The No. 1 Cat Killer and How to Notice the Warning Signs

Veterinarian with a cat
Learn to spot the warning signs of deadly cat diseases. | Cyano66/iStock/Getty Images

Our furry, feline friends bring so much joy and a whole lot of spunk to our lives. Their mischievous behavior drives us crazy and also keeps us in stitches with laughter. So when their health is in jeopardy, we spring into action in order to make sure we are doing everything we can to preserve a long and happy life for our fur baby.

Noticing the key warning signs of deadly cat diseases is crucial in keeping them healthy, so follow along in order to find out the top cat-killing diseases for which to watch.

7. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a disease that has often been compared to that of HIV in humans. A cat’s immune system gradually deteriorates, yet the disease can go unnoticed for a very long time. The snowball effect of the weakened immune system makes a feline far more susceptible to other diseases. However, once the disease begins to really show itself, it becomes crucial for the cat to receive medical attention. The good news? After a diagnosis, a well-cared-for indoor cat can live for months and even years.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Inflamed gums, mouth, and eyes
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Messy coat of fur
  • Anemia
  • Wounds that can’t seem to properly heal

Next: It’s not only humans who are diagnosed with this disease.

6. Diabetes

Ginger cat lies on bed
Obese cats are at risk. | Aksenovko/iStock/Getty Images

Surprisingly, diabetes is far more common in cats than many people know. This means that just like humans, a cat is unable to produce enough insulin to keep its blood sugar levels in check. While deaths can occur if the disease is not treated, a host of other ailments come into play as well — motor function issues and severe depression. Additionally, obese cats are more susceptible to the disease. Regardless, visiting a veterinarian to get the disease under control is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive water consumption
  • Excessive urination
  • Depression

Next: If caught, this disease can be treated. 

5. Hyperthyroidism

dog and cat eating out of same bowl
Increased thirst is a symptom. | Humonia/iStock/Getty Images

Hyperthyroidism is the most common of all glandular diseases and simply means that a cat’s thyroid is producing too much of the thyroxine-a hormone. It is uncommon to encounter this sort of disorder in younger cats, as it greatly impacts the geriatrics. Nevertheless, it can be deadly. As for treatment, a few options exist — medication, thyroid removal, or radioactive iodine therapy. If you notice any warning signs, get your cat to the vet.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Disheveled appearance
  • Panting
  • Increased water consumption and urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity

Next: You’ll set a reminder not to forget this one preventative measure.

4. Heartworms

orange cat lying down
Prevent this deadly disease with regular heartworm medication. |

Forgetting to give your cat its heartworm medication can cause serious repercussions for your cat. And this is not new information. Once a cat becomes infected with roundworms (heartworms), the trajectory can be devastating, sometimes killing your beloved kitty. When a cat is bitten by a mosquito carrying roundworm larvae, the chances of succumbing to infection is extremely high. If these warning signs become present, get your cat to the vet.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Coughing
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting

Next: This disease can cause anorexia in cats.

3. Feline Infectious Peritonitis

cat lying down
Lethargy is a symptom. | botamochi/iStock/Getty Images

Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also known as FIP, is caused by the coronavirus and attacks the cells of the cat’s intestinal wall. The unfortunate problem is that a clear-cut diagnostic test cannot be run to determine if the cat has FIP. There are tests, however, that measure the levels of coronavirus antibodies and the level of lymphocytes and globulins in the body. This is all the more reason to get your cat to the veterinarian if you notice these warning signs.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Extreme weight loss and anorexia
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Fever that can’t be treated with antibiotics

Next: Is your cat excessively coughing?

2. Heart disease

British shorthair cat in a box
Look for weakness and a lack of appetite. | GooDween123/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to heart disease in cats, early detection is imperative but not always easy. Opposite of dogs, cats manage to be less forthcoming with symptoms. Also, heart disease is seen slightly less in cats than dogs. Nevertheless, the most common heart-related disease is adult onset cardiomyopathy, and experts believe it could be caused by lifestyle and genetics. If you notice any of the following warning signs, visit your veterinarian’s office immediately.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Coughing
  • Inability to normally walk
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Weakness and collapsing

Next: This number one killer may surprise you.

1. Feline Leukemia Virus

vet with cat and dog
Have a vet see your cat right away. | humonia/iStock/Getty Images

Besides bodily trauma, Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is the No. 1 cat-killing disease, and unfortunately, the outlook after diagnosis is not very bright. Nearly 85% of diagnosed felines have just three years to live post-diagnosis. A difficult reality is that the disease is transmitted from cat to cat by way of saliva, feces, blood, and urine, meaning that it may difficult to prevent for outdoor cats. Because the cat’s immune system takes the biggest hit, FeLV opens a cat up to a host of other illnesses as well. Anemia and lymphoma can occur as a byproduct of the disease. These warning signs mean you need to get your kitty to the vet.

Look for the warning signs: 

  • Jaundice look to eyes and mouth
  • Pale gums
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Laziness and weakness
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