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Diseases & Ailments Of Cats


Cats are extremely susceptible to abscesses if they receive even the smallest wound, and in particular as a result of bites and scratches from fellow felines or from rats. Symptoms of swelling and acute pain may be noticed anywhere on the body and the cat will probably be off his food and listless. In the case of a bite to the foot, there may be considerable swelling giving a 'frying pan foot' appearance. If the abscess has burst there will be a thick yellow/ green, foul-smelling and sometimes bloodstained, discharge and the first indication may be when the cat is seen to be washing itself very vigorously.
Preventative Measures - If you know that your cat has been involved in a fight examine him very carefully all over. If any bites or wounds are found, clip the hair away from the area and bathe with salt water.
Treatment - Once an abscess has developed it is best to consult a Veterinary Surgeon if possible. Treatment with antibiotics can produce an almost instant improvement in the health and well being of the patient and will greatly speed the healing of the wound. If the abscess has developed but has not burst, it may be necessary for the cat to be admitted to a veterinary hospital to have the abscess lanced and drained under anaesthetic.
First Aid Treatment - If no veterinary help is available at the time, the most useful treatment is to clip away all hair from the area of the abscess and to bathe with a lukewarm salt solution, several times daily.
Warning - Do not be tempted to allow the abscess to heal too quickly. If the area is not thoroughly bathed to keep the wound open until it has completely drained, a new abscess will quickly form on the same site.
Tooth Abscess - These occur most often in middle aged or elderly cats. The symptoms are usually refusal to eat, pain when eating, swelling on the side of the cheek, or an unpleasant smell or discharge from the mouth.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. Even elderly cats will, as a rule, survive the short anaesthetic that is needed for an extraction very well (unless there is any serious heart condition) and the improvement in health will be considerable and well worth the risk. There is no need to feel concerned even if an old cat has to lose all its teeth. Most cats will eat soft prepared cat foods and your pet is unlikely to have any difficulty in eating.


This is a symptom rather than a disease. It is characterised by a marked paling of the gums and tongue. It may result from disease but it is also seen when there is internal haemorrhage as a result of road accidents.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible and in the meantime keep the patient quiet and warm.


Caused by a microscopic parasite in the blood stream, which can be passed from mother to kitten before birth. It is also spread by bloodsucking parasites (e.g. fleas). Symptoms are variable and not easy for one to identify, so consult your Veterinary Surgeon.


These are tiny scent glands that are situated at either side of the anus. If the cat becomes frightened it will often release a discharge from the glands, giving a very penetrating and unpleasant smell. Anal glands in dogs are the source of many troubles and disorders but fortunately in cats it is very unusual for them to need any attention at all.


Elderly cats may suffer from a generalised stiffness and difficulty in walking or jumping. Since it is not at all easy for an owner to diagnose the precise cause it is best to consult a Veterinary Surgeon. It will help to see that your cat sleeps in a warm dry spot. Warning - Do not give aspirin. Although it is very helpful to humans with similar conditions, it is poisonous to cats.


This is a condition in which fluid collects in the abdominal cavity, giving the cat a swollen pot¬bellied look, although it is usually associated with cats that are underweight and in poor condition. It is most often seen in cats as a result of the viral disease Feline Infectious Peritonitis (see later) or some serious internal condition such as a tumour. In either case consult your Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible.


This usually results from bad teeth in middle aged or elderly cats (see abscesses and teeth) but it may also be noticed in young kittens that are changing their milk teeth. Other causes may be mouth ulcers, chronic catarrh, or a tumour in the mouth, or it may result from the presence of a piece of decaying bone which has become lodged in the teeth or from some generalised disorder such as uraemia (kidney failure). In any case, it is a symptom which should not be ignored and which generally responds to treatment, so consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible.


It is fairly unusual for cats to suffer from a genuine baldness. If your cat develops bare places in the coat it is more often the result of skin parasites, or an eczema or dermatitis. However, hormonal alopecia is occasionally seen and this can sometimes be treated by administration of hormonal substances by your Veterinary Surgeon.


These can be divided into two main problem areas - cystitis (or inflammation of the bladder) and urethral obstruction as a result of calculi, or stones that form in the bladder. These are actually mineral deposits that settle to form tiny stones, or gravel, as they are sometimes called.
Cystitis - This occurs more in female cats than in males. It is characterised by symptoms of pain and the cat will be seen to go to its litter tray frequently and pass small amounts of bloodstained urine. The cat may sit and strain for long periods. There may also be a rise in temperature and signs of generalised illness. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Urethral Obstruction - Now commonly called FUS (Feline Urological Syndrome). This is a very serious condition requiring immediate Veterinary assistance. It is almost unknown in the female cat but occurs in male and neutered cats as a consequence of the formation of bladder stones. The urethra of the male (the passageway connecting the bladder to the penis) is extremely narrow and if tiny particles of gravel are passed in the urine they very readily cause total obstruction. In the female cat, stones of a similar size can be passed with the urine.
Symptoms - The cat will go to its tray and will strain hard but it will be seen that little or no urine is passed. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. If treatment is not given at once the cat may get blood poisoning or may actually burst its bladder and die. In the meantime it is in great pain.
Treatment - The Veterinary Surgeon may be able to relieve the condition by passing a catheter tube under anaesthesia, but in some cases, penile surgery may be needed if the cat's life is to be saved. Unfortunately this condition has a tendency to recur. A supply of fresh drinking water should always be provided as part of a cat's normal diet, but if you notice that your cat takes very little water or milk in the course of the day, it is probably better to give dry biscuit as only a small part of the diet, or to use it after first moistening with warm water. Specialist diets are now available to help prevent this condition recurring


This occurs most often as a complication of cat flu. It is an inflammation of the bronchi and the bronchioles (the tubes connecting the lung tissue).
Symptoms - Coughing, distressed breathing.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


This is a haemorrhage under the skin and may occur anywhere on the body as a result of a blow. It is usually seen as a darkish, not very painful swelling. It may easily be confused with an abscess which is much more of a common type of injury in the cat. However, in a case of an haematoma, there is far less pain on examination.


This is a common condition in the cat. It may result from a fight, or an accident, or as a result of shaking the head because of irritation caused by ear mites.
Appearance - There will be a swelling on the flap of the ear, varying from the size of a small marble to one which totally fills the ear flap.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as an operation will be necessary to relieve the pressure and to try to keep the shape of the ear intact. If left, the ear will, as a rule, crumple and scar giving the typical appearance of the 'battered' tom. Don't forget to check for ear mites and treat for these as well.


These can be a very serious problem in cats and in the case of scalds the full extent of the injuries may not be realised until several days after the event when a large suppurating area is discovered which had been hidden by hair. Severe burns and scalds actually destroy the skin and underlying tissues and the resulting wound may take months to heal completely.
First Aid - In the case of scalds apply cold water over the affected area at once. The cat's coat will otherwise hold the hot liquid and greatly increase the extent of the injuries. Keep the patient warm (since there will be considerable shock) and consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. Remember that cats when they are frightened or in pain, have a tendency to bolt, so shut all doors and windows until you are able to get help.
Prevention - Remember that cats are naturally inquisitive so try to avoid leaving them in a room where there is a saucepan of hot liquid, or any similar hazard. They should, of course, be trained, for their sake and yours, not to jump onto tables and work surfaces. Many cats suffer from burnt pads as a result of jumping unsuspectingly onto electric hot plates.


This operation is carried out to remove kittens by the abdominal route in cases of difficult birth. It is, as a rule, a highly satisfactory method of saving the life of both the mother and kittens but if it becomes necessary it is important for success that it should be carried out as soon as possible. In most cases the mother will be able to feed her kittens and they should be returned to her as soon as she starts to recover from the anaesthetic.


This is most often seen as a complication or as a result of Feline Respiratory Disease (cat flu), although there may be other causes.
Symptoms - Sneezing, nasal discharge, sometimes bloodstained. The cat may tend to breathe through his mouth as a result of nasal obstruction. There may be difficulty in smelling and tasting, with a consequent loss of appetite and depression.
Treatment - Antibiotic treatment may give some relief but unfortunately once established this condition is extremely difficult to treat satisfactorily. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Chlamydia is an intra-cellular bacterium, spread by close contact between cats, or inanimate objects used by infected cats (eg. bowls, toys etc).
Symptoms - chronic conjunctivitis, and can contribute to upper respiratory disease symptoms. A vaccine against chlamydia is now available.


This is fortunately less common in cats than in dogs, since cats are more careful feeders. The most common cause is a large fish bone which has become wedged in the mouth or throat.
Symptoms - Coughing, retching, attempting to vomit, pawing at face.
Diagnosis - To check whether your cat has an obstruction in the throat first examine the mouth and throat as thoroughly as possible in a good light. If there is a visible fish bone or other obstruction it may be possible to remove it with tweezers or forceps, but take great care not to get bitten yourself. Not all foreign bodies or obstructions are visible. If you are in any doubt consult your Veterinary Surgeon immediately. Anaesthesia may be required for a full inspection and removal of any obstruction. The symptoms of convulsive coughing in the early stages of cat flu can easily be misinterpreted as choking.


These are often broken as a result of fighting. Normally they will grow again, but if the sensitive nail core is exposed the condition is very painful and may require surgery.
Infection of the nail base - In this instance there will be redness and swelling around the base of the nail and the cat will lick the foot constantly and show signs of lameness or pain.
First Aid - Bathe with a warm salt solution but consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible since antibiotic treatment will probably be needed, or in some cases it may be necessary to remove the nail surgically.


This is a fairly common birth abnormality. It will be noticed that the kitten has difficulty in feeding from the mother, or that milk is tending to come down its nose. On examination it will be seen that the hard palate has failed to fuse completely in the centre. This kitten will 'rapidly lose condition and will die. Euthanasia is recommended unless a very small defect is found which can be surgically repaired.
Accidental - This may be the result of a car accident, or from a cat falling from a height. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. It is a difficult injury but will sometimes respond to surgery.


This is a disease characterised by diarrhoea (sometimes bloodstained), accompanied by loss of weight and general condition and sometimes anaemia. It is due to the presence of a protozoan (a minute parasite) in the bowel. It is relatively uncommon in cats in this country. If infection is suspected, consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Constipation is not often a problem in cats. If your cat appears to be constipated and is seen to be straining, check thoroughly before attempting treatment. Similar symptoms are shown by cats suffering from acute diarrhoea (when they may strain but only pass a few drops of fluid or blood) or those suffering from urethral obstruction or cystitis (see Bladder Troubles). Older cats sometimes suffer from a chronic form of constipation which is probably the result of loss of muscle tone in the bowel.
Treatment - In mild cases, administer Hairball Paste or a similar preparation daily. If the condition does not improve, consult a Veterinary Surgeon. The addition of fresh liver to the diet once or twice weekly will often help to counteract a tendency for constipation.


This is a condition in which the testicles remain in the abdominal cavity instead of descending into the scrotum (in monorchidism only one testicle is affected).


Congenital Deafness, this occurs in some white cats (usually those with two blue eyes). It cannot be treated and it is a considerable disadvantage since a deaf cat is very vulnerable to its enemies and is in great danger when crossing roads.
Old Age Deafness - Acquired deafness occurs in old cats, especially those with a history of middle or inner ear infections.
Deafness due to impacted wax - This is, in most cases, due to infection with ear mites. If in doubt as to the cause of the condition of the ear it is best to consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


This is a condition which results from the failure of the pancreas to produce insulin. It is most often seen in elderly cats.
Symptoms - Loss of weight, together with a pronounced thirst, a good appetite, and excessive urination.
Treatment - Can be given satisfactorily by insulin injections, but much depends on the capacity of the individual owner to carry out the treatment which must be continued throughout the cat's life. Contact a Veterinary Surgeon if you suspect that your cat may be developing this condition.


Diarrhoea is a condition in which the patient passes frequent, loose, or liquid faeces. It may result from many different causes, such as diet (excessive amounts of liver in the food, for instance), viral or bacterial infection, protozoa (coccidia), or bowel parasites.
Treatment of the adult cat - Providing the cat appears well, withhold all food and give only water to drink for 24 hours. If this does not produce an improvement consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Treatment of kittens - In kittens, diarrhoea should be taken more seriously. It may have resulted from faulty feeding or a roundworm infestation. However, it could be the first symptoms of Feline Viral Enteritis and in any case it may quickly cause symptoms of dehydration in the young animal. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon immediately.


A dislocation is the displacement of the articulation point of two bones within the joint capsule. This is comparitively uncommon in the cat.
Hip Dislocation - This is occasionally seen as a result of an accident, resulting in the shortening of the affected leg.
Dislocation of the Jaw - This results in a displacement of the two jaws so that the large canine 'fang' teeth are out of alignment, and the cat is unable to close its mouth. Do not attempt to correct this condition without consulting a Veterinary Surgeon since it may easily be confused with a broken jaw. As a rule these conditions can be corrected by manipulation under a general anaesthetic providing that they have not been left too long.


This is a condition of the mother cat while feeding her young, which results from an imbalance of calcium in the blood stream. It is much less common in cats than in dogs.
Symptoms - Muscular twitching or lack of co-ordination, which may be followed by collapse and death if not treated at once. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon immediately.


These are the names which are usually applied to inflammations of the skin which are non-parasitic in origin. They are often considered to be allergic in nature; a reaction of the body to a substance. This may be in the food or inhaled but in some cases there may be an allergic reaction to the bite of the flea. Even the presence of one flea on the animal may cause violent itching.
Symptoms - Irritation and scratching, with hair loss. The affected cat may continuously wash and lick itself, causing serious abrasions with its rough tongue. In other words, the main lesions are self-inflicted.

First Aid:

  1. Make sure that your cat's coat is kept clean and free from tangles and matts which cause irritation.
  2. Be certain that your cat is free from parasites. Many owners find it hard to accept that fleas can be found on cats in even the cleanest homes. A flea collar, if used according to the instructions, and replaced when necessary, is a most effective method of parasite control.
  3. Diet - check that you have not introduced any new foods into the diet which may have caused the symptoms. 'Try eliminating one item of food (including milk) completely from the diet for a period of two weeks at a time to see if this produces any improvement.

Local Treatment - Calamine Lotion applied with a pad of cotton wool will give some local relief. However, it is important to remember that any external treatment which is given to a cat is liable to become internal as a result of licking. It may help if the cat wears an Elizabethan Collar for several hours after the dressing or lotion is applied.
If these simple measures produce no improvement do consult a Veterinary Surgeon. Modern anti-inflammatory drugs can do much to alleviate the distressing symptoms of eczema and dermatitis, but it is as well to recognise that the condition is very likely to recur.


This unpleasant virus is related to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, it is not infectious to people.
Symptoms - chronic oral, respiratory and adenoidal infections, and associated diarrhoea.
Transmitted from cat to cat, usually via saliva. Diagnosed using a blood test. There is no treatment, and infected cats can only be made to feel more comfortable with medication.


This is a serious and often fatal viral disease which mainly affects young cats. Its incidence is greatest in catteries, and lost cats' homes because of the increased risk of contact with infected cats. However, it may occur in private homes also.
Incubation Period - Symptoms are thought to develop at four to ten days after contact with an infected cat. It is for this reason that a kitten which seemed perfectly well when it arrived in a new home can after a week become acutely ill and die.
Symptoms - Infected cats are very ill, and time is of the essence. Vomiting is usually the first symptom, followed by a loss of appetite and diarrhoea. There may be a rise in temperature. The cat is thirsty and may often be found in the sink or in a drain. There is abdominal pain and typically the patient sits in a hunched-up position and even cries out. Young kittens very quickly become dehydrated and emaciated and for kittens of under twelve weeks the death rate is very high.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon immediately. Antibiotics, intravenous fluids and other drugs will help to give some relief from the symptoms.
Prevention - Vaccination may be carried out against Feline Enteritis and is highly effective. However, it must be realised that prevention will not be effective if the cat is in the early stages of the disease. Booster injections are needed to maintain a level of immunity (consult your own Veterinary Surgeon about this) and this is particularly important if your cat has to go into boarding kennels.


If your cat has become too old to take any pleasure in life, or if it is suffering from some painful condition from which there is no prospect of permanent relief it is much kinder to ask your Veterinary Surgeon to put your pet painlessly to sleep. This should also be considered if, for personal reasons you find that you are no longer able to keep your cat. By all means try and find a new, good home for him, but it need hardly be said that genuine cat lovers will never pass a pet on to just any home and will certainly not consider abandoning an animal because they are unable to face a difficult decision. Euthanasia is now almost always performed by means of injection of an overdose of an anaesthetic drug, which puts the animal into a stage of deep sleep which is followed by narcosis and death. The injection itself is not, as a rule, painful, but if you dread the thought or if your cat is very nervous ask your Veterinary Surgeon for a sedative tablet which can be given in advance. The decision to have a loved pet put to sleep is always a very hard one to make but the deciding factor must always be to put the comfort and welfare of the animal concerned first, rather than any consideration for your own emotions.


Cataract - This is an opacity of the lens of the eye, which gives it a cloudy appearance and results in partial or complete loss of vision. It is seen most in elderly cats but is not a common condition. Surgery is possible, but is not usually recommended.
Conjunctivitis - This is an inflammation of the membrane of the eye.
Symptoms - Irritation, redness or soreness of the eye, or sometimes a discharge from the eyes. It may occur as an isolated condition or may be a complication of cat flu.
First Aid Measures - Bathe the eyes in cool water which has been previously boiled, but consult a Veterinary Surgeon for advice on further treatment.
Glaucoma - This is a condition in which there is an increased pressure within the eye, giving a rather swollen 'glassy' look. Most common in elderly cats, and as a complication of cataract. This can be very painful and requires prompt veterinary treatment.
Haw (or Third Eyelid) - Cats have a third eyelid or protective membrane in the corner of the eye. When there is any condition causing irritation of one or both eyes, the third lid will tend to come over the eyeball and this is quite normal (although owners seeing the condition for the first time sometimes assume that the cat is going blind). Sometimes the condition of the third eyelid, or 'haws' as it is sometimes called, occurs when there is no obvious local reason and it is thought that it may be a symptom of generalised loss of condition. If it persists consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Kittens' Eyes - Remember that kittens do not normally open their eyes until the tenth to fourteenth day of life.
Prolapse of the Eyeball - This can occur as a result of fighting or road accidents. It may be possible for the eye to be returned to its socket successfully under anaesthesia but if the eye is damaged it is better to have it removed. A cat will manage very well with only one eye.
Staining - This condition around the eyes may result from a blocked tear duct causing an overflow of tears. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Ulcers - Eye ulcers are less common in cats than in dogs. They are seen as pinpoint bluish opaque areas on the eye and cause considerable discomfort. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


This disease causes fluid to collect in the abdomen leading to 'dropsy' or acites. Fluid may also collect in the chest causing breathing difficulties. It is caused by a virus but the disease is often complicated in cats that are also infected with Feline Leukaemia Virus. There is no cure but your Veterinary Surgeon may be able to relieve some of the symptoms.


Cats sometimes become involved with fish hooks because of their liking for fish. It is important to remember that most hooks have barbs on the end and cannot be pulled out. In most cases it is necessary to consult a Veterinary Surgeon who will be able to remove the fish hook quite easily and painlessly under an anaesthetic.


These are fortunately fairly uncommon in cats but they may be rather alarming at the time. The cat may stagger, and then rush about the room, apparently unable to see and banging into furniture and walls. High blood pressure and thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency have been found to be a cause of fits.
First Aid - Do not attempt to touch the cat, but shut doors and windows and try to prevent it from harming itself too much. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible.


Fractures are only too common as a result of road accidents. Treatment will depend on the site but an owner should never attempt to splint a leg as it could well cause more damage. Keep the patient quiet and immobilised in a basket or box and consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. Fractures of limbs are commonly repaired by means of an internal pin or a metal plate.
Green Stick Fracture - These fractures may occur in young cats. The fracture line is incomplete.
Compound Fractures - These involve an open wound at the site.
Hard Palate Fractures - See Cleft Palate.
Pelvic Fractures - These are very common. Treatment is mainly by immobilisation and recovery is dependent largely on the age of the patient and the number of pelvic bones that have been affected. Healing may cause a narrowing of the pelvic canal, so it is best that female cats should be spayed as soon as possible after recovery to avoid the risk of birth complications.
Jaw Fractures - The most common site (especially in young cats) is the centre of the lower jaw. Treatment by wiring the jaw is usually very successful but it can be necessary to hand- feed the patient for the first seven to ten days.


During the moulting season, cats (especially longhaired cats) swallow enormous amounts of hair and this can form a hard ball in the stomach. In most cases these hairballs are vomited quite harmlessly. Obviously if you groom your cat regularly the chances of a hairball developing will be much less. Cats are also inclined to chew string - especially if it has been around meat, and this can cause a similar obstruction in the stomach. Treatment - Administer Hairball Paste on a regular basis, but if your cat is vomiting or seems unwell consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Blood in the urine may be seen as a result of an accident causing internal bleeding or as a result of infection (see Bladder Troubles).


This is fortunately quite uncommon in cats. Some middle-aged and elderly cats may develop heart murmurs and show symptoms of lassitude and shortness of breath. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon if you suspect this condition.


A hernia or rupture is the prolapse of viscera (usually abdominal contents or fat) through a gap in the muscle wall.
Umbilical & Inguinal Hernia - Rarely seen but both require surgical correction when they occur.
Diaphragmatic Rupture - This may occur as a result of an accident. The stomach, intestines, or other viscera are herniated into the chest due to a tear in the diaphragm. The cat will show distressed breathing and will be afraid to lie down. The condition is very serious so consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Lack of control over bladder and bowels can be seen in older cats. It very much depends upon the individual case but the prospect is, as a rule, poor. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon. Incontinence or dribbling of urine in a young male cat may indicate the first signs of urethral obstruction (see Bladder Troubles and Spraying).


Cat flu, as it is commonly called, is a disease which occurs mainly in situations where many cats share a close area. Some cats may be carriers of the disease which they transmit to other cats without themselves showing symptoms.

The main types of the disease have been identified as:

a) Feline Calici Virus (FCV) - This is a milder form of the disease and is characterised by sneezing, discharging eyes, and sometimes ulceration of the mouth.
b) Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis - A very severe and sometimes fatal type of the disease.

Early symptoms are similar - typically sneezing, excessive salivation, loss of appetite, and sometimes a high temperature. Later the nasal discharge becomes purulent, pneumonia may develop and the cat soon becomes dehydrated and depressed. Cases of either type which recover can be left with permanent catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon at once, but this is a situation in which good home nursing and care can also do much to help.
Prevention - A number of vaccines are available now against this disease. Consult your own Veterinary Surgeon about the most suitable vaccine for your own cat, and be sure to take your cat back for regular booster doses when necessary.
Disinfection - Cat flu is spread by droplet infection, and the risk of spread is very great. In the case of the private home it is kinder to warn other cat owners to stay away until the infection is completely cleared. In catteries disinfection is extremely difficult. Cages should be scrubbed out with a solution of disinfectant in hot water and the building should be fumigated.


This is a symptom rather than a disease. Typically the tongue, gums, and whites of the eyes and skin develop a yellowish tinge and the urine is dark yellow or brownish. It may be an indication of infection, poisoning, or even a tumour of the liver. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon at once.


This is a fairly common disease of middle-aged to elderly cats. The symptoms are due probably to a mild and often unnoticed kidney infection early in life causing damage to the kidney structure which becomes progressively more serious. The kidneys are unable to perform their normal function of filtering impurities and waste products out of the blood.
Symptoms - Thirst, loss of appetite, loss of weight and increased urination. Occasional vomiting and in the later stages an unpleasant uraemic, or ammoniacal smell to the breath.
Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon. While the condition cannot be cured, treatment may help alleviate the symptoms and prolong life.


This is an indication of pain in a limb (or sometimes the spine or pelvis). In cats the reason is much more often a septic bite than a strain or sprain.


This common cause of kidney disease in dogs is extremely uncommon in cats. It is caused by Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae or Leptospira canicola, which are spread by rats and quite commonly affect dogs, but are almost unknown in cats.


This is being recognised today as a widespread viral disease of cats. It is a disorder of the white blood cells. It may lead to a cat being prone to many other diseases, eg. peritonitis, pleurisy or tumours. The disease is passed by very close cat to cat contact.
Symptoms - There may be a wide variety of symptoms such as generalised loss of condition and weight, intermittent rises in temperature, thirst, anaemia, and ulceration of the mouth. All of these symptoms can make the disease rather difficult to identify. Fortunately, medical research has proven that the disease in cats is not transmissable to humans. The disease can be tested for by your Veterinary Surgeon taking a small blood sample from your cat. A vaccination to protect against this disease is also available.


This is an inflammation of the mammary glands, seen usually in the mother cat which is feeding a litter. Symptoms - Redness and swelling of the mammary glands, raised temperature, pain and disinclination to let the kittens feed. Treatment - Consult a Veterinary Surgeon. Antibiotic treatment will, as a rule, produce a dramatic improvement.


Sarcoptic and Demodectic mange are very rare in the cat. Notoedric (head) mange is sometimes seen.

METRITIS (Infection of the womb)

This is an extremely serious and often fatal condition which may follow kittening. It may occur if the cat has failed to deliver all of the kittens or all of the placentas (afterbirths), or simply as a result of infection.
Symptoms - A purulent or bloodstained vulva discharge, rise in temperature, lassitude, loss of appetite, and disinclination to care for the kittens. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon at once.


This is a condition in which the eyeballs move constantly from side to side. It is seen in cases of concussion and infection of the middle ear.


A general name for conditions affecting the canal of the ear.
Bacterial Infection - Because cats have 'pricked' ears they are fairly free from bacterial infections. In the dog (or at least the long-eared varieties) the ear flap tends to create a moist atmosphere within the canal which is ideal for bacterial growth. However, if your cat should show any sign of discharge from the ear consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Parasitic Otitis - This is extremely widespread among cats as a result of ear mite infections. Cats are very clean animals but the canal of the ear is one spot which they cannot reach. The condition is recognised by the presence of black wax in the ear canal.
Tumours in the Ear - These are unfortunately rather common, especially in older cats. There is usually a very unpleasant smelling discharge from the ear and the cat will scratch the ear, or keep the head on one side. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon. An operation may give relief, but unfortunately these tumours are occassionally malignant in nature.


Cats seem to get themselves involved with wet paint quite often and the results can be very unpleasant (this also applies to tar). NEVER USE TURPENTINE OR OTHER PAINT SOLVENTS AS THESE ARE EXTREMELY POISONOUS TO CATS. These will not only be licked off, but will also be absorbed through the skin. Cut as much hair and paint off as possible and then rub butter or margarine into the remainder and remove with warm water and liquid detergent. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


The result of damage to, or degeneration of nerves. The seriousness varies with the site.
Radial Paralysis - This usually follows a blow to the shoulder damaging the radial nerve.
Symptoms - Loss of function and loss of feeling in the fore limb. The cat is unable to pick up the foot, which quickly becomes damaged and excoriated, and will become gangrenous if not treated. Recovery is poor. If there is no improvement in three to four weeks there is little chance of recovery. Amputation of the limb may be considered if the Veterinary Surgeon advises it. Cats and dogs manage remarkably well on three legs.
Paralysis of the Tail - This is a very common result of injury. Again the symptoms are loss of sensation and loss of movement, and the trailing tail soon becomes damaged. Amputation holds out a good prospect for success. A tail really is not missed at all (Manx cats manage very well without one).

PARAPLEGIA (Paralysis of hind limbs)

Posterior paralysis usually results from an injury to the spine, often after road accidents. In most cases control of the bladder and bowels are lost as well as the ability to support the body on the hind limbs. If no improvement is seen within seven days, the chances of recovery are very poor indeed.


This is an extremely serious condition resulting from an inflammation of the folds of tissue which separate the lungs. It may exist as a condition on its own or may follow Feline Respiratory Virus, Feline Leukaemia Virus, or Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
Symptoms - Very high temperature, distressed breathing, inability to lie down. The symptoms may be quite sudden in onset. In exudative pleurisy there is free pus in the chest cavity and the condition is very rapidly fatal. Pleurisy of any kind can prove difficult to treat.


An inflammation of the lung tissue. There is usually a raised temperature and audible and distressed breathing. It can be a common complication of Feline Respiratory Virus infection. Antibiotics, in many cases, produce a rapid improvement.


Fortunately, because cats are rather careful feeders, they suffer less from the results of accidental poisoning than dogs. Puppies will gobble up and swallow almost any strange thing and dogs of any age will eat dead carcasses that they find on walks but this behaviour is almost unknown in cats.
Malicious Poisoning - When people have neighbours who do not like cats there is a tendency to suspect that any illness which their pet may suffer is a result of malicious poisoning. Before jumping to conclusions, it is worth considering the previous paragraph; normally well fed cats are unlikely to eat contaminated food and in addition the majority of people do not have access to dangerous poisons.
Carbolic Acid (Phenol) Poisoning - Since cats are very susceptible to phenol and can absorb it through the skin, any substance suspected of containing it should be avoided. Some disinfectants contain phenols.
Symptoms - Twitching and convulsions followed by collapse and often death.
Turpentine Poisoning - This is very similar to phenol poisoning and will often result from well-intentioned attempts to remove paint (see Paint).
Aspirin - While it is a useful drug for humans (and dogs), it can prove fatal to cats.
Anticoagulants - These are products such as warfarin, used to poison and kill vermin. It is possible for a cat to eat a poisoned rat or mouse.
Symptoms - Acute internal haemorrhaging, manifested by pain, depression and coldness. May be rapidly fatal. Seek veterinary advice immediately.
Ethylene Glycol (anti-freeze) - It is not uncommon for some cats to lick this.
Symptoms - Depression, increased thirst, vomiting and convulsions, renal failure, damaged blood vessels in the brain, lack of coordination, and eventually, coma.
What to do if you know your cat has been poisoned: If you are certain that your cat has swallowed a poisonous substance, attempt to make him vomit. The best thing to use is a small (marble size) piece of washing soda, or a strong solution of salt and water. Contact a Veterinary Surgeon immediately and tell him which poison is concerned. As a general rule, if no help is available remember that acid poisons should be treated by giving an alkaline solution. Bicarbonate of Soda is the most likely one to be available in the home. Alkali poisons may be counteracted by giving vinegar diluted 50% with water. In the case of external poisons (Lysol etc), if possible, remove the irritant substance by washing in warm soap and water. Keep the patient warm and contact a Veterinary Surgeon immediately. It need hardly be said that no sensible owner will introduce rat or mouse poisons, or weed killers into the house or garden before checking that they are safe for use with pets.


This refers, as a rule, to the extrusion of either the uterus (usually following kittening) or part of the bowel (usually as a result of diarrhoea). This is a serious condition and it is important to consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. Young kittens suffering from diarrhoea may suffer a slight prolapse or protrusion of the rectum and treating the cause (see Diarrhoea) will produce some improvement. However, if the condition persists Veterinary help should be sought.


This is a condition in which pus forms in the uterus and is comparatively uncommon in the cat. This may be, to some extent, because the majority of female cats are now spayed. When it exists it usually follows a history of irregular oestrus as a result of cystic ovaries.
Symptoms - A vaginal discharge, listlessness, loss of appetite, and thirst. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. Surgery is almost always necessary.


An extremely dangerous and usually fatal disease of man and animals. It does not exist in this country because of our very strict quarantine laws that have been in force over the years, and, more recently, vaccination.
Rabies vaccination - This is not carried out on pets living in this country, but will be necessary if you plan to take your cat abroad. Check with your own Veterinary Surgeon.


A soft swelling under the tongue which may be due to a blocked or infected salivary duct. Any unusual swelling in the mouth should always be examined by your Veterinary Surgeon.


A condition of poor bone formation in the young animal resulting from an imbalance of the calcium and phosphorus ratio in the diet. It is important to remember that in the wild state cats would eat the bones of their prey thus ensuring an adequate supply of minerals. A diet which contains the correct proportion of minerals for a normal adult cat may be insufficient for the pregnant cat or kitten.
Symptoms - Lameness, or 'knuckling' over at knee joints. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon. It is an extremely rare condition in the UK.


This actually has no connection with rats or mice at all. It was probably so-called because it occurs on the upper lip of the cat (usually near the median line) and was thought to result from catching rats. It is a hard, dry, ulcerated area which is very slow to heal. Although initially it causes little distress to the patient, if left untreated, it can spread and cause erosion of the lip.
Treatment - Gentian violet was once used, but today modern drugs are more effective. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Children often slip rubber bands on the legs or around the neck of pets while playing. If they are not removed they may cause serious, deep wounds.


Excessive salivation is one of the first signs of Feline Respiratory Virus. It may also indicate a foreign body such as a bone stuck in the mouth, mouth ulcers, gum disease, a bad tooth (see Teeth), a bee sting, or maybe because your cat has licked some irritant substance. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Fairly uncommon in cats, since they are very skillful at landing on their feet. Occasionally strained back muscles are seen, possibly as a result of a misjudged jump.


Unneutered male cats are inclined to urinate or 'spray' walls and furniture even in their own homes, especially in the breeding season. Rather inexplicably, occasional cases of spraying are seen in neutered males and females.


Most cats at some time attempt to catch a wasp or a bee, before learning a very painful lesson. In some cases there may be a considerable allergic reaction and the cat may salivate and be very distressed. If it is possible to contact a Veterinary Surgeon the administration of an anti-histamine drug will usually give immediate relief. However, the symptoms will, as a rule, subside on their own in one or two hours.


Cats' tails, being rather exposed, are very liable to injury. Treatment depends very much on the cause. See abscesses and paralysis in this chapter.


Cats, just like people, have two sets of teeth; the 'baby' or milk teeth and the adult permanent teeth which are cut in the period 12 to 24 weeks of age. Teething does not cause much trouble to young kittens as a rule but very occasionally the milk teeth may fail to shed as the new teeth develop, giving a double set, which sometimes leads to a painful or infected mouth. The adult cat has a total of thirty teeth:
Tartar - many cats form heavy deposits of 'tartar' composed of mineral salts around the teeth, and the deposits can often be considerably larger than the teeth themselves. If this is not removed it causes soreness of the gums, bad breath, salivating, and loss of appetite. It may result in gingivitis and periodontal disease which leads to tooth decay. Cats suffer from true dental caries, many of which can be extremely painful. Regular scaling by your Veterinary Surgeon (usually under anaesthetic) can do much to prevent tartar and to keep the gums and teeth healthy. However, you can carry out a dental regime for your cat at home, and there are many dental products now available which, once you get your cat used to the idea, can be relatively easy to carry out.
Broken Teeth - The canine teeth in particular are often broken when fighting. If they are not causing pain they can be left, but infection may lead to the formation of tooth abscesses, in which case consult a Veterinary Surgeon. Extraction may be necessary. Bad teeth should be removed under general anaesthetic. Once removed, the gums harden and the teeth are hardly missed. See also 'Tooth Abscess' under Abscesses.


This is not common in cats. If a cat is a poor traveller, avoid feeding before a journey and if necessary ask the Veterinary Surgeon for a suitable sedative.


Injuries - The tongue is often injured in the course of fights, or from licking out tin cans, and may bleed profusely. Small tears and cuts will heal on their own but if bleeding persists consult a Veterinary Surgeon.
Ulceration - Small smooth or pinkish areas will be seen on the tongue and there is usually excessive salivation and loss of appetite. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Although cats are often infected with this organism, they only rarely show signs of the disease, characterised by a high temperature and very varied symptoms. Diagnosis is not easy and depends on serological examination. This organism poses a small risk to pregnant women who should avoid handling cat faeces or litter trays.


A tumour is produced by the abnormal growth of tissue cells. The very mention of the word is alarming to an owner, but it is important to remember that tumours may be benign as well as malignant and this greatly influences the future outlook. Tumours may occur at almost any site, in or on, the body (even in bones) and the severity of the problem involved may depend to a large extent on their situation, for example, a tumour on the tongue or in the ear canal quickly becomes intolerable.
Benign Tumours - The multiplication of cells is confined to a single site and if surgically removed they will not, as a rule, return.
Malignant Tumours - These not only tend to return at the same site, but are also liable to spread throughout the body. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a tumour consult a Veterinary Surgeon immediately. You may be quite mistaken in your diagnosis, or if it is a tumour it may be 'benign'. To delay asking advice through fear may cause your pet unnecessary suffering and may lessen the chances of successful treatment.


This may occur as a separate entity or may be associated with Feline Respiratory Virus or kidney disease. Ulcers appear on the tongue, there is marked salivation, loss of appetite, extreme bad breath, and sometimes a rise in temperature. Consult a Veterinary Surgeon.


Vaccination against the main viral diseases is an important step in your cat's health programme.


Vomiting in dogs and cats is extremely common and is, to some extent, a natural means of protection in ridding the body of noxious substances. However, persistent vomiting is a danger signal, and in these circumstances it is best to consult a Veterinary Surgeon.

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