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Common cat diseases & health problems

Common cat diseases & health problems

Learn more about how to spot common cat diseases. Know what problems to look out for in your feline friend with this Sainsbury’s Bank guide.

It’s hard to imagine anything happening to your purrfect feline friend. But if the worst was to happen, it’s best to be aware of the most common cat diseases they may contract.

What are the most common cat diseases?

Cats can be pretty good at hiding what’s wrong, so as a cat parent you need to know the key signs and symptoms of cat health problems. From fleas to flu, there are several illnesses that you may need to deal with as a cat owner.

The best way to make sure your feline is fit and well is to keep up with their regular vet check-ups. This way, your vet should be able to tell if anything is wrong. If there is something out of the ordinary, there is a much better chance of them catching it early.

Cat illnesses present themselves differently, but common signs that your cat is unwell include:

  • Hiding more than usual
  • Change in drinking and eating habits
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Sudden weight loss


Fleas are a very common illness in cats – and dogs. You’ll be able to tell your cat has fleas if they are scratching more. You might notice flea bites on their body, or you may even be able to see the fleas on their fur. 

Outdoor cats are likely to pick up fleas in moist and shady areas – like leaf piles or in shrubs. They can also contract them from other cats or rodents. Indoor cats are at risk of picking up fleas from other animals in the house, as they can jump from animal to animal.

To stop your cat from getting fleas, you need to treat them regularly with a preventative treatment. You should also vacuum and wash your pet’s bedding on a hot wash to kill any eggs.


Cats can catch a variety of intestinal parasites. Some of these are referred to as worms. You may notice that your cat is itchy around its bottom, or it may have an upset stomach. You may also see parts of the worm in their bed or faeces. 

Your feline friend could catch worms from another infected animal. They may also catch them from eating raw meat infected with parasites or through eating worm eggs in faeces.

To prevent your cat from getting worms you should administer a routine worming treatment. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best treatment and method for your cat.

Cat flu

Cat flu is a common sickness in cats. It’s similar to a human cold and affects your cat’s upper respiratory tract. It’s caused by viruses and bacteria and can make your cat feel poorly with aches and pains, runny nose and eyes and a sore throat.

80% of cat flu cases are caused by Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) or Feline Calicivirus (FCV), but it can also be caused by Chlamydophila Felis. You can vaccinate your cat against some strains of FCV. If your cat is vaccinated, they tend to have much milder symptoms. 

Luckily, cat flu is not often serious in adult cats, but it’s still important that you take your cat to the vets if they catch it.


Just as in humans, cancer is a type of disease where cells grow uncontrollably and invade other cells. The disease can be localised as a tumour or generalised and spread throughout the body.

The symptoms of cat cancer vary depending on the type, but some things to keep an eye out for include:

  • Lumps
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Loss of weight or appetite
  • Lethargy 
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Limping

The best way to reduce the likelihood of your cat developing cancer is to keep them healthy. Feed them high quality cat food and establish a routine with plenty of exercise. It’s also worth limiting their sun exposure – particularly for white cats who are at greater risk of skin cancer as their fur provides less UV protection and their skin has less pigment.

You may vaccinate your cat against Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) to reduce the risk of them developing leukaemia and lymphoma. Castrating male cats can also reduce the risk of them catching Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which can make them more likely to develop cancer. Spaying your female cat while she’s young decreases the chances of her catching breast cancer.


Like humans, cats can develop diabetes. It’s caused by lack of insulin or the body’s lack of response to it.

Signs of diabetes may include:

  • Drinking more
  • Sleeping more
  • Unexplained weight loss

As overweight cats are more at risk of developing the disease, it’s important to feed your feline friend a balanced diet to try and keep them at a healthy weight. Best to go easy on the treats too.

Feline leukaemia virus 

Feline Leukaemia Virus is one of the most common cat diseases. It severely damages their immune system and causes them to be more susceptible to a number of cat health problems like anaemia, kidney disease and certain cancers. 

It’s more common in young cats and kittens as it can be passed on through birth – if the mother is FeLV positive. It can also be caught through direct contact with an infected cat.

Symptoms of FeLV are varied but can include:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pale or inflamed gums
  • Abscesses
  • Fever
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

Feline Parvovirus  

Feline Parvovirus is a potentially fatal kitten sickness but also causes serious illness in adult cats. The best way to prevent your cat from catching feline parvovirus is to vaccinate them against the disease.

The main symptoms to look out for include:

  • Vomiting 
  • Watery diarrhoea 
  • High temperature
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Stomach pain 

How to prevent your cat from getting sick

It’s scary when our furry friends take a turn for the worst and having a sick cat can be costly. The best thing that you can do to prevent your cat from getting ill is to be clued up on the signs and symptoms of common cat diseases.

It’s also a good idea to vaccinate your cat to greatly reduce the risk of them catching some of the most harmful sicknesses.

Pet insurance for cats can help to take some of the financial pressure away if your cat is diagnosed with one of these common cat illnesses.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my cat has a disease?

If your cat starts acting out of character, it could be a sign that something is wrong. This could include if they seem more lethargic or lose their appetite. Speak to your vet for advice if there are any changes in your cat’s behaviour that you are worried about.

What diseases are most common in cats?

There are a few common cat illnesses that your feline friend is at risk of contracting. These include fleas, worms, cat flu, cancer, FeLV, Feline Parvovirus and diabetes.

What is the most fatal disease in cats?

Feline Leukaemia Virus is a common cause of death in domestic cats. It’s recommended to vaccinate outdoor cats against it as they are more likely to come into contact with the virus.

What are infectious diseases in cats?

Cats can contract many infectious diseases throughout their lifetime so it’s important to keep them in tip-top shape with regular vet visits. Some of the most common infectious cat diseases include fleas, worms and FeLV.