Health problems to look out for in your cat

Our cats are part of the family and are very much creatures of habit, so often the first thing you might notice is a change of routine. Your cat might behave differently, either being more or less affectionate. These signs can be difficult to interpret, even if we do notice them despite our busy lives.


Young, healthy cats are brilliant at climbing and jumping. As they get older, many cats will develop some arthritis in their back and leg joints. This is a gradual change and you may only see subtle changes in your cat’s mobility. Some cats with arthritis will limp, but many do not and they may be reluctant to run, jump and climb as they used to. They may just have a decreased activity level, be quieter than they used to be or appear to be more grumpy! Treatment can be very successful so do talk to your vet. Never be tempted to try human painkillers - they are poisonous to cats.

Drinking a lot

If your cat starts to drink a lot more than normal you should take it seriously. A healthy cat will only drink very little, even if they are fed on dry food. It can be a symptom of kidney problems or diabetes. You will need a simple blood test at your vets to check it out. For more information on why pets drink more >

Urinary problems

Cats suffer a lot with waterworks problems. This happens to cats of all ages and if you notice any of the following symptoms, do not delay, make an appointment with your vet:

  • Trying to pass urine but only a small amount comes out
  • Going in and out of the litter tray, squatting frequently
  • Passing small spots of blood
  • Licking frequently under the tail.

Feline lower urinary tract disease is a painful condition in cats and needs urgent treatment. It can be particularly serious and life threatening in male cats, so don’t delay - phone your vet.

Bites and fights

Cat fights are an inevitable consequence of owning a cat that is allowed to roam outside. If you hear a fight going on at night, you may want to check if your cat was involved the following morning. Cat bites are painful and will result in your cat behaving differently. They will often be very grumpy, not want to be touched and run off to hide somewhere.  A bite will often develop into an abscess over a few days. It is usually the face, paws, back and tail base that get bitten. This may give your cat a temperature and he is likely to go off his food. Bites can be serious and can require antibiotic treatment in the short term, but usually heal without a problem.

Itchy skin

Fleas! 90% of scabby, itchy skin problems in cats are caused by fleas. Here are a few tell-tale signs that it may be time to spray the house and get that spot-on:

  • Excessive scratching, licking and grooming
  • Thinning of hair especially on the back
  • A rash of small scabs on the back, which you can feel and/ or see under the fur
  • Specks of black in the fur which go red if put on wet cotton wool or white tissue.

Flea problems are very common. Don’t be worried or alarmed, but do get treating as soon as possible, and get into the habit of using your spot-on monthly treatment as part of your Healthy Pet Club membership.

Losing weight

This is a particular problem as cats get older. As a general rule, after the age of 10, cats can start to suffer from diseases which are characterised by weight loss. If your cat is thin but still very active and eating a lot, it is possible that they may be suffering from an overactive thyroid gland. Alternatively, if the weight loss is accompanied by an increased thirst but decreased appetite, it may be a kidney problem. A simple blood test can be done to check this out.

Nails in older cats

Young cats are very good at keeping their nails tidy (and sharp!) but as they age, they lose their ability to retract their nails. This can sometimes mean the nail grows right round into the pad, causing pain, lameness and infection. So if you have an older cat check those nails regularly. Our nurses and vets are happy to clip your pet's nails for you free of charge as a member of the Healthy Pet Club. Contact your local Healthy Pet Club practice to book an appointment >