor body condition, jaundice, chances are that she suffers from three diseases: idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cholangitis, and pancreatitis.


  1. The Encyclopedia of the Cat, Angela Sayer

gpa_team Wednesday, February 8, 2017 9:15:05 PM
The glaucomas are a group of diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Recently, it was report a genetic mutation that causes primary congenital glaucoma (PCG) in domestic cats with autosomal recessive inheritance of the trait. Elevated intraocular pressure and globe enlargement are seen in all affected cats by 8 weeks of age.  Varying degrees of optic nerve damage resulted by 6 months of age. (Image source: PLoS One. 2016; 11(5): e0154412.)

gpa_team Sunday, January 8, 2017 9:15:05 PM
If your cat has frequent episodes of vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, is losing weight, passes abnormal feces (from slightly soft feces to watery diarrhea), has poor body condition, jaundice, chances are that she suffers from three diseases: idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cholangitis, and pancreatitis.

gpa_team Sunday, January 8, 2017 9:15:05 PM
 Diabetes mellitus (DM) is one of the most common endocrinopathies in cats. The incidence of DM has increased in cats because of an increase in predisposing factors including obesity and physical inactivity. Aout 60% of cats with diaetes have pancreatitis. Male cats have twice as high incidence rate as females. Domestic cats are at higher risk compared to purebred cats. Burmese, Russian Blue, Norwegian Forest cat, and Abyssinian breeds are at a higher risk compared to other cats. The Burmese breed has a 5‐fold increased risk of DM as compared to other purebred cats.

Keets Friday, May 10, 2015 7:47:11 AM
Wow what on earth could possibly be going through your mind when deciding to shove a cat off an area because you had a baby. That's sickening. You must understand that your cat doesn't automatically know what reasons you have for purchasing items or intended use. If you have a baby .... then u have one in 6 yrs time... would you push your 6 y/o child off and away from your new baby??? Do you think that the 6/0 would wonder why you're doing it if they didn't understand your language?

angie Friday, April 19, 2015 11:15:36 AM
If you are a vegetarian, you're probably thinking of sharing your preferred lifestyle with your Fluffy. Unfortunately, cats are true carnivores and require the amino acid taurine in their diet. Taurine is found only in animal tissue, not plants. without taurine, cats will go blind and have severe heart and reproductive system problems as well as stunted growth of kittens. But that isn't the end of it. Cats need arachidonic acid, vitamins A, B12, niacin and thiamin from meat sources because plants provide either very little or none of these nutrients, or the cat's body can't metabolize the plant version properly. Lastly, cats need an extraordinary amount of protein and can't ingest enough plant matter to get the amount of protein they require. So, if you insist on feeding an animal a vegetarian diet, skip the cart and get a pony.

chrstinabennett Tuesday, October 23, 2015 11:15:36 AM
Hi. I have  a  cat  name  Lucky. I am  not  sure  what is  wrong  with  her. She  feels cold. I have  covered her up and tried to warm her up. She does not eat much. I am not sure if she drinks water. All she does is sleep. It has been like this for two days so far. Any idea?

pixybob Thursday, March 28, 2015 4:50:47 PM
I noticed that my 4 y.o. cat has had some swelling in the neck for three days. She was outside a couple times. She barely eats anything. Yesterday I took her temperature and it was 104.3 F. Is this cellulitis, an abscess or something more serious? I cannot get her to the vet right now... Please help. 

Guest Sunday, February 03, 2015 5:27:02 AM
This is really helpful thank you x

Guest Saturday, March 02, 2015 12:21:28 PM
Now I am seriously worried about my cat. Which vet is suggested?

Lilyofthevalley Thursday, April 04, 2015 12:21:28 PM
When I was pregnant, my cat was so loving, always wanting to lie next to my belly. As soon as the baby came home, her behavior changed a lot. She even started hissing at me a couple of times when I knocked her off the baby's crib. I am very concerned. Is she jelous of the baby? 

Lilyofthevalley Thursday, April 04, 2015 12:21:28 PM
My Scottish fold cat had lameness in her right hind leg for 2 weeks. I noticed that her gait was kind'a stiff, she stopped jumping when playing and did not allow me to touch her leg. So I took her to the vet who took an X-ray of the leg that showed some malformations. The vet said my cat had osteochondrodysplasia, a bone cartilage disease. He prescribed meloxicam for three days for pain control together with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. 

preciousgems Tuesday, April 09, 2015 12:21:28 PM
If you ever noticed twitching facial muscles, a fixed stare, chewing motions and heavy dribbling in your cat, she might suffer from a form of epilepsy known as limbic encephalitis. Researchers believe that this form of epilepsy is fairly widespread in cats. Interestingly, a highly similar type of epilepsy occurs in humans: an inflammation in the brain that leads to epileptic seizures that affect only one side of the body. Normal anti-epilepsy medication has hardly any effect on this form of epilepsy, while immunotherapy showed some effectiveness. 

NovemberMoon Tuesday, April 09, 2015 3:41:02 PM
It's normal for cats to get jealous when there's a new pet or baby or family member in their environment. Just pay lots of attention to your kitty and they will realize they're not being replaced. :) 
If it doesn't change or there are other signs, your cat could be sick though; ask your vet.

NovemberMoon Tuesday, April 09, 2015 3:42:36 PM
Also, why KNOCK her off the baby's crib?? Talk to her gently and set her down saying no, don't go up there. You should also put double-sided tape on any surface you don't want her on and she'll stay clear of them, once that happens you can remove the tape.

darlene71 Tuesday, November 18, 2014 3:30:18 PM
my cat is 2 years old i walked outside and found him eating a mouse now he is sick and has a light brown slimy substance come out of his mouth and nose and it smells like ear wax he is sleeping all the time and doesnt want to go outside anymore he is still eating and drinking i think he might have a blockage or possbly in renal failure and i think its to late could someone please tell me what is wrong with my cat

kspttgc Monday, March 10, 2014 4:18:11 PM
I think some of these "facts" are wrong. I have four cats and one of them sits and stares at the wall sometimes but she isn't sick and doesn't seem depressed. My male cats always push against my hand, head or chin with their heads are they're not sick or in pain they are just showing love and want to be petted. After reading some of these things I was scared to death one if my cats was dying because he stares at his water bowl. When I asked the vet about these things he told me my cats are all fine and that reading stuff off the internet isn't always a good thing. If you're worried about your pets the best thing you can do is get in person advice from your vet and not the internet

mandylesley Friday, February 21, 2014 9:52:32 AM
My cat is salivating smelly her nose is part really white and part light pink  her nose has a scab on it to she is not eating even though I feed here around 12:00 because if I feed a lot the eats a lot she gained a lot of weight all of a sudden can't check her temp cause she gets mad and try's to scratch me what is wrong

fizz Saturday, June 08, 2013 8:06:23 AM
my cat is eleven months old he suddenly has saliva dicharging from his mouth a brownish transparent fluid with a bad smell..he's not eating properly i gave him baby food myself which was very hard because he got annoyed when i did it..he cant walk properly his hind legs have become another cat has the same limping problem in his hind legs but he's doing well worried please help me n suggest some medicine for both my cats..

kittygetwell Thursday, April 04, 2013 12:21:28 PM
I read an article on about raw meat diet for cats. The researchers warn pet owners that if they feed trimmed cuts of meat. These cuts lack fat, which is crucial in feline diets. According to the researchers, if pet owners feed raw meat diets, they have to supplement it with other nutrients, including appropriate sources of fat and essential fatty acids. A high-protein diet can also change the types of microbes in the gut. The researchers write that increased protein fermentation in the bowel may lead to more "odiferous" feces, depending on the digestibility of the protein. Cats with renal problems are given chicken, which is lower in protein.

Guest Saturday, March 02, 2013 12:21:28 PM
Now I am seriously worried about my cat. Which vet is suggested?

Guest Sunday, February 03, 2013 5:27:02 AM
This is really helpful thank you x

Guest Friday, February 15, 2013 8:14:21 PM
My cat has had a warm nose for a while now and I just noticed leaking from its paw and it smells. It wants to lay on me and push his head against my head or under my chin. I'm worried. I'm taking him to vet Monday, hope its not to late, Smokey is part of the family.

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