What are some common cat illnesses & symptoms?

A number of cat illnesses and their symptoms may be cause for concern. Some may even be fatal if they aren't promptly treated. Here, our White House vets offer some insight on the signs and symptoms you should be aware of for health issues in your cat.

What are some common cat illnesses?

As cat parents, there are a number of illnesses you should be aware of that may affect your feline friend. Be ready to visit a veterinarian if necessary if you notice any of the following symptoms. Since our cats tend to instinctively hide themselves away when they are sick, their illness may only be noticed when it is in an advanced stage. Here are 3 common cat illnesses and their symptoms.  

Upper Respiratory Infections

The upper respiratory tract of cats, including their throat, nose and sinuses, can become infected with a number of different kinds of viruses and bacteria. These are often passed around at shelters or multi-cat households. Your cat may contract feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus through something as simple as sharing a bowl of water with another infected animal.

They can transmit this virus to other cats the same way, or by sneezing or coughing. It can also be passed during grooming

Symptoms include:

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


If a cat doesn't produce sufficient insulin to balance blood sugar or glucose levels, they develop diabetes mellitus. Left untreated, it may lead to several serious symptoms, such as:

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

If your diabetes is poorly controlled, this disease can shorten the lifespan of a creature and lead to numerous health issues like nerve disorders. It may also cause severe emergency situations. Treatments with insulin injection will be focused on managing this condition. 


The uncontrolled growth of cells may cause cancer, an illness that may affect a whole host of organs and cells in a cat's body. The disease first starts to develop within a cell, before it attaches to tissue below the skin and potentially spreads to other areas. 

A common contributor to cancer is Feline Leukemia Virus, which cats can be diagnosed against. Other causes include environmental toxins. If caught early during a physical exam, your vet may be able to treat cancer. 

Symptoms include:

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

Depending on whether the tumor is caught and diagnosed early enough, the type of cancer and its extent, specific location within the body, etc., whether an effective treatment plan can be developed, and other factors, a number of treatments such as radiation, surgery and chemotherapy may be attempted. 

What should I do if my cat is ill?

If your cat is sick and showing signs or symptoms like those we have listed above, it's incredibly important that you bring them to see your vet as soon as possible. At White House Animal Hospital, we have an in-house lab, onsite pharmacy and daytime animal emergency services to help make sure your pet gets the care they need. 

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