9 Diseases in Cats Some of the More Common and More Concerning Diseases that can Affect Cats

9 Diseases in Cats
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Cats can be difficult to read, and sometimes even hide signs of distress because of their instincts. Find out what some common cat diseases are, how to spot them, and which diseases are more concerning than others.

Just because cats are low maintenance pets does not mean that they are entirely self sufficient, and at times their independence can become a challenge, especially in the case of diagnosing ailments. Since you cat is unlikely to let you know how they are feeling, it is imperative to make sure they are seen by a vet at least once a year to make sure everything is in fine working order. Outside of that, here are a few common cat illnesses that can be detected by you, and if treated early, can be managed or cured.

Diseases that Can Affect Cats

Feline cystitis or FLUTD โ€“ Feline lower urinary tract disease can develop in cats whose diets are too high in minerals or too low in fluids, or cats who live in a stressful environment. It is also slightly more common in long-haired cat breeds. Male cats are more prone than females, and they can develop a urinary tract obstruction at the same timeโ€”which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Learn about how to recognize and treat cystitis in cats.

Periodontal disease โ€“ Did you know that gum disease is one of the most easily-prevented health concerns for cats and dogs? Brushing your catโ€™s teeth even once a week can help prevent a painful tooth abscess, decay, and tooth loss. Signs of periodontal disease include trouble eating or extreme halitosis (bad breath).

Hyperthyroidism โ€“ The thyroid is the endocrine organ in charge of producing hormones that the rest of the body needs to function properly. Cats with hyperthyroidism produce too much of certain hormones, preventing vital organs from functioning properly. Luckily, most cases of hyperthyroidism can be kept at bay with medications, but there is no outright cure, so the treatment will need to be administered every day for the rest of the cats life.

Renal or kidney disease โ€“ Kidneys function as essential filters in the body, so when they're diseased, it can result in urine back up, inflammation, or even the kidneys shutting down. Persian and Exotic cat breeds are more prone to cysts in the kidneys. If kidney failure becomes an issue, you may have to switch your pet to a prescription diet, give them antibiotics, and monitor their water intake.

Diabetes โ€“ Diabetes can be common in older and overweight cats and shows itself in excessive urination, extreme thirst, and lethargy. The disease prevents the catโ€™s body from creating and managing insulin. Insulin helps in the conversion and use of glucose (a major nutritional source of energy). Low glucose conversion means low energy and unused glucose in the blood. This can contribute to urinary tract infections.

Lymphoma โ€“ Lymphoma is a cancer that can attack several different areas of your petโ€™s body, and is more common in cats with FeLV or FIV. There is no cure, but some cats will go into remission. Treatment methods will help to reduce your catโ€™s pain and can sometimes help cats live for a couple of years with the disease.

FeLV โ€“ FeLV, or feline leukemia, is a viral infection and not a form of cancer, despite its name. However, because of its effects on the immune system, it can lead to secondary infections and even bone cancer.

FIV โ€“ Also known as Feline AIDS, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the cat's immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections.

Worms and parasites โ€“ Some parasitic worms, like heartworm, whipworm, and roundworm, can infect cats and cause internal damage. Because some of these nasty parasites can reach up to a foot in lengthโ€”inside your pet!โ€”they are incredibly dangerous. Luckily, they are easily prevented with monthly treatments. Learn more here.

Cat Tumors and Cat Skin Disease - How to Detect Them and What You Can Do

Skin tumors are relatively common problems for cats, but it can still be scary when you find a lump on their skin. Certain breeds, such as SiamesePersians, and other longhaired cats tend to have tumors more frequently, so you'll want to check their skin often. It's important to have any cat skin tumors or lumps examined by your vet, who will need to do a biopsy and other tests to determine if the tumor is malignant or cancerous.

The good news is that there are many treatments for skin cancers in cats, and chances of remission only get better the earlier you catch the problem. You can even take steps to help prevent cancer through careful nutrition and a healthy lifestyle for your cat.

Is it Cancer?

Cats may experience certain skin problems that can be mistaken for skin cancer. While they may not be as serious as cancer, they should still be examined and treated:

  • Benign Tumor: A non-cancerous tumor, however they may still need to be removed

  • Fungal Infection: Ringworm infections, like sporotrichosis, can cause skin lesions or significant irritation

  • Allergic Reaction: Some allergic reactions, such as eosinophilic granuloma, can cause raised ulcers, especially on the mouth, face, feet, and thighs

If a tumor appears to be growing, or if it appears as an open wound that isn't healing, itโ€™s more likely that the tumor is cancerous. Either way, it is important to have every tumor examined by a vet. Only a veterinarian can give an exact diagnosis with a biopsy and other lab tests, and they will likely recommend surgical removal and additional treatment, especially if the tumor is malignant.

Most Common Skin Tumors in Cats

While cats are susceptible to many types of skin tumors, a few types are seen more often than others. Since they are so common, veterinary oncologists have been able to develop specialized treatments that can improve the prognosis for your cat.

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: This tumor is the most common, especially for  Siamese, domestic longhaired, and any older cats. It can take the form of a single growth on top of the head, or sheets of bumps which may also be found on the back and chest. These tumors tend to spread by extension, rather than by metastasizing (spreading to organs or to another area), so there is less risk of malignancy, but removal and treatment is still recommended.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma or Epidermoid Carcinoma: This tumor looks like a cauliflower growth or gray wound which has trouble healing, and is usually located around the mouth, groin, or other orafices, such as the upper and lower lips, nose, and ear tips. There has been some presumed correlation between this cancer and second hand smoke, but no research has been conclusive. Cats may lick the tumor area to the point of hair loss due to irritation.

  • Mast Cell Tumors: Mast cell tumors have a one in three chance of being malignant and most commonly affect Siamese cats. These tumors are often found on the back legs, groin, and lower abdomen. They are usually less than one inch long and can become an open wound that has trouble healing. These tumors can spread to organs, especially the spleen, so it's important to treat as early as possible.

  • Melanomas: Just like in humans, melanomas can start from moles and then begin to spread, become raised, or bleed. Melanomas spread very easily and can be found anywhere on the skin or in the mouth. Uveal melanomas can be found in the eyes of older cats, often changing the pigment color and causing pain.

Treatment and Prognosis of Skin Tumors in Cats

Hopefully you and your vet will catch a skin tumor in its early stages. If caught before spreading, there is a much better chance of remission and recovery after surgical removal. Sometimes it will be necessary to use other treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy to stop the spread of a malignant tumor. While your cat is recovering, it will be important to limit their activity and exposure to other animals.

While there is still a lot to be learned about cat skin tumors, veterinary oncologists are finding better treatments every year, and giving cats and their pet parents more time together. Unfortunately, these additional treatments can become very expensive, so you may need to discuss the costs and benefits with your vet.

More on Cat Health

All About Cat Sleep
How To Play With a Cat
Maintaining a Healthy Cat Weight

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

Was this article helpful?
Lymphosarcoma Periodontal Disease Thyroid - Hyperthyroidism Kidney Disease Heartworm Diabetes Feline Leukemia

You May Also Like

Image for Pet Meds For Kidney Disease In Cats
Pet Meds For Kidney Disease In Cats

Kidney Disease Treatment Options For Cats

Read More
Image for 10 Common Diseases Often Found in Senior Cats and How to Overcome Them
10 Common Diseases Often Found in Senior Cats and How to Overcome Them

How to Effectively Cure Common Health Issues in Senior Cats?

Read More