It may come as a surprise, if you're a new cat owner, that many health problems may befall your feline friend. Some problems are easily preventable, while others are hereditary.
Hairballs are among the most common of cat health problems. Cats groom themselves almost constantly, and swallow the loose hair that comes off their tongues. Occasionally, the hair gathers into a ball and lodges in the cat's digestive tract instead of passing on through the body. If your cat starts coughing and hacking, he probably has a hairball. While the end product is unpleasant for the owner, most cats don't have a problem dislodging hairballs.
However, hairballs can occasionally pass into a cat's intestines and cause a blockage. This can be a life-threatening problem. There are a few signs to look for to see if your cat's hairball is dangerous. If your cat is constipated, off his feed, or is lethargic with a dull coat, then he could have a serious blockage. A vet exam is definitely in order.
To prevent hairballs, groom your cat frequently to remove loose hair. In addition, feed your cat food that helps control hairballs.
For many cats, worms are a recurring problem. Roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms most commonly infect cats. Cats can occasionally develop heartworms, as well. If your cat seems unable to gain wait, is infested with fleas, or has white specks that look like grains of rice in his stools, take him to the veterinarian for worm testing.
Worms are easily cured with a few doses of medication, but if left untreated, they can be fatal.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are another common health problem in cats. This infection is particularly common in unneutered male cats, although female cats can also develop this problem. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, a urinary tract infection is suspect. If your cat's urine smells strong, again a urinary tract infection may be the cause. These infections need to be treated by a veterinarian. Ask about cat foods that reduce the likelihood of another infection.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
FIP is caused by a mutation of the corona virus. According to some experts, cats living in multi-cat environments tend to test positive for enteric corona virus. Cats can live with that virus remaining quietly in the intestines with no sign of disease for their entire lifetime. In other cases, probably a genetic pre-disposition, the virus mutates into FIP.
Once a cat has contracted FIP, it will display symptoms of a mild upper respiratory infection: sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. It may also have diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy. Most cats fully recover from this primary infection, although some may become virus carriers. A small percentage of exposed cats develop lethal FIP weeks or even years after the primary infection.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV, or cat AIDS, is not always fatal. FIV decreases the ability of the cat's immune system to fight infections. Cats with FIV may remain free of symptoms for years. It is when the cat contracts other illnesses in the chronic stage of FIV infection that FIV is first suspected. This long list of illnesses includes oral-cavity infections, upper-respiratory infections, weight loss, ear infections, kidney disease, and many others. Although there is, as yet, no vaccine, all cats should be tested for the virus. The virus is transmitted through saliva, usually when a cat is bitten in a cat fight.
Feline Leukemia Virus