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What are some common cat illnesses & symptoms?

Numerous cat illnesses and their symptoms may worry you. They can even be fatal if left untreated for too long. Our Irvine vets offer insight on signs and symptoms to look out for. 

What are some common cat illnesses?

Here are some illnesses that you should be aware of as a cat owner. Be ready to take your cat to the vet if the situation arises, especially because sick cats tend to isolate themselves. Here are the signs and symptoms of three cat diseases that are common.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Viruses and bacteria can infect your cat's upper respiratory tract, which includes the throat, nose, and sinuses. Cats can contract feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus by sharing a food or water bowl, which are common in multi-cat households and animal shelters.

Sneezing or coughing can also spread the virus to other cats. It's also possible to pass it while getting groomed.

Symptoms include:

  • Gagging, drooling
  • Runny nose or clear/colored nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Decreased or lost appetite
  • Congestion 


Diabetes develops when a cat doesn't produce enough insulin to keep glucose levels in check. Without treatment, it can lead to a variety of dangerous side effects, including:

  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite (as the body cannot use the energy in food) or loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Motor function problems
  • Coma
  • Death

If diabetes isn't managed correctly, it can shorten a cat's life and cause a variety of health issues, such as nerve disorders. You can manage feline diabetes with treatment that may include insulin injections.


Cancer can affect a cat's various organs. It begins in a cell and then spreads to other parts of the body when it attaches to tissue below the skin.

Feline Leukemia Virus is a known carcinogen detectable in cats. Environmental toxins are another contributing factor. Your veterinarian may be able to treat cancer if it is discovered early during a physical exam.

Symptoms include:

  • Lumps or bumps that change in size or shape
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Odor from the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding or discharge
  • Marked increase or decrease in appetite
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating

Several treatments, such as radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, can treat the tumor if it's detected and diagnosed early enough. Based on the type of cancer and its extent, specific location within the body, etc., you and your vet can develop a successful treatment plan.

What should I do if my cat is ill?

Any of the symptoms listed above indicate that your cat is sick and should be taken to the veterinarian right away. At Irvine Pet Hospital, we have an in-house laboratory, onsite pharmacy, and emergency clinic to provide your pet the care they need (help for after-hours emergencies is also available).

Do you suspect your cat is sick? Our vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating many common illnesses and conditions. Book an appointment at Irvine Pet Hospital today.

Caring Connection: Man Tenderly Holding and Petting a Cat at Irvine Pet Hospital

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