10 of the Most Common Diseases and Conditions in Cats

10 of the Most Common Diseases and Conditions in Cats

Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or getting a kitten for the first time, you’ll need to expect times when your pet gets ill. 

Cats are prone to certain conditions. It’s a smart move to do some research so that you spot the tell-tale signs of sickness. The sooner you take your cat to the vet the better. That’s because early intervention tends to mean a better prognosis. 

We’ve put together a guide to help you recognize when your pet might be in need of some medical attention. Read on to find out about some of the most common cat diseases and conditions.

1. Parasites

It’s possible to control some of the most well-known parasites fairly easily. These are the ones to watch for:


Not only do they make life uncomfortable for cats, but they can also lead to skin allergies and painful skin lesions. If an infestation is acute, your cat could lose sufficient blood to become anemic. 

Even indoor cats sometimes need continuous flea prevention treatment. Talk to your vet about the most effective products available.


Cats can typically pick up ticks when they spend time outdoors. The ticks can transmit nasty conditions like bobcat fever (cytauxzoonosis). It’s a serious and often fatal disease spread through the bites of ticks. 

You should check your pet regularly for ticks. Many tick treatments also provide protection against other parasites like fleas. Talk to your vet about potential preventative medication.


A single mosquito bite could infect a cat with heartworms. The symptoms of heartworm disease are often similar to those of feline asthma. In some cases, heartworms can cause sudden death in cats. To note: heartworm is very rare in the Netherlands.

Roundworms, Hookworms, and Coccidia

These intestinal parasites can infect cats of any age and can cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. They tend to be most serious in young kittens and can lead to severe dehydration. You should get new kittens (and all cats for that matter) dewormed regularly.

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2. Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection. It leads to crusty, raised, hairless patches of skin, often in a ring-like pattern. It’s highly contagious in cats. Treatments include:

  • Coat clipping
  • Using a specially medicated shampoo recommended by a vet
  • Oral medicines

You should also vacuum and clean bedding regularly as the fungus that causes ringworm can live in the home for up to 2 years.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes stops cats from being able to control their blood sugar levels. Symptoms include loss of weight, drinking excessively, urinating more and low energy levels. Appetite is often increased, although may decrease as well. Your vet will diagnose the disease through blood tests and examining urine samples. You can treat diabetes in cats through insulin injections and dietary control.

4. Cancer

Lymphoma is the most common cancer to affect cats.  Older felines are more prone to lymphoma which typically occurs in the small intestines. Symptoms include: 

  • Weight loss 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Loss of appetite

This kind of cancer is often highly aggressive, but it is treatable with chemotherapy. Remission rates can be as high as 60-80 percent in cats that get treatment. 

Other common cat cancers include:

  • Soft-Tissue Sarcomas
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Mammary Carcinoma

Vets recommend keeping an eye out for gastrointestinal symptoms. You can do this by paying attention to what is in the litter box. Watch for changes in the consistency, color and odor of feces, as well as urine output.

5. Heart Problems

These are relatively common in pet cats. Although there are a few different kinds, they tend to cause similar symptoms. These include: 

  • Low energy levels 
  • Breathing problems 

It’s possible to manage heart disease in cats effectively with medication and careful monitoring. You should speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your cat’s heart.

6. Kidney Issues

Kidneys filter toxic waste products from the blood. These are then passed away in the urine. When these organs don’t work properly, waste products build up and cause illness. Chronic kidney disease is most common in older cats and symptoms include: 

  • Drinking and urinating more frequently than usual
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting and eating less 

Your vet will need to run blood tests, a urinalysis and possibly x-rays or an ultrasound to accurately identify kidney disease. Although there is no cure for kidney disease, there are plenty of things that you can do to mitigate its effects, especially if there’s an early diagnosis.

7. Common Viral Infections

The following diseases affect the white blood cells cats need to fight infection. All are contagious and have no cure. In the Netherlands there are vaccines that can prevent Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and feline distemper (FPV), and these vaccines are very effective.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

The transmission of this disease usually happens through saliva from nasal contact or bites. It can also get passed on through feces, mutual grooming, or shared toys or dishes. It’s also possible to spread from a mother’s milk or blood during pregnancy.

Symptoms include lethargy, pale gums, breathing problems and a variety of chronic infections. Infected cats may need blood transfusions and supportive care depending on the symptoms. You should keep FeLV-positive animals separate from other cats.

Feline Distemper (FPV)

This spreads through contact with the mouth or nose. It can cause severe depression, lethargy, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. This is a very serious disease which – especially for kittens – can easily be fatal even with intensive veterinary care.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Similar to human HIV, FIV causes immunosuppression but is not transmissible to people. FIV-positive cats will often suffer from chronic upper respiratory infections and oral issues. 

There is a blood test for FIV and you may need to provide supportive care as needed if your cat is FIV-positive. There are no vaccines for FIV available in the Netherlands. If you’re taking on a new cat or kitten, consider getting them tested for FIV before letting them mix with other cats.

8. Dental Problems

Tooth and gum disease is common in cats, especially in their later years. It can be very painful! Without treatment, it can lead to kidney and heart disease. It’s worth noting that most cats will carry on eating even if they are in pain. 

You should watch for signs of dental problems. Get your cat’s mouth checked by your vet at least once per year. Regular tooth brushing along with tooth gels and special diets can all help keep your cat’s mouth healthy. 

9. Epilepsy

This is a brain disorder that causes fits in cats. Although it can be distressing to witness a seizure, it’s often possible to manage epilepsy with medication and careful monitoring by your vet.

Seizures can also happen as a result of low blood sugar, poisoning, brain and liver disease or head trauma.

10. Thyroid conditions: Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism happens when an overactive thyroid produces too much of a certain hormone. Common symptoms include an increase in appetite along with weight loss, hyperactivity and vomiting.

Middle-aged and older cats are more prone to hyperthyroidism. Your vet will be able to help you and your cat manage the condition – there are many treatment options available. 

If in Doubt, Seek Help

One of the difficulties in making a diagnosis when a cat is suffering is that the symptoms of many conditions can be very similar. That makes it all the more important to get help, advice and support from your vet. 

The sooner you know what’s going on, the sooner your cat can get the treatment it needs and the more likely it is to live a long and happy life. 

Do you still have any questions about common diseases in cats? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets! 

We’ll also be happy to discuss our hassle-free, pet insurance products for further reassurance.

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