It's a simple truth - throughout its lifetime, your cat will be exposed to bacteria,
viruses, and parasites that may cause diseases, some of them serious and life threatening.
And though nobody knows your cat better than you do, it can't let you know what's
wrong if it isn't feeling well. Fortunately, many diseases of cats can be prevented,
treated, or controlled. Understanding your role in keeping your pet in the best
shape possible starts with understanding the most common threats to its health.
You and your veterinarian can discuss the best ways to prevent or control them,
and you'll want to work together to put develop a comprehensive, ongoing health
program for your feline friend.
What Are They? Fleas are common parasites. Adults feed on warm-blooded animals,
including humans, causing irritation and, in some instances, allergic reactions.
They can also transmit certain diseases. During the immature stages of its life
cycle, the flea can hide in bedding, carpeting, and shaded areas. A flea infestation
may become apparent only when people realize they've been bitten.
What Are the Signs? Flea bites causes itching and may cause inflammation of the
skin called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). You should also look for signs such as
black specks on your cat or in your cat's bed. Also, your cat may become nervous
or annoyed and will scratch excessively if infested with fleas.
How Can Flea Infestations Be Prevented? Use of an approved product like FRONTLINE®(fipronil)
will kill fleas that are already on a cat and prevent fleas from reinfesting your
animal. Once a flea infestation is serious, a number of control measures may be
required, including the use of appropriate flea control products in indoor and outdoor
pet areas, frequent cleaning of pet bedding and blankets, vacuuming, and sanitizing.
What Are They? Ticks are parasites, called ectoparasites that attach themselves
to a host animal (including humans) to feed on the animal's blood. Ticks may transmit
serious, even fatal, diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease,
ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and cytautzoonosis.
What Are the Signs? Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fever, anemia, lethargy,
depression or general flu-like symptoms.
How Can Tick Problems Be Prevented? Use of a tick-killing product like FRONTLINE
Rabies: A Fatal Disease that Affects People,
What Is It? Rabies is a generally fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous
system and can infect all warm-blooded animals. The disease is zoonotic, which means
it can be transmitted to humans bitten by an infected animal. People exposed to
rabies must undergo an immunization regimen.
What Are the Signs? Changes in behavior that can include uncharacteristic restlessness,
aggressiveness, agitation, shyness, and paralysis.
How Can Rabies Be Prevented? Vaccination by your veterinarian.
Leukemia Virus (FeLV) : A Virus Responsible for Several Potentially Fatal
What Is It? Feline leukemia virus son one of the most prevalent causes of feline
cancer. Exposure to FeLV isn't necessarily cancer-causing, but rather it weakens
the immune system. Therefore, with FeLV cats become more susceptible to other diseases
(both bacterial and viral). The disease is highly contagious among cats (although
it can't be spread to humans). It is spread through contact with infected saliva,
urine, feces and milk. Sharing food bowls and even grooming an infected cat can
expose a healthy cat to this potentially fatal disease. Even if the cat doesn't
show any signs of disease, it may carry and transmit the disease the rest of it's
What Are the Signs? Anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, blood in the feces, respiratory
problems, excessive drinking and urination. Cancerous tumors can occur in some cats
and can interfere with respiration or digestion, cause kidney disease, or affect
the central nervous system.
How Can Feline Leukemia Virus Be Prevented? Vaccination. There is no cure for FeLV,
but symptoms can be treated and remissions of varying lengths of time can be achieved.
Feline Panleukopenia (FPV):
Sudden Onset, High Mortality
What Is It? Feline panleukopenia, or distemper, is caused by a highly contagious
and potentially fatal virus, especially in kittens. Even though vaccination has
effectively controlled feline panleukopenia (FPV), the disease is still occasionally
seen in cats and kittens, particularly those that come from animal shelters. The
disease is often seen in wild, unvaccinated cats. The main way cats become exposed
to FPV is by eating the feces of an infected cat.
What Are the Signs? Rapid onset is one of the main characteristics of this
disease. Loss of appetite, fever that drops dramatically in late-stage disease,
lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration. Pregnant cats with panleukopenia
will lose the pregnancy or have stillborn kittens.
How Can Feline Panleukopenia Be Prevented? Vaccination. The outlook for young kittens
who develop FPV is poor - up to 90% do not survive.
Feline Respiratory Complex (FVR, FCV, FPN):
"Cat Flu" that Can Be Fatal in Kittens
What Are They? Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline calicivirus (FCV), and
Chlamydia are responsible for upper respiratory infections known collectively
as upper respiratory disease complex or "cat flu." FVR and FCV cause 80-90% of cat
flu cases and are spread from cat to cat by contaminated litter boxes and water
bowls or contact with infected fluids such as saliva, nasal secretions, and eye
What Are the Signs? FVR is characterized by inflammation of the cat's eyes, nose,
or windpipe; discharge from the eyes or nose; lethargy; fever; loss of appetite;
and constant sneezing. The symptoms of FCV include runny nose; more serious symptoms
are tongue ulcers, excess salivation, weight loss, poor physical appearance, and
a refusal to eat.
How Can Respiratory Diseases in Cats Be Prevented? Vaccination. Treatment consists
of keeping the eyes and nasal passages clear, keeping the cat warm in a quiet environment,
using antibiotics if appropriate to control any secondary infections, and force
feeding the cat if it will not eat or drink water.
What Are Some Other Important Parasites of Cats? Common gastrointestinal parasites
called hookworms can weaken cats of any age.
What Kinds of Problems Can They Cause? Gastrointestinal - weight loss and diarrhea
are common signs.
How Can These Problems Be Prevented? Proper sanitation can limit the incidence of
hookworm-related problems. Use of an appropriate deworming program as directed can