It turns out that cats and humans share a lot in common—at least, this is what many vets might argue.
Though symptoms may be very different in cats than in people, some of the diseases that humans are prone to can also develop in felines. In the United States alone, epidemiologists estimate that more than 800,000 cats have acute or chronic asthma. Feline leukemia infects 2- to 3% of all cats in American households.
While some of these diseases cannot be cured, many are easily treatable and can be avoided altogether by taking everyday precautions. Here is a list of “human” illnesses that can be diagnosed in cats, and how you can minimize the risk of their onset.
1. Urinary tract infection
Feline urinary tract disease is a general term that refers to painful or abnormal urination. Symptoms include blood in the urine, frequent or infrequent urination, straining to urinate, or urinating outside of the litter box. If you notice any irregularity in their bathroom habits, it is recommended to consult a vet immediately. Not only might your cat be in pain, but these signs are sometimes indicative of more serious health issues, such as bladder tumours or a blockage to the urinary tract.
Feline leukemia has similarities and differences to human leukemia. Both human and feline leukemia refer to an abnormal white blood cell count. Unlike leukemia that can develop in people, however, feline leukemia (FeLV) is actually a retrovirus that can be spread from one cat to another through saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and nursing milk.
Research suggests that cats that have access to the outdoors are more susceptible to feline leukemia than indoor cats, as outdoor cats are more likely to come into contact with felines who have been infected with the virus. This is one reason why more and more cat parents are choosing to keep their kitties inside.
Worms (known in less scientific terms as “every cat parent’s worst nightmare”) can be transmitted through contaminated food or even fleas, depending on the type. Three of the most common types of worms that cats can get are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Many infected cats do not show symptoms, but in severe cases they can cause weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.
Some worms can actually be transferred from cats to humans—and can actually cause serious human diseases—so it is especially important that your cats receive routine check-ups throughout their lives to ensure that they are worm-free. You can also avoid the disease by keeping your cats away from uncooked meat, cleaning their litter box regularly, and keeping them indoors as much as possible.
That’s right - the disease that is diagnosed in about 1.4 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians every year can also develop in cats. In fact, it is one of the most common hormonal disorders of cats. Signs include increased urination, dehydration, weight loss, and an increased appetite.
Feline diabetes cannot necessarily be prevented, but it can be managed if it is diagnosed early. If you notice any of these signs in your cat, it is recommended to consult a vet as soon as possible. Feline diabetes is tested for through a blood or a urine sample.
Asthma, which refers to the narrowing of the airway that causes breathing difficulty, is common in both cats and humans. You can help prevent the onset of feline asthma by keeping your cat away from tobacco smoke, household cleaning solutions and aerosol sprays, and smoke from fireplaces and candles. Because many asthma-causing allergens are outside, it is a good idea to keep your kitty indoors as much as possible. As well, routinely cleaning your home and checking for water damage can prevent mold, mildew and dust, which can cause respiratory issues for humans and kitties.
Please note this list serves only as a basic overview and is by no means comprehensive. A licensed veterinarian should be your first source for the most accurate and reliable information on your cat’s health. For tips on choosing a vet, go here!