Kittens aren’t considered adults until they’re fully grown at one-years-old. Unfortunately, within that first year of life, your kitty is prone to many health conditions and genetic disorders within that first year of life. To learn more about your kitten’s health, keep reading.
Common Health Problems With Kittens
Every kitten can have health issues. Some of these problems come at a young age, others may be congenital disabilities, and some conditions may be flukes. You can keep your cats healthy by knowing the signs and symptoms of certain kitten diseases.
If you’re unsure, you should bring your kitten to the vet. First, however, let’s discuss some common cat health problems.
Some kittens are born with congenital deafness. White cats with blue eyes are more susceptible to being deaf.
Luckily, this doesn’t reduce their quality of life, even though there’s no cure.
Ensure your deaf kitten is as comfortable as possible at home, and keep them indoors. Then, they won’t be able to hear potential danger. Even with other cats in the house, they can get startled more quickly and play more aggressively simply because they can’t listen to cues.
Any cat at any age can get Diabetes, or they may be born with it due to genetics. Kittens can have Type I Diabetes (lack of insulin production) or Type II Diabetes (lack of insulin production and inadequate response to use the insulin).
Symptoms of this disease include increased or decreased appetite, weight loss, excessive thirst, dehydration, increased urination, urinating outside the litter box, urinary tract infections (UTIs), sweet-smelling breath, unkempt coat, and lethargy.
Diabetes is manageable with the help of your vet, medication, and proper dieting.
Ear mites are tiny, like fleas. If you notice your kitten scratching or shaking its head, check its ears. If you see small white specks (like grains of salt), they could have ear mites.
Bring them to the vet, and you’ll receive ear drops as medication. After one to two weeks, the ear mites should be gone.
Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS)
Unfortunately, there are times when the mother cat has health issues and cannot properly care for her kittens. If this is the case, then it may cause Fading Kitten Syndrome in the litter.
FKS can cause infections in the kittens, hypothermia, malnutrition, dehydration, listlessness, and fatigue.
You can help the litter by keeping them well-fed, hydrated, and warm. Sometimes, you can provide them with a foster mom through the vet or an animal shelter.
Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia (FCH)
FCH is a neurological birth defect. It often occurs when the mother has Feline Distemper while pregnant. The best way to prevent this is if the mother is vaccinated against Feline Distemper before getting pregnant.
FCH causes the kitten to have an underdeveloped cerebellum. As a result, they may have poor balance, tremors, and wobble. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but your kitten can still live a long, healthy life with this issue.
Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)
This is an illness that can be fatal if it’s not prevented. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do once your kitten gets this disease. However, there is a Feline Distemper vaccination that your kitten should get routinely at the veterinarian.
Feline Distemper is a virus that attacks your kitten’s immune system and is contagious to other cats.
Signs of this sickness are vomiting, lack of appetite, and white, mucus diarrhea. Bring your kitten to the vet right away if you see these symptoms. They’ll need to be hospitalized and quarantined.
Sadly, there is no cure for this disease, and it often doesn’t get better, resulting in death.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
This virus is tricky since symptoms may only appear for years after the kitten has been infected. However, your cat’s immune system is weakening without you realizing it.
You may notice enlarged lymph nodes, fever, weight loss, unhealed wounds, poor appetite, diarrhea, dental disease, cat behavior change, and more when they show symptoms.
FIV can be passed from cat to cat through bite marks or an infected mother to her litter. This disease is one of the many reasons to keep your cats indoors at all times.
Unfortunately, FIV cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Your vet may prescribe medication to enhance their immune system, anti-inflammatory drugs, or medicines for secondary infections.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
This particular disease mutates from Feline Coronavirus, which is often resolved independently, and your kitten won’t need any medication.
However, in some cases, it’ll mutate into FIP, which is almost always fatal. Symptoms will not show up until it’s too late. Also, these signs include lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss, which mimic symptoms of many other diseases.
FIP is most common in cat breeds such as Abyssinians, Bengals, Himalayans, Ragdolls, and Rexes.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
This disease is the most common, especially in young cats. FeLV weakens the immune system and opens it up to health issues such as anemia, kidney disease, cancer, and more.
FeLV can be passed through urine, blood, saliva, stool, a mother’s milk, sharing food and water bowls, and more. However, if your kitten is over three months old and vaccinated, there’s a good chance they will not get FeLV.
Cats with FeLV may show no signs of the disease. However, if they do, some symptoms are loss of appetite, weight loss, upper respiratory infections, fever, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, vision issues, eye problems, reproductive issues in females, chronic skin disease, changes in behavior, and more.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for FeLV.
Fleas can be common in cats, no matter what age they are. If you notice your kitten itching a lot or has a possibility of hair loss, they might have fleas.
You can tell because fleas will look like black specks (like pepper) on their fur. You can get flea and tick prevention medicine from the vet.
Alternatively, if your kitten has fleas, your vet can prescribe another type of medication to get rid of them within 24 hours.
Beware of fleas in your house: these bugs can spread to other pets in the home, clothing, and furniture, and they can even spread to you.
Heartworm is not just common in dogs, but it can also affect cats. Heartworm is caused by mosquitos carrying the disease.
If your kitten has heartworm, they may have a persistent cough, weight loss, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, depression, lethargy, vomiting, and sometimes death.
To prevent heartworm, your kitten should regularly visit the vet. Then, they can get heartworm prevention medication. If your kitten gets heartworm, they can fight the infection themselves.
However, if not diagnosed or treated right away, your cat may have long-term effects such as kidney and liver damage, heart and lung failure, or more.
This issue is not necessarily a disease that cats can “catch.” Cats and kittens alike enjoy being up high. They also enjoy climbing and jumping from high places.
However, if they lose their footing and fall from a high height, then high-rise syndrome can occur.
For example, they may get a shattered jaw, punctured lungs, broken bones, or possibly die, depending on the height of the fall.
This issue is more common in dogs than it is in cats. However, kittens can have hip dysplasia. It can be a genetic issue that can be corrected with surgery.
However, in most cases, cats can live with hip dysplasia, especially if they show no signs of it bothering them.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
This disease occurs within the heart muscle when the left ventricle thickens. It’s more common in cats under five and certain breeds, such as Maine Coon cats, Ragdolls, and Sphynx cats.
Be sure to bring your kitten to the vet for regular checkups, especially if they have HCM. In addition, they may need to see a cardiologist regularly to keep HCM at bay.
While treatable, intestinal worms are not a fun disease. Kittens are at risk for it by ingesting other cats’ fecal matter. These worms, such as Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms, burrow in the kitten’s intestines.
Symptoms include weight loss and diarrhea. You can bring your kitten to the vet and get them routinely dewormed to avoid this issue altogether.
In addition, keep an eye on your kitten when litter box training to ensure they don’t eat stool.
Coccidia is another intestinal worm that can be caused by ingesting poop. In addition to diarrhea, your kitten may show signs of dehydration and lack of appetite.
This particular disease can be cured with medication from the vet.
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
Often found in Persian cats, PKD is a genetic kidney disease. In most cases, this doesn’t get diagnosed until later in life since it takes a while for symptoms to appear.
Ringworm is a fungus that can infect the skin, nails, and hair. Not only can it spread from cat to cat, but it can also spread to other animals in the home and the people living there.
Symptoms include skin lesions, flaky bald patches in the fur, dandruff, or skin infections.
If diagnosed with ringworm, your vet may prescribe oral medication or medically treated shampoo.
Upper Respiratory Infections
These types of diseases are common in kittens and cats alike. Unfortunately, however, they can be fatal to kittens, especially if they’re only a few weeks old.
Upper Respiratory Infections may be Feline Calicivirus, Feline Herpes (Rhinotracheitis), or cat flu. These diseases can be spread from cat to cat. However, if your kitten is vaccinated, their symptoms may be milder.
Symptoms of this health issue are sneezing, runny nose, yellow discharge from the eyes, and lethargy. If you also notice that your kitten has difficulty breathing or has stopped eating, you’ll need to bring them to the vet for a check-up.
In most cases, they won’t need medical attention. However, you can help them get through this illness with lots of rest, ensure they stay hydrated, and quarantine them from other cats.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Bladder issues can be common in kittens. Urinary Tract Infections are no different. You may notice your kitten has a UTI if you notice them peeing outside the litter box, have difficulty, or have blood in their urine.
You can bring your kitten to the vet, who will give your cat medication.
Question Corner: FAQs About Kitten Health Issues
Read through the frequently asked questions answered below if you’d like to learn more about kittens and their overall health.
How Soon Should I Bring My Kitten To The Vet?
You should bring your kitten to the vet within 24 hours of adopting it. When adopting a kitten, they should be at least eight weeks old. After that, they’re ready for a few vaccinations, and the vet can give them a healthy check-up.
Are Kittens Prone To Respiratory Issues?
Yes, they are. Kittens have weak immune systems. At eight weeks old, the immunity they receive from their mother begins to wear off. In addition, respiratory issues are airborne, so if you have other animals in the home, your kitten is prone to getting respiratory diseases.
How Often Should I Take My Kitten To The Vet?
You should bring your kitten to the vet a few times during the first year. You can keep them up to date with their vaccinations and track their overall growth and development. As an adult, you bring your cat to the vet at least once a year for its annual physical.
Monitor Your Kitten’s Health
Genetics can play a role in your kitten’s overall health. However, suppose you keep your house clean (including the litter box) and monitor your kitten’s appetite, bathroom needs, and general behavior. You can nip most of these diseases before they have time to harm your kitten.
Rachel Poli is a content writer and author, but her real job is being a stay-at-home pet mom. Her zoo currently consists of a dog, a cat, two turtles, and two fish tanks. She’s also an avid pet sitter for a few local families, caring for various animals.
After realizing how little information there is for pet sitters on the internet, Rachel decided to start her own animal website. She strives to educate pet parents and pet sitters about the overall care of our furry friends.