Signs of Illness in Cats

Signs of Illness in Cats

The best way to tell if a cat is poorly is to know how it behaves when healthy. Cats are incredibly good at hiding an illness which means even subtle changes in behaviour can indicate a serious change in health. Obviously in a Cattery situation this is difficult which is why all cats are closely monitored.

General behaviour changes to look out for include:

  • Eating / Drinking
  • Energy
  • Sleeping
  • Grooming
  • Toilet Habits
  • Weight
  • Temperament
  • Meowing

It is also important to realise that with some of the traits listed above both positive and negative changes in can indicate a problem. For example, a cat who has come into contact with rat poison will probably have a decreased appetite but a cat who has worms may have an increased appetite.

Checking the Cat’s Eyes

Cats have great eyesight which comes in very handy for not only hunting but expressing emotion. It is therefore very important that their eyes are in tip top condition. If you think the cat may have impaired vision then there are a few ways you can check before taking it to the vet.

  1. Physical Appearance of Eyes – if the eye looks cloudy or has any visible surface scratches then this can be indicative of a problem.
  2. Move Something Towards the Cat’s Eyes Slowly – when settled with its eyes open you can move your hand or a toy towards its eyes slowly. If the cat doesn’t focus on the item or react as you move the toy towards its eyes then there may be a problem with the cat’s vision.
  3. Shine A Light in Your Cat’s Eyes – using a small torch or reading light you can shine light into the cat’s eyes. A healthy response is for the pupil to shrink/constrict and for the cat to blink, squint or turn away. A blind cat will show little to no change to a light being shined in its eyes.
  4. Place Your Cat on a chair and Observe How it Gets Down – a healthy cat will jump without a second thought but cats with vision impairments may reach out with their paws as if they are trying to determine where the floor is before they jump.

Checking the Cat’s Ears

When you think about cats you will almost certainly picture their iconic ears. Cats have great hearing and have the ability to point their ears in order to improve their hearing in a certain direction. With such big ears it is unsurprising that they can suffer from a range of ear problems.

Some easy checks you can do include:

  1. Dirt and Wax – a little bit of dirt or wax is normal so you are really looking for an excessive build up. Its best to know what the cat’s ears look like when they are healthy so you can determine what is excessive for the cat.
  2. Blood, Redness or Inflammation – any of these symptoms can indicate injury or infection.
  3. Smell – Smelly ears is usually a sign of an ear infection.
  4. Itching or Scratching – if the cat has itchy ears then it may well have picked up some ear mites.

If any of the above symptoms are present then you should take the cat to the vet for a check-up.

Checking the Cat’s Mouth

Cats have over 130 types of bacteria living in their mouths that cause disease. Yet they still have cleaner mouths than humans. But just like us, cats can have problems with their teeth and gums. If you start to notice the cat eating less due to problems with its jaw or mouth then the chances are it has been a problem for a long time already.

How to check a cat’s mouth

  1. Make sure your cat is relaxed – the best time to check a cat’s mouth is when it is settled and relaxed on your lap.
  2. Lift the flaps of its gums – either side of the top jaw where the whiskers come out you can lift back the skin to expose the teeth and gums. Be careful not to put your fingers directly into her cat’s mouth as it may bite you.
  3. Examine the teeth and gums and take note of any changes in breath smell.
  4. Gum colour – Healthy gums are usually pink. Brown, black and red gums are a sign of gum disease.
  5. Gum recession – A cat with gum problems may show gum recession. This is where the gum moves away from the tooth and can expose the tooth’s root.
  6. Plaque and Tartar – If you notice plaque or tartar build up on the cat’s teeth then it’s possible that serious tooth decay is happening underneath.
  7. Bleeding gums – any blood on the gums or teeth is a sure sign of a serious gum problem.
  8. Broken or loose teeth – it’s important to notice any broken teeth quickly as they can cause a lot of pain, especially if left for a long time.
  9. Lumps and bumps on gums – abnormal tissue growth on the gums can indicate an array of problems so best to get them checked out asap.
  10. Swollen gums – this usually occurs if there is an abscess in the mouth which can be very painful.
  11. Breath – cats aren’t known for their fresh smelling breath. But if you notice the cat’s breath is particularly stinky then this may indicate an underlying mouth problem.

If you notice any of the above problems with the cat’s mouth then a visit to the vet as soon as possible is in order. It’s always best to get the cat checked out by a vet when you suspect a mouth problem as these can be quick to progress, and significantly reduce the quality of life for the cat.

Giving the Cat Medicine

If the vet has prescribed the medicine then it is likely that they will have given directions on how to administer it. It is always best to follow the advice the vet gives you, but below are some generalised instructions for each medication type.

Giving a Cat Pills and Liquid Medication

  1. Get the medicine ready – whether it’s a pill or a syringe you should have it prepped before you get hold of the cat. This prevents messing around with packets of syringes when you are holding the cat.
  2. Wrap the cat up in a towel or blanket leaving only their head exposed – the chances are the cat won’t enjoy being given the medicine and will try to get away. Restraining them really is the kindest thing to do as it allows you to be as quick as possible when giving the medicine. If the cat is particularly wriggly then you may wish to enlist help so that one of you can restrain whilst the other gives the medicine.
  3. Open the cat’s mouth – use your thumb and middle or ring finger to gently open the cat’s jaws whilst the crown of the cat’s head is in your palm. Be careful not to put your fingers into the cat’s mouth to avoid being bitten.
  4. Put the medication into the cat’s mouth – with pills you should aim to get the pill onto the back of the cat’s tongue (using a pill pusher helps a lot) and with liquid medication you should try to dispense the medicine at the back of the cat’s cheek.
  5. Close the cat’s mouth, lift their chin and gently stroke its throat – this will encourage the cat to swallow and reduce the possibility of the cat spitting out the medicine. End by praising the cat and showing affection so they don’t see the whole process as negative.

Giving the Cat Eye Drops

Eye drops are very straightforward to administer but do require some care to ensure that no further damage to the eye takes place by accident.

Clean the cat’s eyes – if you are giving the cat eye drops then there is a good chance the cat’s eyes will be gungy or crusty. Before giving eye drops you should take the time to clean off any muck with a damp cotton wool ball.

  1. Get the medicine ready – take off any dropper caps and unscrew any lids. You don’t want to have to fiddle around with this whilst you are trying to hold the cat steady.
  2. Wrap the cat up in a towel or blanket leaving only their head exposed – this keeps them restrained and allows you the best control of them whilst you are administering the drops.
  3. Gently lift the cat’s eyelids and apply the drops to the eye – be careful not to hold the bottle too close to the eye because a sudden head jerk could result in a scratched eyeball.
  4. Allow the cat to blink – then re-administer as many times as prescribed but make sure you finish with a tasty treat for the cat. This will help make the experience less negative.

Giving the Cat Ear Drops

Ear drops may be prescribed if the cat gets a bacterial or yeast infection in one or both ears. They may also be prescribed if the cat has an infestation of ear mites – a lesser known parasite that lives inside the ear causing an irritating itch.

  1. Get the medicine ready – unscrew the cap of the dropper bottle and place the bottle somewhere handy. You don’t want to have to worry about undoing the cap when you are trying to hold the cat steady.
  2. Wrap the cat up in a towel or blanket leaving only their head exposed – most cats won’t put up much of a fuss with ear drops but it’s always best to have the cat completely secure to avoid injuries to either of you.
  3. Tilt the cat’s head to one side and fold back the ear flap – with your other hand you can apply the required number of drops from the bottle.
  4. Massage the side of the cat’s head around the ear – this helps the medication move down the ear canal. You can now switch to the other ear.
  5. Give the cat a treat – this helps make the whole process less negative and should make it easier to apply ear drops next time.

Giving the Cat Spot-On Medication

It is highly likely that you will find yourself applying this type of treatment to a cat at some point because it is the most effective way to treat fleas, ticks, and ear mites.

  1. Prepare the medicine – spot on treatment usually come in pipette form and you may need to break the tip off before you get hold of the cat.
  2. Hold the cat gently – spot on is so easy to apply you just need the cat relaxed rather than restrained.
  3. Apply the medicine – part the fur between the cat’s shoulder blades so that you can see their skin and apply the pipette directly to the skin. We place the spot on here so that the cat can’t lick it off.


Parasites can affect almost any living thing. From trees to humans there is always an organism that has evolved to feed off the biological success of others. By definition parasites are any living organisms that live on or in another organism by acquiring nutrients at the host’s expense.

Cats are certainly not immune to parasites and below are the four most common parasites in cats.


Fleas are the number 1 most common parasite to infect cats.


Cats catch fleas off each other, other animals and from furniture or carpets that are infested. Fleas live on the fur of animals and can jump over 30 cm, this means they can easily jump between animals with close contact. This is why cats can become infected with fleas so easily.

The female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day on the skin of a cat. With so many eggs being laid it is easy for eggs to fall off the cat and onto any furniture, carpets or cat beds. These eggs hatch and develop from larvae into adult fleas which detect any warm blooded animal in close proximity and jump onto them.

Signs and Symptoms

Below is a list of common signs and symptoms that a cat has fleas:

  • Intense scratching and/or biting of their fur
  • Patchy fur or hair loss
  • Constant grooming
  • Restlessness
  • Avoidance of their bed and/or carpeted areas (if they associate these areas with more flea bites then they may be conditioned to avoid them)
  • Skin lesions, scaly skin, red patches, rashes and scabby areas on the skin
  • Little black specs in the cat’s fur (flea faeces)
  • Small red/brown/black insects in the cat’s fur – the actual fleas
  • Muscle loss, lethargy, pale gums – in serious cases where the fleas are enough of a problem to reduce the red blood cell count


Fleas are really easy to treat. The most common type of flea treatment is a spot-on treatment that is usually combined for fleas, ticks and sometimes ear mites too.


Ticks are a fairly common parasite that are usually found on cats in the Spring or Summer months.


They lie in wait on tall grass or bushes for a warm-blooded animal to pass by. At this point they latch on and crawl down through the fur and use their mouthparts to attach themselves to the skin of their host. Here they will feed on the animal’s blood and swell up to the size of a pea.

Signs and Symptoms

Cats will show very little symptoms if they have a tick. The best way to know if a cat has a tick is to give them a full body check regularly. Ticks are most commonly found around the head or neck and may resemble a skin tag. They have grey, brown, black or creamy appearance and can be very small (pin head), or fairly large (size of a large pea), and everything in between.


Because ticks don’t reproduce as quickly as fleas you will usually only find one tick on a cat – particularly if you are checking regularly. If this is the case and the cat doesn’t have fleas then the simplest treatment is to remove the tick. An improperly removed tick can lead to infection or abscess.

Spot-on treatments offer constant protection from ticks by poisoning and killing them after they bite the cat. This may be the most suitable treatment if a cat is regularly getting ticks.

Ear Mites

A lot of people are surprised when they hear that ear mites are a common parasite for cats. These little critters live in the ear (both in and out of the ear canal) and feed off the skin and oils secreted by the ear.


Ear mites are easily passed between all animals. For example, a cat can easily be infected by a rodent that it has caught, if that rodent had ear mites. Fortunately, humans don’t get infected with ear mites so you shouldn’t be itching your ears whilst reading this.

Signs and Symptoms

Below is a list of some common signs and symptoms that could indicate ear mites:

  • Regular shaking of the head
  • Constant itching of the ears
  • Raw, bloody and sore patches around the ears (from incessant scratching)
  • Smelly ears
  • Waxy/Dirty ears

If a cat shows one or more of these symptoms then the best thing to do is take it to the vet for a check-up.


Ear mites are pretty straight forward to treat but may require a vet visit. Some spot-on treatments will kill ear mites but if you take the cat to the vet then they will probably prescribe some ear drops.


Roundworms, Tapeworms and Hookworms can all infect cats. By far the most common are the Roundworm species: Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina, but all worms require similar treatment and show similar symptoms.


Cats become infected with worms when they ingest the worm’s eggs, if an infected flea bites them, or if they eat an animal that is already infected (intermediate host). Cats that are infected will have worms living in their large intestine and will release worm eggs in their faeces.

It is extremely common for kittens to become infected with Toxocara cati Roundworms when suckling, because worms can be passed on from mother to kitten via the milk. This happens when an infected mother has worm larvae dormant in her body tissue that move to the mammary glands when she is pregnant. Because this is so common it is assumed that all kittens are infected and need worming treatment before leaving for a new home.

Signs and Symptoms

Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate a cat is infected with a type of worm:

  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Regular vomiting
  • Loose or bloody stools
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Appearance of segments or eggs in stool
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Itchy bottom


Worms are treated by giving a cat deworming medicine. There is a huge variety of products that usually come in liquid or pill form. These medicines will kill the worms but do not offer lasting protection so you will need to re-administer the medicine if you suspect a cat has been re-infected.

Common Cat Health Problems

Just like us cats have their fair share of sniffles, tummy aches and injuries. It is unsurprising that cats become poorly and injure themselves when you consider the environment that most of them are exposed to.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

For cats that live outside, vomiting and diarrhoea can be fairly common. A cat is likely to be hunting and eating all sorts of things that may give it an upset stomach.

Vomiting or diarrhoea isn’t usually anything to worry about and it’s fairly easy to manage. It’s recommended that you don’t feed a cat for 24 hours, however if it are asking for food you can feed it something bland that is soothing for the stomach such as boiled rice and chicken. You should have plenty of water on offer for the cat as well, but be careful not to give it too much as this can cause further vomiting.

If the vomiting or diarrhoea is continuous for a prolonged period of time you should take the cat to the vets. The vet might prescribe anti sickness tablets.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

This is a term that refers to diseases or infections that cause problems with a cats urinary tract (UT). Bacterial infections are the most common cause of UT diseases but bladder stones, anatomical defects, cancer, or a blockage in the urethra can also be causes. It can sometimes be difficult to identify symptoms of a FLUTD if a cat does its business out of sight.


  • Blood in the urine
  • Painful or difficult urination-the cat may be straining to urinate or yowl in pain
  • The cat is frequently urinating
  • Urinating in unusual places such as not in the litter tray
  • Overgrooming in their genital area due to soreness and irritation of the urethra
  • Inability to urinate

If you notice any of the above symptoms you should take the cat to the vets. Depending on the cause of the urinary tract problem the treatment will vary from a course of antibiotics to an operation to remove bladder stones. Increasing water intake by feeding wet food instead of dry food and encouraging frequent urination can help to relieve symptoms of a urinary tract disease, however you should still take the cat to the vets.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Bacterial and viral infections in a cat’s respiratory system are quite common. Cats with flat faces such as the Persian or the Himalayan Cat are prone to upper respiratory infection (URI). URI’s are common in cats living in high densities, such as cats in catteries, shelters or if there are lots of cats living under one roof. URI’s are more commonly caused by viruses, and can be spread through coughing, sneezing, or the sharing of water and food bowls. The two most common viruses that cats can be carriers of is Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus which can cause 80-90% of all contagious upper respiratory problems.


  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose/nasal discharge
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

Viral infection can sometimes develop into bacterial infections which are more serious. It is important that if you notice any of the above symptoms you take the cat to the vets before the infection develops into something more serious. Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics to clear the infection and sometimes the cat may need to be isolated to avoid passing the infection on to other cats.

Eye Problems

Eye problems are quite common in cats. The most common eye infections are Conjunctivitis, third eyelid protrusion, Keratitis, Cataracts, Glaucoma, bulging eye, retinal disease, and watery eyes.

Symptoms of a potential eye infection include

  • Redness
  • Bulging/swelling
  • Discharge
  • Watering/streaming eyes
  • Cloudiness
  • Closed or partially closed eyes

If you notice any of these symptoms you should take the cat to the vet. Treatment can vary depending on the cause of the eye infection. It is most likely that you will be given some eye drops to administer, but some eye conditions can require surgery.

Kidney Disease

Unfortunately, kidney disease is pretty common in cats, particularly older cats. This is due to the fact that cats urinate much less frequently than dogs or humans. Cat’s kidneys hold very highly concentrated urine, so their kidneys are constantly working quite hard. If not treated early, kidney disease can be fatal.

Symptoms of kidney failure or infection include

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Change in water consumption
  • Pain when you touch their kidney area
  • Straining to urinate
  • Pain when urinating
  • Failing to use their litter box/urinating in unusual places
  • Bloody or cloudy urine

If you suspect a cat may have a kidney infection it is very important that you get it to the vets. Some kidney infections can be fatal but if they are diagnosed and treated early enough the cat can fully recover.


Broken bones can be fairly common in cats as they are allowed  to roam freely, exposing them to a higher risk of injury. Cats most often break their bones when they’ve been hit by a car, misjudge a leap or fall from a height. Cats most commonly fracture the femur (thigh bone), the jaw, the tail, the pelvis (hip), or vertebrae (back). Fractures can vary in severity from a hairline fracture (just a crack in the bone), to a compound fracture (the bone protrudes from the cat’s skin).

Symptoms of A Fracture

  • Vocalisation- crying, meowing, yowling, growling
  • Not walking or putting any weight on a limb
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not grooming themselves
  • Swelling at the fracture site

If the cat has a fractured bone you must get it to the vets as soon as you can. Treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture. Some fractures may need an operation, but some just require immobilization and the cat will have to wear a cast or splint for 4-6 weeks. It is important that you restrict its activity whilst it is healing. The vet will advise you on how best to do this.


Diabetes is another fairly common condition in cats, particularly older cats. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas into the bloodstream. It acts on cell membranes allowing glucose to enter the cells and provide energy. Just like humans, cats can suffer from type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, thereby reducing the amount of glucose that can enter the cells. Type 2 (which is most common in cats), is when the cells in the body do not respond to the insulin, so again the cells can’t utilize glucose. Diabetes can be fatal if it goes unnoticed, but is very manageable and won’t reduce the cat’s quality of life. The symptoms of diabetes will change if the disease goes untreated.

Early stage signs

  • Increased frequency in urination
  • Excessive drinking and eating

Later stage signs

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Acetone breath
  • Dehydration
  • Laboured breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Coma

If the cat displays the above symptoms you will need to take it to the vet. The vet will do a blood or urine test to assess glucose levels and quickly tell you if the cat has diabetes. Treatment will involve administering insulin injections daily and regulating the cat’s diet. The vet will show you how to administer the injections. The needles are very small and sharp and the cat shouldn’t be too bothered by them, and will soon become accustomed to the injections.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease affects 85% of cats over the age of 2 in one form or another. Periodontal disease can be prevented by brushing the cat’s teeth daily. There are two types of periodontal disease; Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Periodontal disease is the result of a build-up of plaque which hardens into calculus (tartar) and irritates the gums. Calculus is a hard brown or yellow substance which is a mixture of calcium phosphate and carbonate and causes both gingivitis and periodontitis.


Gingivitis is the inflammation and receding of the gum around the teeth. This is caused by calculus building up and pushing the gum away from the teeth. Small pockets in the gum can form trapping food. Bacteria thrive in these small pockets causing inflammation and infection.


  • Red or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • Calculus build up


Severe gingivitis can result in periodontitis which is the infection of the tooth socket. This can result in loss of teeth and painful abscesses in the mouth.


  • Foul smelling breath
  • Inflamed gums
  • Licking at food or not eating at all
  • Weight loss
  • Severe calculus build-up
  • Pockets of pus in the gums
  • Tooth loss
  • Abscesses

Treatment of periodontal disease involves professional teeth cleaning by the vet. The vet will scale and polish teeth removing tartar build up, drain pus pockets, and remove any damaged teeth restoring the mouth back to its original state. After care should involve a good dental hygiene routine.

Cat Diseases – Symptoms and Treatment

Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE)

FIE is a disease caused by a type of virus called a parvovirus which is why it is sometimes referred to as Feline parvoviral enteritis. This disease is highly contagious and can be fatal in cats. FIE can also be referred to as Feline panleukopenia because one of the symptoms is a low white blood cell count (leukopenia).


The disease can be spread by fleas as well as through direct contact with an infected cat’s bodily fluids. The virus can remain active on all manner of items including food dishes, bedding or even owner’s clothes. This makes it easy for the disease to spread very quickly, or over long distances and is one of the reasons it is highly recommended for vaccination.


The disease affects the cat’s intestines by causing ulceration and it eventually kills the cells that line the intestinal wall. The symptoms of this are extreme bloody diarrhoea, malnutrition, dehydration, anaemia (low red blood cell count), death and as mentioned previously leukopenia. The serious nature of this disease is another reason why preventative treatment in the form of a vaccine is highly recommended.


If you suspect a cat does have FIE then you must take it to the vet immediately as the disease can kill within 24 hours. The treatment involves aggressive antiviral medication as well as antibiotics and rehydration therapy.

Feline Herpes Virus (FHV)

FHV is the most common virus to affect the upper respiratory tract of cats. The disease is highly contagious and infected cats will often remain latently infected (not show any symptoms), which makes them lifelong carriers of the virus. Fortunately, it is rare for a latently infected cat to pass on the virus. It is possible that stress, or another health problem that weakens the infected cat’s immune system can cause the virus to resurface.


The disease can be spread between cats by direct contact with an infected cat’s bodily fluids. This is possible through sharing food bowls or bedding, being handled by a human who has previously handled an infected cat, and more obvious things like being bitten by an infected cat.


FHV commonly causes an acute infection of the upper respiratory tract. This presents itself through things like conjunctivitis, sneezing, fever, coughing, lethargy, salivation and nasal discharge. Symptoms can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks with the cat usually remaining infectious for about 3 weeks. In rare, chronic cases of FHV infection it is possible for cats to develop FHV dermatitis. This causes crusty patches, ulcers and scabs around the cat’s head, face and sometimes forelimbs.


The best treatment is preventative treatment in the form of a vaccine. It is highly recommended for all cats in the UK. However, if you suspect your cat has FHV then you should take it to the vet immediately. The vet will probably prescribe antibiotics to treat the risk of a secondary bacterial infection as well as antiviral therapy to treat the FHV itself.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

FCV is the second most common virus to affect the upper respiratory tract of cats. The disease is very adaptable which makes it difficult to treat. This is because the virus can quickly change and become resistant to antiviral treatments and/or the cat’s immune system. Vaccinations against FCV do not always prevent the disease, but are highly recommended because it is believed that vaccinated cats that become infected will have much milder symptoms than non-vaccinated individuals. A highly infectious and resistant form of FCV known as Virulent Systemic FCV (VS-FCV) can cause life threatening infection.


Just like FIE and FHV, FCV can be spread between cats by direct contact with an infected cat’s bodily fluids. This is possible through sharing of food bowls and bedding, being handled by a human who has previously handled an infected cat and more obvious things like being bitten by an infected cat. Fortunately for us the virus can’t be passed to humans and only affects domestic cats and Cheetahs.


FCV will commonly cause an acute infection of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include eye and nasal discharge as well as fever, ulcers around the mouth, face and claws, lethargy, loss of appetite and pneumonia. VS-FCV may also cause arthritis, lameness, fever and multiple organ failure.


Regardless of whether a cat has been vaccinated or not, if you suspect it may be infected with FCV you should take it to the vet immediately. Depending on the symptoms presented it is common for antibiotics, immunomodulators (aids the cat’s immune system), corticosteroids and rehydration therapy to be prescribed.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FLV)

FLV is a common cause of death in domestic cats, along with old age, traffic accidents and kidney failure. One of the diseases that can be caused by FLV is a type of cancer called leukaemia, hence the name Feline Leukaemia Virus. Vaccinations for FLV are highly recommended for cats that will be allowed outside but won’t routinely be offered to indoor only cats. This is because an indoor only cat is highly unlikely to come into contact with the virus.


The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids such as blood and faeces but doesn’t survive for long outside of the body. Fortunately for us the virus only affects cats, so there is no risk of it being passed on to humans or your other pets. FLV is most common in stray or feral cats. These cats can then pass it on to pet cats if they fight at night. In a multi-cat household it is easy for the virus to spread through close contact and sharing of food bowls and beds. It is also possible for a mother cat to pass on FLV to her kittens.


When the virus takes hold it can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the cat’s immune system. This opens the door to all sorts of infections and other illnesses that can take advantage of a reduced immune system (such as leukaemia). Symptoms that can indicate FLV infection include diarrhoea, fever, pale gums, weight loss, sterility, jaundice, anaemia, swollen glands and inflammation of the mouth and face.


Cats that are at risk of becoming infected with FLV should be vaccinated against it. If you suspect a cat has been infected by FLV (whether they are vaccinated or not) then you should take it to the vet immediately. The vet may prescribe immunomodulators to aid the cat’s immune system as well as other drugs to treat any visible symptoms such as antibiotics and rehydration therapy

Feline Bordetellosis

Feline Bordetellosis is caused by a bacterium rather than a virus. It infects the upper respiratory tract and is often referred to as ‘kennel cough’ because of the symptoms it produces and the fact that it is most common in multi animal households or catteries. The main difference is that if a cat is infected then the disease is much easier to treat because the vet can prescribe antibiotics. This, alongside the fact that the bacterium is not commonly found in cats is why the vaccine is not as highly recommended as others.

This disease is not routinely recommended for vaccination in the UK but vaccines are available and may be needed if travelling to other countries.


The Bordetella bacterium can be transferred between cats, dogs and even humans. It can be present in the air through sneezes and coughs where it is inhaled to infect a new victim. Because the bacterium can be passed through a sneeze or cough it is very easy for an outbreak of Bordetellosis to occur in catteries or multi cat households.


The main symptoms include coughing and sneezing. Other less common symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, mucky eyes, pneumonia, weight loss and breathing difficulties.


A vaccination for Bordetella is available for cats, but because cats are not commonly infected by the bacteria the vaccine is not routinely administered. An infected cat can do fine without any treatment because their immune system will be able to fight off the infection, but if you suspect a cat has Bordetellosis you should take it to the vet for a check-up right away. The vet will probably prescribe antibiotics which will fight off the infection very quickly.

Feline Chlamydophilosis

Chlamydophilosis is caused by a bacterium and infects the upper respiratory tract. Usually bacteria colonise areas outside of the cells like the throat or lungs, but the bacteria that causes Chlamydophilosis actually resides inside cells. Unfortunately, it is possible for cats to pass on the bacteria to humans where we may develop Chlamydia conjunctivitis (a type of eye infection).

This disease is not routinely recommended for vaccination in the UK, but vaccines are available and may be needed if travelling to other countries.


The bacteria that causes Chlamydophilosis cannot survive for long outside the body but it is possible for the bacteria to be transmitted via contact with an infected cat’s mouth, nose or eye discharge, as well as touching contaminated furniture etc (as long as the bacteria is still alive).


It is most common for the bacteria to infect the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that surrounds the eye) which causes swelling and redness around the eye. It is common for the eyes to produce a discharge and to water profusely. Other symptoms include breathing difficulties, runny nose, weight loss, loss of appetite, coughing and fever.


The vaccine for Chlamydophilosis is only recommended for catteries or in areas where the disease has high prevalence. This is because it is easy to treat and does not spread very easily. If you suspect that a cat has Chlamydophilosis then you should take it to the vet straight away. The cat’s immune system cannot reach the bacteria if they are within cells. The vet will prescribe a longer course of antibiotics that are designed to penetrate inside cells and kill the bacteria.