Eight Common Cat Illnesses and Their Treatments: How To Look Out For and Protect Your Pet


We love our pets to pieces. And as we get to know them, we also get to know their personalities: the ways they act, the things they enjoy, and the foods they love. 

So if you begin to notice that your pet is behaving out of character, it could be that they’re feeling unwell. 

If you are worried about your pet, you must speak to a vet as soon as possible. Many vets will be able to make appointments at short notice, and if you become worried after hours, it’s often possible to speak to an emergency vet (although you should be prepared to pay more than the average for this service). 

Please note: Although the information in this blog is correct, it is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. All pet owners who suspect that something is wrong with their cat should seek the advice of a vet immediately.


1. Worms

Cats can pick up worms in a variety of ways. Infestations of intestinal worms can cause a diverse range of health issues but can go undetected as cats often show no outward signs of infection. Worms live in the intestines and steal food, causing damage to the lining of the gut. 

The two most common types of worms in the UK are:

  • Roundworm — The most common parasite for cats to catch, roundworms are adult worms that are three to four inches long. Cats generally acquire this form of worm by eating other cats’ faeces.

  • Tapeworm — Tapeworms are parasites that range from anywhere between 4 to 28 inches long. A tapeworm infestation can cause constant vomiting and weight loss in infected cats. They usually acquire this worm by ingesting a host like a flea. 


The most common signs of worms are:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Bloating around the abdomen

  • Coughing

  • Vomiting

  • Anaemia

  • Bloody stool

  • Visible worms in the stool or around the anus

Prevention and treatment

Worms rarely cause serious illness in cats. However  owners of kittens should be careful as they can cause things like dehydration, anaemia, and even death. 

If your pet does develop worms, you should take them to the vet immediately, as a trained professional will be able to diagnose your cat. Starting treatment will differ depending on which worms your cat has, but the vet will prescribe a course of treatment that is suitable.


2. Diabetes in cats

Diabetes in cats is caused by either a lack of hormonal insulin or insufficient responses to insulin. If a cat has diabetes, they will become starved of energy due to their cells being unable to take in sugars. This can have a lasting serious effect on the pancreas, which overworks in an attempt to produce more sugars. 

There are two different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 — A lack of the production of insulin.

  • Type 2 — Characterised by high blood pressure; the body is resistant to insulin. 


The most common symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Weight loss

  • Change in appetite

  • Excessive thirst and water intake

  • Dehydration

  • Increased urination

  • Lethargy

Prevention and treatment

Obese cats are more likely to develop diabetes, so keeping your cat at its ideal weight and on a controlled and balanced diet will prevent the disease from occuring. Diabetes is diagnosed with blood tests and urine samples. 

For most cats, insulin injections are needed to regulate blood glucose levels with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Typically based on weight, these injections will be given at home. Cats who have stable levels when they’re diagnosed may respond well to oral medications, so this is also an option. 


3. Feline Parvovirus (FPV)

FPV is caused by a parvovirus — making it highly contagious to cats. Spread by fleas as well as direct contact with a cat’s bodily fluids, the virus can stay active on surfaces like bedding or clothing. The disease attacks the gut, immune system and the heart. Kittens often suffer more serious symptoms than adult cats, and some kittens who are born to cats with FPV may have brain damage.


The most common symptoms of FPV are:

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody)

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Weakness

  • Dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

  • Stomach pain

Prevention and treatment

If your cat has mild FPV, your vet may be able to give advice and treatment to them at home. However, if your cat has the disease more seriously, they will need to be admitted to a vet hospital for treatment. There is no specific cure for FPV — instead, vets will support the cat with medication whilst the body fights the virus. Your cat may need a fluid drip or intensive feeding through a stomach tube.

Ragdoll with paw prints

4. Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

FeLV will weaken your cat’s immune system, opening the door to many other illnesses — one of which is leukaemia, a cancer of the blood. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids and is most common in stray or feral cats. Because of this, indoor cats are at relatively low risk of the disease.


The symptoms of FeLV are:

  • Diarrhoea 

  • Fever

  • Pale gums

  • Weight loss

  • Jaundice

  • Anaemia

  • Swollen glands

  • Inflammation of the mouth and face

Prevention and treatment

All outdoor cats should be vaccinated against FeLV. Although if you suspect that your cat is infected, even if they have been vaccinated, then you should seek immediate vet support. The vet is likely to prescribe immunomodulators, antibiotics and rehydration therapy — however, there is no cure for FeLV. 

5. Dental disease

Tooth and gum disease is very common in cats as they get older. These issues can cause pain for your cats, causing problems like kidney and heart disease.

Dental disease can be difficult to spot, as most cats will continue to eat even though they are in pain. This means that owners should be on the lookout for the signs of dental problems, and have their mouth checked by your vet.


The symptoms of dental disease are:

  • Bad breath

  • Sore gums

  • Loose teeth

  • Swollen face

  • Mouth pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Difficulty eating 

Prevention and treatment

If you suspect that your cat has dental problems, you should contact your vet immediately. At the appointment, your veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth for gum or dental disease. Whether it's plaque and tartar, gingivitis or feline resorptive lesions, your vet will be able to diagnose and treat the issue with anti-inflammatories, antibiotics or surgery.


6. Flea infestation

Fleas are a common problem, meaning that if you own a cat, you will most likely have to deal with it at some point or another. These tiny insects bite and cause irritation to the skin, leading to skin problems or anaemia. 

Most common during the summer months, fleas can be caught from your cat being outdoors, or from other animals. In cats with white or light coloured fur, they will be easier to spot than in cats with dark coloured fur.


  • Scratching

  • Bald patches

  • Infected skin

  • Rash

  • Flea dirt

Prevention and treatment

If your pet has not developed further issues (for example an allergy or skin problems) as a result of the fleas, you will be able to buy a flea product to treat your pet at home. Use a prescription product from your vet, or an NFA-VPS product in order to find the most effective treatment. 

At the same time, you should also treat any other pets you have at home, as well as your furniture and soft furnishings. However, never use dog flea treatments on cats, as it can be poisonous!


7. Skin disease

If your cat has a problem with their skin or fur, including irritation, sensitivity or soreness, then they may have a skin condition. Skin conditions can come and go as a result of age or hormone levels, but can cause discomfort in your pet. 

There are many different types of skin conditions in cats, all with different symptoms. However, flea allergies, eosinophilic skin disease, infections, allergies and ringworm are all common.


  • Itchiness

  • Discomfort

  • Rashes and redness

  • Scabs or bumps

  • Wounds or sores

  • Fur loss

  • Dry skin

Prevention and treatment

If you notice a skin problem in your cat, you should always contact a vet straight away. If left untreated, skin problems can become infected and even more difficult to treat, leaving your pet in discomfort. Your vet will run some tests to determine the disease, and will organise treatment. 

However, you should treat fleas immediately to prevent skin problems. Check your cat regularly and feed your cat a balanced diet.


8. Heart disease

Heart disease is common in cats, and although it is a serious condition, it can be well managed through medication, weight control and consistent monitoring. Heart disease is common in older cats, but in rare cases it can also affect kittens. Heart disease may progress to heart failure, which can result in death.


  • Unusual breathing

  • Panting

  • Intolerance to exercise

  • Collapse

  • Weight loss

  • Bloated tummy

Prevention and treatment

If you suspect that your cat has heart disease or if you have noticed your cat suffering with any of the above symptoms, you should immediately contact your vet. Noticing the warning signs at an early stage can be crucial in saving your pet’s life. 

Some particular breeds of cat can be prone to heart disease. Before you adopt your cat, check what screening is necessary to ensure their health. However, the best method of prevention is to ensure that you take your pet for regular check ups with the vet.

Protecting your cat’s nine lives

The most important thing to remember is that if you have noticed a change in behaviour in your cat, or any of the symptoms listed above, you should take your pet to the vet. 

If mounting vet bills are a concern, consider purchasing Pet Insurance — it’s just what you need for extra peace of mind.

Other guides


Animal Trust. 2021. Gum Disease in Cats. [online] Available at: <https://www.animaltrust.org.uk/conditions/gum-disease-cats/> [Accessed 3 August 2021].

Cats Protection. 2021. Common cat problems | Help & Advice | Cats Protection. [online] Available at: <https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/getting-a-cat/common-cat-problems> [Accessed 3 August 2021].

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. 2021. Feline Dental Disease. [online] Available at: <https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease> [Accessed 3 August 2021].

Rodan, I. and Sparkes, A., 2012. Preventive Health Care for Cats. The Cat, [online] pp.151-180. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158338/> [Accessed 3 August 2021].

Rspca.org.uk. 2021. Common Cat Illnesses, Prevention|RSPCA. [online] [Accessed 3 August 2021].