Domestic Cat Health Problems

The domestic cat is vulnerable to a range of common health problems. Most cat health problems aren't serious and can be easily treated. However, many common cat health problems become more serious when left untreated. Here's what you should know about the most common health problems domestic house cats face, and what you should do about them.

Symptoms of Cat Health Problems

It isn't difficult to tell when your cat is ill. Sick cats become lethargic and may seem depressed. They may lose interest in play or other activities and withdraw, or even try to hide, from their human owners. They may experience loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excessive grooming, excessive thirst, or a number of other symptoms.

Often, the first sign of illness in a domestic cat is a sudden change in personality or behavior. Since only you know how your cat normally behaves, it's up to you to monitor your cat's behavior and personality closely for changes. If your cat's personality changes or he begins behaving oddly, he could be ill. Watch closely for physical symptoms and consult your vet within 24 hours of their appearance.

Hair Balls

Hair balls are one of the most common cat health problems. Hair balls occur because hair accumulates in your cat's stomach as he grooms himself. Normally, hair balls remain small and your cat is able to cough them up. However, when hair balls grow large enough, they can cause a life threatening intestinal blockage that may require surgery.

Prevent hair balls in your domestic cat by using a commercial hair ball preventative, or by adding a teaspoon of mineral oil to your cat's food twice a day. This helps fur pass through the digestive tract, rather than accumulating in the stomach.

Plant Poisoning

Poisoning is a real danger to domestic cats, especially those who have access to poisonous plants. A range of common houseplants are poisonous to cats, and many cats suffer poisoning because they snacked on a poisonous houseplant. The ASPCA offers a complete list of those plants which are toxic to cats. Protect your cat from plant poisoning by keeping only nontoxic houseplants.


Almost every domestic cat will succumb to some sort of parasitic worm infection at some point during his life. Intestinal tapeworms are most common, and are easy to treat with oral medication. Roundworms, hookworms, lung worms and heart worms are more dangerous. Any type of parasitic worm infection can cause long term health problems if left untreated, so seek veterinary care promptly if your cat develops a worm infestation.


Viral and bacterial infections are common in cats. Antibiotics can help domestic cats recover from bacterial infections, but there's no way to cure most viral infections. Some viral infections, like feline AIDS and feline leukemia, are serious, life threatening diseases that require long term management. Protect your cat from viruses by having him vaccinated promptly; kittens should be vaccinated at the ages of 8, 12 and 16 weeks, while adult cats should be vaccinated yearly.