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Subject: rec.pets.cats: Medical Information FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:28 GMT
Last-modified: 16 Jul 1999
The latest versions of these FAQ's may be obtained via the Web at
The multiple posted (ASCII) parts of the FAQ are all archived at rtfm.mit.edu
(184.108.40.206) in the directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/cats-faq. These
files will also appear in other sites that mirror the RTFM archives.
Originally written 1991 & updated through 1997 by Cindy Tittle Moore.
Maintained by the Fanciers website as of July 1999.
Most cats will reach about 11 or 12 years of age. Some make it 18 and
very few to 20 and beyond. Much of this will depend on whether or not
a cat is indoors or allowed outdoors. Outdoor cats average about 8
years and indoor only cats quite often reach 15 or more years of age.
As for "cat years" versus "human years", according to material
provided by the Gaines Research Center, cats will age 15 years in the
first year (10 in the first six months!) and 4 years for every year
after that. Other vets will say 20 years for the first year, 4 years
for each year thereafter.
Here are some highlights from the article in CATS Magazine, April
1992, pertaining to cats with allergies.
* Cats can suffer from a wide range of allergies.
* A cat with one allergy often has others.
* 15% of all cats in the U.S. suffer from one or more allergies.
* Cats' allergies fall into several categories, each with a parallel
complaint among human allergy sufferers. Inhalant allergies are
caused by airborne articles, such as pollen, that irritate the
nasal passages and lungs. Contact alllergies manifest themselves
when the cat has prolonged contact with a substance that it just
cannot tolerate. Cats have allergies to foods as well -- not so
much to the chemical preservatives but to the grains, meats and
dairy products used. Some cats react badly to certain drugs, such
as antibiotics or anesthesia.
* Flea allergy is the most common of all allergies. As cats age,
their sensitivity to flea bites increases. Prednisone (oral or
injection) is commonly used for a bad reaction.
* Between 5 & 10 percent of allergy cases are caused by food. Like
contact allergies, food allergies will show up as dermatitis and
severe itching but in some cases will also cause vomiting and
diarrhea. Also, the cat may have excessively oily skin, ear
inflammation, or hair loss (which can also be a sign of hormone
* A food allergy doesn't show up overnight. It can take from a week
to 10 years of exposure to show itself; more than 80 percent of
cats with food allergies have been eating the allergen-containing
food for more than two years.
Studies are being done to determine possible connections between food
allergies and FUS, with some success in eliminating foods and cutting
down on FUS symptoms. Results are still experimental.
Food allergies are treated with a bland, hypoallergenic diet -- rice
with boiled chicken or lamb, and distilled water is commonly used. Two
weeks is the longest it usually takes for the bland diet to work.
Causes, symptoms, and treatments of some types of allergies:
* Plants, especially oily-leafed ones, such as rubber plants, that
might be brushed against. Other contact allergens include: carpet
fresheners, wool, house dust, newsprint, cleansers and topical
medications. Even the carpet itself.
Signs of contact allergens: dermatitis, pigmentary changes or skin
eruptions. Most noticable on the chin, ears, inner thighs,
abdomen, underside of the tail, armpits and around the anus.
Skin patch tests are used to determine cause of contact allergies.
* Medications that commonly cause skin eruptions: penicillin,
tetracycline, neomycin and panleukopenia vaccine.
Each drug causes different symptoms, but the symptoms differ from
cat to cat. There is no way to predict how a cat will react.
Antihistamines or steroids may be used to eliminate symptoms
(after ceasing administration of the drug)
* Kitty litter - when new brands of litter come out, vets frequently
see a number of cats that have reactions to it. Other inhalant
allergies can include: dust from the furnace esp. when it is first
turned on; cigarette smoke; perfumes; household sprays and air
Inhalent allergies can also result in skin loss, scabbing
pustules, or ulcerated areas on the skin. This in addition to the
Treatment uses...antihistamines, such as chlortrimetron.. More
severe cases are treated with systemic steroids, which can have
Epilepsy and Seizures
Feline Chronic Renal Failure
Feline chronic renal failure is progressive and terminal but may be
managed for some time if diagnosed early. There is an excellent web
page on this disease kept at http://www.best.com/~lynxpt/,
maintained by Carol DiFiori, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feline Urinary Syndrome (FUS)
Feline urinary syndrome or FUS is the name given to a group of
symptoms that occur in the cat secondary to inflammation, irritation,
and/or obstruction of the lower urinary tract (urinary bladder,
urethra, and penile urethra). A cat with FUS can exhibit one, some, or
even all of the symptoms.
FUS is NOT a specific diagnosis: there are many known and some unknown
factors that may cause or contribute to FUS. Any cause resulting in
particulate debris in the urine is capable of causing obstruction in
the male cat.
Males are much more likely to get this disease than females. There is
no known means of prevention. Treatment can vary from diet to surgery.
Cats usually recover if the disease is caught in time; often the cat
must be watched for any recurrence of FUS.
May appear periodically during the life of the cat.
* Females: straining to urinate, blood in the urine, frequent trips
to the litter box with only small amounts voided, loss of
* Males: In addition to the above symptoms, small particles may
lodge in the male urethra and cause complete obstruction with the
inability to pass urine-this is a life and death situation if not
Obstruction usually occurs in the male cat and is most often confined
to the site where the urethra narrows as it enters the bulbourethral
gland and penis; small particles that can easily pass out of the
bladder and transverse the urethra congregate at the bottleneck of the
penile urethra to cause complete blockage. (note that the female
urethra opens widely into the vagina with no bottleneck).
Symptoms of obstruction are much more intense than those of bladder
inflammation alone; this is an emergency requiring immediate steps to
relieve the obstruction. Symptoms include:
* Frequent non-producing straining-no urine produced, discomfort,
* Gentle feeling of the cats abdomen reveals a tennis ball size
structure which is the overdistended urinary bladder.
* Subsequent depression, vomiting and/or diarrhea, dehydration, loss
of appetite, uremic poisoning, and coma may develop rapidly within
* Death results from uremic poisoning; advanced uremic poisoning may
not be reversible even with relief of the obstruction and
intensive care. Bladders can be permanently damaged as a result.
Causes of FUS
In general: any condition that causes stricture, malfunction,
inflammation, or obstruction of the urethra. In addition, any
condition that causes inflammation, malfunction, or abnormal anatomy
of the urinary bladder.
* Struvite crystals accompanied by red blood cells-generally caused
by a diet too high in magnesium relative to the pH of the urine.
+ Fish-flavored foods tend to be worse
+ The ability of a given diet to cause problems in an
individual cat is highly variable: only those cats with a
history of this kind of FUS may respond well to strictly
dietary management. Many cats do not have problems with a
diet that may produce FUS in some individuals.
+ Bladder stones, may occur from struvite crystals, or be
secondary to bladder infections. There are metabolic
disorders (not all are understood) that result in a higher
concentration of a given mineral that can remain in solution;
hence stones are formed. Diet may greatly modify the
concentration of a given mineral in solution in the urine.
Water intake may modify the concentration of all minerals in
the urine, and bacterial infection increases the risk of
+ Anatomical abnormalities such as congenital malformations of
the bladder and/or urethra (early neutering is NOT a factor)
OR acquired strictures of the urethra and/or scarring of the
* Neurolgenic problems affecting the act of urination (difficult to
diagnose except at institutions capable of urethral pressure
+ Primary bacterial infection-RARE!
+ Tumors (benign/malignant)
+ Protein matrix plug (generally urethral obstruction of
males); can be from non-mineral protein debris, viral-based,
other causes are unknown.
* Suspected or unknown factors include non-bacterial infections,
toxins, stress, and seasonal influences.
Management of FUS
Obstruction of the male cat is a medical emergency. The obstruction
must be relieved immediately.
Failure to produce a good stream of urine after relief of obstruction
is indicative of urethral stricture and/or stones or matrex plugs.
Failure of bladder to empty after relief of obstruction suggests
bladder paralysis (usually temporary unless present prior to
obstruction). In either event, a urinary catheter must be placed to
allow continual urination.
Treatment of uremic poisoning requires IV fluid therapy with
monitoring of blood levels of waste products until uremia is no longer
Permanent urethral damage with stricture, inability to dislodge a
urethral obstruction, or inability to prevent recurring obstructions
are all indications for perineal urethrostomy (amputation of the penis
and narrow portion of the urethra to create a female-sized opening for
urination). This procedure is usually effective in preventing
reobstruction of the male cat, but this procedure should be a last
If FUS is indicated without obstruction, 75 to 80% of FUS cats without
obstruction may be sucessfully managed by diet alone if urine reveals
typical crystals and red blood cells. Unobstructed male cats or
non-uremic obstructed males who have a good urine stream and bladder
function after relief of an early obstruction may be managed as above
initially. Cats who are symptom-free after 7 to 10 days of dietary
management and who have normal follow-up urines at 21 days, may be
maintained indefinitely with dietary management only.
DL-Methionine is often prescribed for cats with FUS. Most commonly,
FUS-specific diets contain this acidifier. Antibiotics may be used.
Distilled water for FUS-prone cats is often recommended as well.
Diabetes occurs when the cat cannot properly regulate its blood sugar
level. Symptoms may include excessive thirst and urination; it may
lose weight or develop diabetes because of obesity. Older cats are
more likely to develop diabetes than younger ones.
Treatment may consist of a carefully regulated diet to keep blood
sugar levels consistent (especially if the diabetes was triggered by
obesity). In most cases, daily injections of insulin are needed.
Regular vet visits are required to determine the proper dosage. In
between visits, using urine glucose test strips available from the
pharmacy helps you determine whether the dosage of insulin is
A bottle of Karo syrup or maple syrup kept handy is essential for
bringing the cat out of dangerously low blood sugar levels. Diabetic
cats should be kept indoors to prevent accidental feeding (and thus
disturbing the regulation of blood sugar levels).
If your cat has persistent diarrhea, take the cat to the vet if
symptoms have continued for more than 2 days. Bring a stool sample
with you and have the vet check for parasites and/or fever.
You can try changing (temporarily) the cat's diet to one or more of
the following (depending on the cat's preferences):
* boiled rice
* cottage cheese
* plain yogurt
* boiled chicken
* chicken broth
* baby food (strained meat varieties)
The emphasis on the above being as bland as possible. No spices
allowed as they tend to aggravate the stomach. This procedure may be
advisable to reduce the possibility of dehydration from the diarrhea.
The vet may or may not prescribe medication. One-half teaspoon of
kaopectate (NOT peptobismol, it contains asprin) usually works pretty
well too. The vet may recommend withholding food for 24-48 hours to
give the GI tract a rest before starting with some bland food.
Usually diarrhea lasts only a few days. If it lasts longer than that,
as long as the cat does not have a fever, it usually does not mean
anything serious, but you must protect the cat from dehydration by
making it take in plenty of liquids.
Possible causes for diarrhea
From: Colin F. Burrows. 1991. Diarrhea in kittens and young catsi. pp.
415-418 IN J.R. August. Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine. WB
Saunders Co., Philadelphia.
Causes of acute (sudden onset) diarrhea
o Panleucopenia (distemper)
o Feline Leukemia Virus
o Escherischia coli (not documented in cats)
* Diet esp. dietary change or raid on the garbage
* Toxic or drug-induced
+ Acetominophen (tylenol)
+ partial intestinal obstruction
Most common causes are viral infections and dietary changes.
Causes of chronic diarrhea
* Viral and Bacterial
+ as above, except Toxoplasma
* Dietary sensitivity
+ Inflammatory Bowel Disease
+ Drug Sensitivity
+ Inappropriate use of antibiotics
+ Bacterial overgrowth??
+ Partial intestinal obstruction
+ Idiopathic (no known cause)
You should enlist the help of your vet if symptoms persist for more
than a few days, or if your kitten is weak or listless, or refuses to
take fluids. Dehydration can rapidly kill a kitten.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Please see the Feline Leukemia Virus FAQ.
There is no vaccine for this. FIV is passed through open wounds, such
as cat bites.
This disease impairs the cat's immune system and it will often fall
prey to some other opportunistic disease. While the virus is related
to HIV, it is NOT possible to contract AIDS from a cat with FIV.
FIV-positive cats should be kept inside and away from other cats. With
this and other precautions, they may live a fairly long time. Because
of their subsceptibility to secondary infections and complications,
these cats are rather vet-intensive.
They do not often die directly from FIV, but rather one of the
diseases that they can get when their immune system is impaired. FIV
appears to involve three stages: acute (swollen lymph glands, fever,
depression, bacterial infections); latent (apparent wel being, can
last months to years); and chronic (cat is susceptible to all kinds of
other viruses, fungii, and bacteria). Survival over two years is rare.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Please see the Feline Infectious Peritonities FAQ.
Upper Respiratory Disease
Upper respiratory disease ("cold" or "flu"-like symptoms) is generally
caused by viral or bacterial infection. Some common causes are feline
herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1); feline calicivirus (FCV); and Chlamydia
psittaci (a bacteria-like organism). In many upper respiratory
infections, viral infections are complicated with secondary bacterial
infections. Also, one or more viruses may be involved at the same
Vaccines for FHV-1, FCV, and Chlamydia are available and are generally
given as part of the standard kitten shot series. These vaccines
protect against systemic infection (symptoms like fever, diarrhea,
pneumonia) but they do not give such good protection against local
infection of the upper respiratory tract (symptoms like sneezing,
FHV-1 (previously known as feline rhinotracheitis virus) can cause a
variety of different clinical syndromes. The most common symptom is a
runny nose and sneezing (rhinitis) which may be combined with
reddened, squinting, runny eyes (conjunctivitis). FHV can also cause
corneal ulcers, oral ulcers, fever, and diarrhea. In kittens, FHV
infection can be severe. FHV is generally transmitted through direct
contact or sneezing, and may be transmitted from a mother to her
kittens before they are born.
A vet will usually prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic to clear up
secondary bacterial infections, but there is no real cure for the
viral infection, just management of it. As in human herpes virus
infection, cats may develop a latent infection that causes virus
shedding or mild recurrent attacks when the cat is stressed. If you
know your cat has had herpes virus infection, try to keep your cat
from getting stressed (when that's possible). If he is under stress,
he can begin to shed the virus again without showing any signs of
being sick himself, which means he may infect other cats. Note that
FHV affects only cats. Don't worry, you can't get herpes from your
FCV can also cause a variety of clinical syndromes similar to those
caused by FHV. FCV infection is more often associated with oral
ulcers, fever, and joint pain, but may also be a contributing factor
in rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and gum disease. A vet will usually
prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic to clear up secondary bacterial
infections, but there is no real cure for the viral infection. As with
FHV, cats may develop a latent infection and may shed virus even
though they have no symptoms. Unlike FHV, shedding is not influenced
Chlamydia is a bacteria-like organism that inhabits mucous membranes,
primarily the tissues around the eyes (conjunctiva). Chlamydia can
cause a variety of clinical syndromes similar to those caused by
viruses and other organisms. The most common symptom is
conjunctivitis, which (unlike that caused by FHV) is generally seen in
one eye at first, then spreading to both eyes. Chlamydia can also
cause rhinitis, fever, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Chlamydia infection
responds well to topical tetracycline (given as an eye ointment). It
is sometimes treated with other topical antibiotics or with systemic
antibiotics (given in pill form). A similar organism, Mycoplasma, also
causes conjunctivitis and is treated with antibiotics. Be careful to
wash your hands after treating a cat with chlamydiosis, as it is
possible for humans to develop a mild form of the disease through
Cats are far more prone to hyperthyroidism, in which too much thyroid
is produced, as opposed to too little (hypothyroidism). Symptoms
1. Regular doses of Tapazol.
2. Surgery to remove most of the thyroid. This is a difficult and
potentially dangerous operation (especially for an older cat), and
it is not necessarily effective. That is, it will reduce the
thyroid activity, but not necessarily stop the runaway thyroid
growth--it may only reduce or delay the problem and you'll have to
give Tapazol anyway. At the other extreme, you might also end up
having to give the animal thyroid supplements...
3. Radioactive Iodine treatment of thyroid. This is reported to be
very effective in solving the problem. The troubles are it is very
expensive, and it means leaving your cat at the facility where it
is done for up to two weeks (they have to monitor the cat to make
sure all the radioactivity is gone before letting it go home).
Leaving a cat at a facility where there are other cats can expose
it to the health problems of the other cats there.
Some cats vomit all the time; other cats do so relatively rarely.
Vomiting is not a sign of the same sort of distress as it is in
humans. Because they are carnivores, they need to be able to vomit
quickly and almost at will without feeling sick.
On the other hand, a cat that suddenly starts to vomit, or vomits more
than usual or in some way demonstrates a departure from its normal
habits should be checked by the vet.
Most commonly, a cat vomits because it has hairballs. To check for
this, examine the vomit carefully for small grayish pellets or lumps
(it doesn't matter what color your cat's hair is). If these are
present, then hairballs is the problem. Hairballs occur even with
shorthair cats. All cats benefit from regular brushing to help
minimize shedding and ingestion of hair. If your cat is vomiting
because of hairballs, its normal behavior is not affected. That is, it
will be its usual self immediately before and after vomiting.
To help prevent this kind of vomiting, feed your cat on a regular
basis some petroleum jelly (aka as Vaseline). If they don't like it,
you can try Petromalt, a malt-flavored petroleum jelly. Pats of butter
will also work. To give it to them, if they won't eat it of their free
will, smear some on top of their paw and they will lick it up as they
clean it off. Be careful to rub it in thoroughly, otherwise when they
shake their paw, you'll have gobs of vaseline go flying onto the walls
or carpet. Give it to them daily for a few days if they've just
upchucked or are in the midst of dry heaves; go back down to a weekly
dose once they've gotten rid of existing hairballs and this should
keep them hairball free. Frequent brushing also helps; every bit of
hair on the brush is less hair in your cat's stomach.
Another common reason for vomiting is overeating, particularly dry
food. The dry food absorbs water and swells, and then they have to
throw it back up. If the vomit looks like a semi-solid tube of
partially digested cat food, that's probably what it is.
A cat may vomit when it is allergic to its food. You can check this
out by trying another brand of food with substantially different
ingredients and no food colorings.
Sometimes cats vomit when they have worms. Consult your vet for a
If the vomit is white or clear, that can be one of the symptoms of
panleukopenia, feline distemper. If such vomiting occurs a coule of
times over the course of a day or night, a phone call to the vet is in
If cats eat something that obstructs their digestive system, they may
try to vomit it back up. If you can see some of it in their mouth, DO
NOT PULL IT OUT, especially if it is string. You may just cut up their
intestines in the attempt. Take the cat to the vet immediately.
If the cat displays other changes of behavior along with the vomiting,
you should consult the vet. Eg. listlessness, refusing food along with
vomiting may indicate poisoning.
Periodic throwing up can be a sign of an over-active thyroid. This is
particularly common in older cats. Your vet can do a blood test and
find out the thyroid level. It can also be indicative of a kidney
infection: something that your vet can also check out.
In general, as distasteful as it may be, you should examine any vomit
for indication of why the cat vomited.
Dietary problems include:
* sudden change in diet
* ingestion of foreign material (garbage, plants, etc)
* eating too rapidly
* intolerance or allergy to specific foods
Problems with drugs include:
* specific reactions to certain drugs
* accidental overdosages
Ingestion of toxins:
* Lead, ethylene glycol, cleaning agents, herbicides, fertilizers,
heavy metals all specifically result in vomiting.
* diabetes mellitus
* too little or too much of certain hormones, trace elements, etc.
* renal disease
* hepatic disease
* heat stroke
Disorders of the stomach:
* obstruction (foreign body, disease or trauma)
* assorted gastric disorders
* ulcers, polyps
Disorders of the small intestine:
* intraluminal obstruction
* inflammatory bowel disease
* fungal disease
* intestinal volvulus
* paralytic ileus
Disorders of the large intestine:
* irritable bowel syndrome
* gastrinoma of the pancreas
* peritonitus (any cause including FIP)
* inflammatory liver disease
* bile duct obstruction
* pyometra (infection of the uterus)
* urinary obstruction
* diaphragmatic hernia
* pain, fear, excitement, stress
* motion sickness
* inflammatory lesions
* hiatal hernia
You may now have stains on the carpet that you want to get rid of.
Spot Shot, and other stain removers, work well at removing stains. If
you're having trouble with bright red or orange stains, you may want
to invest in a cat food that doesn't use dyes. That can help
considerably in reducing the stain factor.
Medical Information FAQ