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No one wants their cat to become poorly, but knowing what to look out for when they do can be a real help. We’ve put together a guide of some common conditions cats can get.

The symptoms of a sick cat

Cats are experts at hiding when something is wrong, so it can be really hard to tell if your cat is ill or feeling unwell. If there is something wrong with your cat you might find the signs are very subtle. The best way to know if there is something wrong with your cat is by having regular check-ups at the vet and visiting your vet if you think there is something wrong straight away.

Different diseases and conditions will have different symptoms, but generally the signs your cat is unwell might include:

  • hiding more
  • drinking more or less than usual
  • being off their food
  • sleeping more than usual
  • sudden weight loss
  • change in their grooming habits (for example, overgrooming or stopping altogether)

You can read more about the signs of pain in cats in our guide.

What are the most common cat illnesses?

Sadly, our cats can get all sorts of illnesses and diseases. However, there are certain illnesses and problems that vets see more often in our feline friends. See below to find out more.


Fleas are really common in cats (and other pets). They make your cat itchy and uncomfortable by biting them. If your cat has fleas, you’ll notice them scratching more, they might have flea bites on them and you might find flea bites on yourself!

The best way to stop fleas is by regularly treating your cat and any other pets in your home with a flea treatment from your vet. You should also treat your home, as fleas lay their eggs in carpets and soft furnishings. You can find out more about fleas in our guide.


Worms are another common parasite and there are two types your cat can get. You might notice your cat has an itchy bum and may have an upset tummy. You may even see parts of the worm in your cat’s bed or their poo.

You can treat worms by making sure you get a worm treatment regularly from your vet. Read more about worms in our guide.

Cat flu

Just like us, cats can also get a type of flu (specific to cats – humans can’t catch cat flu and cats can’t catch human flu). It can cause a runny nose, sore eyes and in very extreme cases can be fatal.

The best way to prevent your cat falling ill from cat flu is to get them vaccinated and keep on top of any regular boosters. You can read more about cat flu in our guide, or read our information on vaccinating your cat.


Cats can develop diabetes a lot like humans and will often need insulin injections to manage their condition. Overweight cats are more at risk of developing diabetes than cats who are a healthy weight, so it’s important to feed your cat a healthy, balanced diet to keep them in shape.

Signs of diabetes can include drinking more, losing weight and sleeping more than normal. If your cat has any of these symptoms you should take them to the vet for a check as soon as possible. Find out more about diabetes in cats in our guide.

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)

FeLV is a fatal disease. It is passed between cats through infected saliva by sharing water bowls, mating or fighting. Early symptoms include respiratory infections that keep coming back and tummy problems.

FeLV can be prevented in cats by getting them vaccinated and keeping infected cats away from other cats. You can read more about FeLV in our guide.

Feline parvovirus/feline infectious enteritis (FIE)

Feline parvovirus can cause serious illness in cats, particularly kittens, and is sadly often fatal. Signs include vomiting, being hungry and thirsty but not able to eat or drink, and watery diarrhoea. If you think your cat has feline parvovirus it’s important to get treatment from your vet urgently.

You can prevent your cat getting this disease by making sure they are vaccinated. Read more about the signs of feline parvovirus and how it’s treated in our guide.

Chlamydia felis

Chlamydia felis infection is fairly common in cats and causes conjunctivitis and a thick yellow discharge from their eyes. Vets can usually treat the illness with eye drops, or antibiotics if the infection has spread.

If your cat has chlamydia it’s important that you wash your hands after touching them. They can also be vaccinated to reduce the effects of recurring infection. Read more about chlamydia felis in our guide.

How can I stop my cat getting ill?

Sometimes we can’t do anything to stop our cats getting poorly, but the good news is there are a lot of illnesses we can prevent.

A lot of cat diseases can easily be prevented by getting your cat vaccinated and making sure to get regular booster jabs. Cat flu, feline parvovirus and FeLV can all be kept at bay through regular vaccinations. Read more information about vaccinating your cat in our guide.

Keeping your cat healthy and feeding them the right diet can go a long way to warding off certain illnesses. Diseases like diabetes and arthritis are more likely if your cat is overweight, so keeping them slim and active can help to prevent these from developing.

Getting regular flea and worming treatments from your vet will help fend off unwanted parasites. It’s important to get a good treatment. Those you can get ‘off the shelf’ are often not very effective and it’s important to be aware that some treatments meant for dogs can be harmful to cats. It’s best to get a treatment from your vet as these will be the most effective product for your individual circumstances.

Related topics

Cat first aid 

Finding a vet 

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