Cat Health

cat health guide

Cats get sick like any other pet. When they do, it’s vital that you are able to diagnose the issue. This will enable you to treat your cat’s condition effectively.

What are the most common cat health problems? Vomiting or regurgitation, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), fleas, tapeworm, diarrhea and respiratory issues are all possible illnesses. If your cat is sick and you don’t know what to do, take it to a vet. Advice online can be helpful, but is no substitute for medical care.

So, if your cat is sick, read through our guide below. It may help you identify the problem and whether it’s something serious. Once you know what the issue is, it’s likely best that you take your cat to the vet.

What’s Wrong with My Cat?

This isn’t always an easy question to answer. Unfortunately, cats are susceptible to a huge range of illnesses. When something goes wrong, you have to make sure you know how to make it right. That’s what this guide is all about. First, we’ll take a look at the six most common cat health issues that your furry friend might be suffering with. For each, we discuss what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it.

Afterwards, if you’re still not sure what’s wrong, we’ve got plenty of resources to help you. First, we’ve got an A-Z cat health symptom checker. Not only that, but we’ve got dedicated sections on the key problems that cats can face, from neurological issues to physical injury. In short, there’s everything you could possibly need to diagnose a cat health issue—and all backed up by medical science and veterinary research.

We know that cat sickness is a big worry for both pet and owner. So, without wasting any more time, let’s get stated with the most common cat health issues!

The Six Most Common Cat Health Problems

The six most common cat health issues aren’t ones you’ll be unfamiliar with. In fact, they’re conditions that you no doubt will have had yourself at some point over the past few months! We’ve also included a cat symptom checker, which should help you narrow down what the problem might be.

The first of these is excessive vomiting, both acute and chronic.

Excessive Vomiting

cat health
See? Cats don’t mind the vet really. Image courtesy of Elgin Air Force Base

Cats are no strangers to sudden fits of vomiting, and there are a few answers to the question “why is my cat vomiting?”. The first and most obvious is that your cat could be accumulating hairballs. Excess grooming can mean excess hair in the stomach. The fur your cat collects from grooming can rub against their stomach lining. A build up of fur will then trigger their vomiting reflex, and they’ll bring it back up. Cats with longer fur can sometimes take a while to pass a hairball.

Vomiting could also be a sign that your cat’s diet is disagreeing with them. If you notice any undigested food in your cat’s vomit, that could be a sign of food poisoning. Short-term vomiting (under 24-hours) is often nothing to worry about, just like it is with us humans. However, older and younger cats are more vulnerable to these problems.

While isolated bouts of vomiting are normal, chronic vomiting is not. It’s most likely that their diet is to blame. Try feeding your cat a more natural diet. If that doesn’t work, consider a fasting period. Take your cat’s food away for 24 hours to allow their digestive system to rest. This may stop the cause of the irritation. Always keep water available. If there is no improvement, get in contact with your vet. You can find more information on why your cat is vomiting in our blog.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a common condition for cats to suffer from and there are many causes for the disease. The most obvious sign your cat is suffering from the disease is their reluctance to use the litter tray. Before you get too disappointed with them for their ‘bad’ behavior, check with your vet.

Potential causes of the condition include:

  • Bladder stones
  • Bladder infection
  • Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
  • Urethral obstruction

Common symptoms of urinary tract disease include:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Irritability
  • Lack of appetite

Water consumption should be encouraged for cats with FLUTD. Staying hydrated is essential to cat health. Ensure your cat has fresh water available at all times. Change their water at least once daily. Some cats can be pretty fussy about where they drink from, some only like to drink from running water. Rather than leaving the tap on all day, treat your cat to their very own water faucet.

Wet food is also the perfect way to increase your cat’s water intake. If your cat won’t hate you too much, you can also add water to their food. Whilst making sure that your cat is hydrated, ensure the cleanliness of the litter tray. If there is more than one cat in your household, provide an adequate number of trays.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Whilst in most cases FLUTD isn’t too serious it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your cat is suffering from urethral obstruction, they may lose the ability to urinate completely. This is much more common in male cats yet it could lead to further complications. Take your cat to the vet if your cat displays secondary symptoms such s vomiting and lethargy. If urethral obstruction goes untreated, cases are usually fatal.

Treatment for FLUTD varies depending on the cause. For bladder infections, antibiotics should be enough to relieve the symptoms. Obstructions are treated by passing a catheter through the urethra which is a simple medical procedure. Yet, bladder stones will require more extensive surgical treatment to remove them.


cat health
“I wish someone would buy me a collar!” Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Contrary to popular conception, it isn’t always obvious if your cat starts to carry fleas. Fleas may not become noticeable until after they’ve started to cause your cat irritation. If your cat has started to groom themselves excessively, or if you find your cat constantly scratching, this could be a sign of a flea infestation. Also look out for any signs of hair loss, or black grit contained in the fur. The dirt that the fleas leave behind is often easier to spot than the fleas themselves. The flea bites will also leave noticeable irritation to the skin.

If you think you’re seeing any of these signs of fleas in cats, start treatment immediately. Female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day. A trip to the vet is not usually required to prevent infestation. Topical treatment is usually enough to kill any fleas, eggs, or larvae. Always avoid using flea sprays on your cat. Whilst they are fine for home they may cause unnecessary stress to your cat during treatment.

Ensure you follow the instructions for your cat’s treatment. How much you need to administer will depend on your cat’s weight. It is important to stay on top of treatment to ensure that your cat doesn’t collect more fleas on their travels.

Fleas vs Ticks

Ensure you know the difference between fleas and ticks. Whilst fleas are a more common problem ticks can be much more detrimental to your cat’s health and your own. Ticks are much larger, they can swell to the size of a pea after they’ve fed. Ticks come in varying colours of black, brown, red or tan. Whilst fleas can be annoying, ticks can be life threatening to your cat.

Some ticks carry a disease known as ‘Q Fever’. Q Fever can lead to high fever, anorexia, depression and even seizures in more serious cases. Do not remove a tick from your cat’s skin yourself. This may result in only the removal of the body of the tick. Seek help from a vet if possible to avoid further inflammation or irritation.
Keeping on top of flea treatments is usually enough to keep ticks at bay. Some products will be more effective than others. Always pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.


There are a whole host of nasty intestinal parasites which your cat can pick up. Tapeworm being the most common feline parasitic worm. Tapeworms are ‘segmented parasites’, which makes them a little easier to spot! The long and flatworms can range from 4 to 28 inches in length. You may be able to spot actual pieces of the worm which resemble small grains of rice in the fur on your cat’s hind end. Also, look out for segments of the tapeworm in your cat’s litter tray. Another sign of tapeworm is your cat’s obsessive grooming in that area.

More symptoms may also include:

  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss around hind end
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Coughing
  • Bloating

Tapeworm treatment is simple. Topical treatment applied to the back of the cat’s neck or by worming tablets are highly effective. Keep on top of regular tapeworm treatments to prevent your cat picking up worms again. Tapeworms are easy to catch and typically acquired by means of ingestion of an existing host. Outdoor cats will be more susceptible to picking up tapeworms. Especially if your cat hunts and eats rodents. Yet it is still possible for indoor cats to pick up tapeworm, especially if they have fleas.

Diarrhea in Cats

cat health
“Open it for me human, I need to go!” Image courtesy of Flickr

Diarrhea is a very common cat health condition, and it’s the same for cats is the same as it is for humans. There are many causes for the condition. Yet, most cases are easily treated and resolved.

If diarrhea occurs after a change of diet, your cat may still be getting used to their new food. If your cat’s diet hasn’t changed, it’s time to look for other causes. Whilst cats don’t generally make a habit of ingesting what will make them ill, it is always a possibility.
Short-term bouts of diarrhea are usually nothing to worry about. Yet, it can also be a sign of a more serious illness or infection. If your cat’s diarrhea lasts for more than two days, your cat could become dehydrated. If so, it’s vital that you a) encourage your cat to drink more, and b) replace some of her lost electrolytes. You can find more information on the causes of cat diarrhea here. Information about the health risks posed by cat diarrhea is listed in this medical health journal.

Respiratory Issues

There are many causes for respiratory issues in cats, but by far the most common is the common cold. So, if your cat is under the weather, it may not be the end of the world. Just as it is common for us to pick up short-term viral infections, colds can spread amongst cats too. The severity of the cold will depend on what virus or bacteria your cat has picked up. Some colds are easier to get over than others. With some such as the Feline Herpes Virus Type-1 (FHV-1) your cat may be a lifelong carrier.
In a multi-cat household, keep those affected away from cats who will be prone to catching the infection.

Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Sneezing
  • Sniffling
  • Clear or pus-like discharge from their eyes or nose
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing (which can also be a sign of cat asthma)
Generally, the infection lass anywhere between 7-21 days, yet signs of contagion may only be visible on days 2-10.

In most cases, you’ll be able to treat your cat at home by:

  • Increasing the humidity,
  • Encouraging nutrition by providing wet food
  • Clearing your cat’s eyes and nose of any discharge

To prevent colds:

  • Ask your vet about vaccinations.
  • Always ensure the cleanliness of your cat’s surroundings to prevent environmental exposure.
  • Be diligent when you are introducing a new cat into the home. Even if they seem well and healthy, they may be in the incubation stage of their cold. Keep your new member of the family away from any other cats in your home for at least two weeks.

Aside from these key issues, there are plenty more that you have to be aware of. If we expanded this guide to include all of them, it would be impossible to read through—more like War & Peace than an online guide! That’s why we’ve summarized them in the sections below. Click through to find more information on each of these cat health issues.

Cat Weight

Your cat’s weight fluctuates naturally throughout their life. But if your cat is underweight, or (obviously) if your cat is overweight, this can be a significant health risk. “Why isn’t my cat eating?” is a question that’s probably asked more often than you think, and we have information on that here. We also have advice on both diarrhoea in cats and constipation in cats.

Cat Behavior

If cats could behave like well-trained dogs, they’d be the perfect animal. Until then, take a look at our cat behavior guide to get started training your pretty kitty. We also post regularly on cat behavior problems, such as nervousness, anger problems and more.

Cat Products

We also periodically review cat products: cones, trays, food, collars and more. Catmart is an Amazon Affiliate, which means you can find links to great cat products dotted across our site!

Common Cat Health Problems

Our posts and pages cover all aspects of cat health. If your cat is sick, head on over to our main cat health page to find out how to make them well again. We base our information on real research from veterinary sources and the experience of lifelong cat owners. Our essential cat health page also includes advice on cat nausea medication.

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A Final Note

The advice provided on our website is not a substitute for a consultation with your vet. Every cat responds to illness differently, just like we do. On top of that, many symptoms for conditions can look the same to an untrained eye. If you have concerns about cat health, take out the guess work and allow your vet to give your cat the once over. If you’re worried about the cost of your cat’s treatment, insurance is sometimes available to cover the expense.