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3 Common Cat Illnesses & Their Symptoms

Even for the most attentive owners, it can be difficult to tell when our feline friends are seriously ill. Today, our Matthews vets explain the signs and symptoms of 3 common but potentially serious cat illnesses.

How do I know if my cat is sick?

Like all pet parents, if you own a cat you need to be on alert and prepared to visit their veterinarian if required. This is especially true since cats tend to isolate themselves out of instinct when they become ill. To help you recognize symptoms of illness in your feline friend, here are 3 common cat illnesses to be on the lookout for, and their symptoms.

3 common illnesses in cats, Matthews Emergency Vet

Upper Respiratory Infections (Cat Colds)

Just like humans, viruses and bacteria can cause infections in your cat’s upper respiratory tract, sinuses, nose, and throat.

These infections or cat colds are frequently seen in multi-cat households and shelters. This cat illness is extremely contagious! Cats can contract feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus through simply sharing a food or water bowl, coughing, sneezing or grooming. Once a cat has contracted the virus it is easily spread to other nearby cats.

The symptoms of upper respiratory illness in cats are much like the symptoms of respiratory illnesses in people. To determine whether your cat has a cat cold or upper respiratory infection look for the following symptoms:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Decreased or lost appetite
  • Runny nose or nasal discharge
  • Congestion or drooling


Diabetes is becoming increasingly common in cats. If your cat doesn’t produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar, diabetes mellitus results. Left untreated diabetes can shorten your cat’s lifespan and lead to nerve disorders, numerous health problems, and emergency trips to the vet. Treatment for diabetes in cats is focused on management rather than cure and can include insulin injections.

If your cat is displaying any of the following symptoms make an appointment to see your vet straight away, your cat may be suffering from diabetes that requires immediate attention.

  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Motor function problems
  • Coma
  • Death


Cancer in cats can affect a wide range of cells and organs in the body. Cancer starts to grow within a cell, before attaching to tissue underneath the skin and potentially spreading to other areas of your cat's body.

Early detection is essential when it comes to treating cancer in cats! If your cat shows any of the following signs make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible.

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

Feline Leukemia Virus (which cats can be vaccinated against) is a common contributor to cancer in cats. Other potential causes of cat cancers include toxins in the environment. If detected early during a physical exam, cancer in cats may be able to be treated.

If your cat is diagnosed with cancer your vet might recommend that surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy be used to help treat the illness. Some factors which influence the success of cancer treatment in cats include the type of cancer, extent of its spread, and the location of the tumor. 

What should I do if my cat is sick?

If your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, it is essential to bring them to a vet as soon as possible. Many cat illnesses progress quickly and can become very serious in just a short period of time.

If your cat is showing signs of illness that indicate emergency treatment may be required, contact our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews immediately for assistance.

Caring for Pets in Matthews

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency service accepts all clients.

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