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Handling Common Cat Symptoms and Diseases

Few things concern pet owners more than seeing symptoms that may lead to a sick cat or kitten.

When your cat’s eyes are dilated, when she’s feeling lethargic or when you think you’re seeing symptoms of a more serious feline disease, it can be paralyzing.

So, how do you decide what’s serious and what is normal as your cat ages? We’ve compiled several of our most helpful tips on cat health issues and dealing with different symptoms of diseases that are common to cats and kittens.

Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

There are several serious symptoms that should never be ignored in your cat. A symptom is defined as “any problem that can indicate an underlying disease” and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your cat. Here are symptoms that should never be ignored in your cat:

Common Disorders for Aging Cats

Someone once said that cats don’t age; they grow more refined. Either way, as time progresses certain illnesses can develop. By being aware of some concerns regarding older cats, you can be a more educated and prepared guardian for your aging companion. It’s important that your elderly cat receive routine veterinary care and periodic exams to keep him healthy.

Common disorders for aging cats include kidney disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dental disease and more.

As cats age, their organs also age and do not function as well as they once did. Various liver diseases are common in aging cats, including fatty liver syndrome and cirrhosis. Another concern with elderly cats is the potential to develop anemia. Whether associated with kidney disease, cancer, chronic disease or primary bone marrow disorders, anemia can cause your cat to be profoundly weak and, without treatment, may even become so severe that emergency medical help is needed.

Other Feline Symptoms to Watch

Many pet owners confuse symptom with the actual disease. A symptom is defined as a physical sign or physical sensation that is evidence a disease is present. For example, vomiting is a symptom. Vomiting can result from a variety of diseases or problems such as diabetes, liver disease, a urinary obstruction, diet changes, worms, eating something not digestible as well as viral or bacterial bugs. Symptoms have a wide variety of possible causes.

Another example is limping. Limping is a symptom. A cat could limp because of a sprain, soft tissue injury, broken bone or… due to a broken nail.

Symptoms can guide your veterinarian toward a diagnosis or help your veterinarian decide which tests would be most helpful in your pet. For example, if your pet is limping, your veterinarian may need to perform an x-ray and may not do blood work. The top 20 symptoms that occur in cats typically account for more than 35% of veterinary visits in the United States.

Average Life Expectancy in Cats

Today, cats live longer than ever. Just 20 years ago the life expectancy of a cat was four to six years; today they live 15 years or more. Life expectancy in cats depends on many things, but the most important factor is whether he is an indoor-only cat or an outdoor cat. Life expectancy varies significantly between the two.

Indoor cats generally live from 12-18 years of age. Many may live to be in their early 20s. The oldest reported cat was 28 years old at the time of death.

Outdoor cats generally live to be around four to five years of age. Their deaths are typically due to traumas such as being hit by a car or dog attacks. Outdoor cats are also more susceptible to several deadly viruses that are spread by fighting or prolonged intimate contact with an infected cat.

The Big List of Cat Diseases

Want a taste of all the diseases and conditions that can affect a cat? Be prepared, it’s overwhelming. Here is an alphabetical list of the common diseases and conditions vets see.

When to Say Goodbye

Many cats suffer with chronic diseases, such as cancer, that can often be managed in a way that life is prolonged. However, in many cats their quality of life is greatly diminished. For most cat owners this issue greatly influences the decision concerning euthanasia. Certainly, quality of life is a personal judgment; you know your animal companion better than anyone else. And while your veterinarian can guide you with objective information about diseases, and even provide a personal perspective of a disease condition, the final decision about euthanasia rests with you.

Euthanasia – often referred to as “putting a pet to sleep” or “putting an animal down” – iterally means an “easy and painless death.” It is the deliberate act of ending life, and pet owners that must make this decision often feel anxiety or even guilt.

Before the procedure is done, the pet owner will be asked to sign a paper that is an “authorization for euthanasia” or similar document. Euthanasia usually is performed by a veterinarian and is a humane and virtually painless procedure.

This unfortunate situation is one that many of our readers at have dealt with, and they’ve been kind enough to share their stories with us.