Common Cat Illnesses & Symptoms

Many cat illnesses and their symptoms can impact a cat’s long-term physical health and wellbeing, and even cause their untimely death if not treated soon enough. To help you try to avoid surprises, our Waxhaw vets offer advice about signs of illness. 

What are common cat illnesses?

It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether your cat is sick - and if their symptoms warrant attention from a veterinarian.

Cats are certainly unique animals, and this goes doubly when they are sick, as they tend to isolate out of instinct when ill. So, we cat parents need to be on high alert for some common cat illnesses and their symptoms.

The following are 3 illnesses many cats experience during their lifespan. As you'll see, although these illnesses are common, it's critical that they be diagnosed and effectively treated in a timely manner.

Common Cat Illnesses, Providence Animal Hospital, Waxhaw Vets


Heartworm, or dirofilaria, is a blood-borne parasitic roundworm. It spreads through mosquitoes which carry cat heartworm larvae. Indoor and outdoor cats run about an equal risk for catching the parasite that’s on the rise in America (although it’s less prevalent in cats than dogs), it’s important to to ensure your cat is vaccinated against it.

Although there are no definitive clinical signs of heartworm, symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blindness
  • Convulsions
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden death

Fortunately, preventive measures including vaccinations can help our cats avoid contracting deadly heartworm.


If a cat’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar, they will develop diabetes mellitus. Left untreated, it can lead to several serious symptoms, including:

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

A cat’s lifespan can be drastically reduced by poorly controlled diabetes, since it can lead to nerve disorders, several potential health problems and severe emergency scenarios. Treatment typically focuses on management and may include insulin injections.


Caused by uncontrolled growth of cells, cancer can affect a wide range of organs and cells in a cat’s body. This disease first begins to develop within a cell, before attaching to tissue underneath the skin and potentially spreading to other areas.

Feline Leukemia Virus (which cats can be vaccinated against) commonly contributes to cancer in cats. Other causes may include toxins in the environment. If detected during a physical exam, cancer may be able to be treated.

Symptoms include:

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

Depending on a number of factors, such as the type of cancer and its extent, the specific location, whether the tumor is detected and diagnosed in its early stages, whether an effective treatment plan is developed, and more, a number of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery may be used.

What to do if your cat is ill

If your cat is sick and any of the symptoms above appear, it’s critical that they see a vet as soon as possible. At Providence South Animal Hospital in Waxhaw, we have an in-house laboratory and pharmacy, and are able to handle emergencies to provide your pet the care they need.

When your cat is ill, every minute counts. Taking them for treatment right away could decrease recovery time, reduce pain and even save a life.

When to visit an emergency vet

Immediate care should be provided in veterinary emergencies. If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that they see an emergency veterinarian:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea (2 or more episodes in 24 hours)
  • Seizures or staggering
  • Choking, difficulty breathing or continuous gagging or coughing
  • Severe bleeding

There are several more indications of an emergency we should all be aware of.

How to prevent common cat illnesses

Start by giving your cat a clean, happy and low-stress home, with plenty of fresh water to drink. Routine checkups at feline-friendly veterinarians, coupled with preventive care, go a long way to keeping your feline companion healthy, as does a nutritious diet, exercise and regular vaccinations.

Is your cat exhibiting symptoms of illness? Our veterinarians at Providence South Animal Hospital in Waxhaw have experience in diagnosing many diseases and conditions. Book an appointment today.

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Providence South Animal Hospital provides comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Waxhaw.

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(704) 843-0208