7 Common Health Problems in Cats

It may come as a surprise, especially if you're a new cat owner, that many health problems can befall your feline friend. But like us, our pets are just as susceptible to illnesses too! As it happens, it is instinct to hide their illnesses to protect them from predators or other cats that could be a potential threat. Given how they’re so skilled at hiding their ailments, all the more we need to keep a keen eye on our cats and note any changes in their behaviour that could be a sign of something more serious! Rest assured that most of these problems are easily preventable, while others are hereditary and can be treated early on.


Hairballs

Hairballs are among the most common of cat health problems. Cats, being the neatniks that they are, groom themselves frequently. Grooming not only helps to maintain healthy skin and coat, but also removes loose hair and dirt that are trapped in their coat. Our kitties then swallow the loose hair that had come off onto their tongues. Occasionally, the hair gathers into a ball and lodges in the cat's digestive tract instead of passing out through their faeces. If your cat starts coughing, hacking or vomiting, it probably has a hairball, but don’t panic yet — this is a normal way of expelling hairball.


If, however, this happens too frequently, do contact your vet. While it may not be as common as a regular hairball, sometimes hairball can move from a cat’s stomach to its intestine and this can potentially be a life-threatening problem if not addressed by a vet immediately. Some other symptoms to look out for apart from frequent retching are constipation, diarrhoea, lethargy and a dull coat.


We stress the importance of grooming your cats frequently to remove loose hair and prevent hairball but if you’re unable to commit to a regular grooming routine, feel free to schedule an undercoat removal appointment with us! Other than regular brushing, feeding your cat hairball-specific foods can help to prevent hairball from forming in your cat’s tummy too.

Worms

For many cats, worms are a recurring problem. Roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms most commonly infect cats usually through the unintentional consumption of worm eggs. Cats can occasionally contract heartworms too, which infect the heart and lungs, causing heartworm disease. When this disease is not treated, it can be fatal.

Some general symptoms that your cat has worms are if it seems unable to gain weight, is infested with fleas, or has white specks that look like grains of rice in its stools. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, take it to the veterinarian for worm testing. For the worried pet parent, don’t worry, worms are usually easily cured with a few doses of medication.


Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTI) is an umbrella term for a variety of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats. The most common disorder is feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) and is associated with abnormal urination. Some UTIs also cause the formation of crystals/stones (struvite/calcium oxalate) in the urinary tract and can be painful for cats.

It is important to note that there is no single cause to urinary tract infections in cats. Still, there are a number of factors that can lead to this infection like stress, a bacterial infection, obesity, anatomical abnormalities, confinement and genetics. As such, it is imperative that pet owners always pay attention to their cat’s behaviour and the colour of its urine so that you can help your vet make an accurate diagnosis of a urinary tract disease. Several symptoms that you can look out for are:

• an abnormally foul-smelling urine • straining to urinate • bloody/discoloured urine • frequent urination • inability to urinate • urinating in unusual locations • urinating in small amounts • crying out while urinating • excessive licking of the genital area

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease caused by a mutation of the coronavirus. According to some experts, cats living in multi-cat environments tend to test positive for enteric coronavirus. The most insidious thing about FIP is that cats that have been exposed to it can live on normally without showing any outward symptoms; some even become carriers of the virus and infect other kitties by accident.


However, there are still some infected cats that can display symptoms of a mild upper respiratory infection such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge while others may experience diarrhoea, weight loss and lethargy.


There are many different strains of feline coronavirus — there are some strains that are harmless and most cats fully recover but there are also strains that mutate to become a more harmful type of virus which can be fatal.


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), or cat AIDS