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Cat Illnesses & Symptoms

Identifying illness in cats can be challenging as they usually conceal their discomfort. Therefore, it's crucial for cat owners to be observant and informed about potential common cat sicknesses. Here, our Memphis veterinarians highlight common contagious diseases in cats and their associated symptoms.

Your Cat's Health

Cats are masters at concealing their discomfort, making it difficult to detect if they're sick. They have a tendency to hide when feeling unwell, making it crucial for pet owners to stay vigilant and ready to recognize signs of illness when their beloved cat exhibits them.

Common & Contagious Illnesses Among Cats

There are contagious illnesses that are seen more frequently than others among cats, and there are a couple you should know about if you have a cat in your home.

Upper Respiratory Infections (Cat Colds)

Viruses and bacteria like feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus can cause upper respiratory tract infections in cats, affecting their nose, throat, and sinuses.

These diseases are highly contagious, especially among cats living together, in shelters, or spending time outdoors with other cats. Transmission occurs through everyday activities such as grooming, sharing food or water bowls, and coughing or sneezing. Infected cats can easily pass the illness to other cats in the same household or neighborhood. Typical symptoms of upper respiratory illness in cats include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Drooling
  • Nasal discharge
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) as it is commonly called is most often seen in male outdoor cats with a tendency to fight. This cat illness can be very serious and is often spread through bites obtained during fights, however, in rare situations, it can be passed from a female cat to her kittens.

FIV is a slow-acting virus, and sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the initial infection. However, once the disease takes hold, it can weaken your cat's immune system significantly, making them vulnerable to various serious secondary infections.

With proper treatment and by keeping infected cats in a stress-free indoor environment, they can live comfortably for several months or even years before reaching the chronic stages of the disease.

If your cat has FIV, symptoms may not show up immediately and could be sporadic. However, if your cat displays any of the following signs, it might be suffering from FIV and should receive prompt veterinary care to prevent the symptoms from worsening.Common symptoms of FIV include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor grooming
  • Disheveled coat
  • Abnormal appearance
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Sneezing
  • Behavior change
  • Inflammation of the gums and mouth 
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating outside of the litter box
  • Skin redness or hair loss
  • Wounds that don’t heal

Can I Catch an Illness From My Cat?

Yes. There are a few illnesses that are common among cats that can be spread to people, these are called Zootonic illnesses. But, you will be happy to know that it's very uncommon to get sick from your pet. However, you are at a higher risk if you have a weakened immune system.

Don't worry you don't have to give up your cat, you just need to take the proper measures recommended by your vet such as keeping your cat indoors, staying up to date with your kitty's shots and parasite prevention, and taking your cat to the vet for regular checkups.

Below we have provided a list of some of the most common Zootonic cat illnesses:

  • Rabies
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Cat-Scratch disease
  • Salmonellosis

If your cat is displaying any signs of a contagious illness, contact our Memphis vets immediately!

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