Common Disorders and Diseases in Kittens

  • 01 of 15

    Common Health Threats

    Persian kitten and reflection by window
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    Kittens are subject to many different diseases and deformities, just like any other animal. Some diseases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are congenital. Most, however, are contracted through viruses, infections, or parasites. Fortunately, vaccinated kittens are protected from many of the most deadly diseases.

    Feral cat mothers (sometimes called queens) are more likely than domestic cats to have kittens with health problems. There are many reasons for this: 

    • feral cats are likely to have more kittens than they can care for;
    • ferals are more prone to have parasites that can cause disease;
    • ferals are often undernourished and unable to provide proper nutrition for kittens.
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  • 02 of 15

    Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)

    A white and orange kitten
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    Panleuk, as it is commonly called, is a particularly virulent virus in the Parvovirus group, and is often found in feral cat colonies, or any other areas where large groups of cats gather. 

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  • 03 of 15

    Upper Respiratory Infections

    Cat getting a vet exam
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    Upper respiratory infections include the viruses Rhinotracheitis aka Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus. There are core vaccines for both of these viruses.

    A third infectious disease is Chlamydia, which is bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics such as Tetracycline. In addition to sneezing and runny nose, Chlamydia can cause Conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink-eye), which can be spread to humans. 

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  • 04 of 15

    Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS)

    Sleeping kittens
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    FKS is a group of symptoms rather than a single disease. Fosters of pregnant cats and their kittens are well familiar with the symptoms, which may appear shortly after birth, or as late as six to eight weeks. There is no known single cause, although the compromised health of the mother cat undoubtedly weighs heavily.

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  • 05 of 15

    ​Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

    Gray kitten at vet visit
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    FIV is transmitted by deep bite wounds (saliva to blood), or during gestation (blood to blood), cats are more likely to die of infection or other causes because of their compromised immune systems. Even kittens who survive may be hard to place in permanent homes because of humans' misunderstanding of this disease.


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  • 06 of 15

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

    Mother cat nuzzling a small kitten
    Nevena Uzurov / Getty Images

    FeLV is extremely virulent and can be spread through casual contacts, such as shared food dishes, as well as from the mother cat. While FeLV can be prevented with vaccines, once it appears it can't be cured. It suppresses the immune system so that cats die of diseases they would otherwise be able to fight off.

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  • 07 of 15


    Cute kitten under a bed
    Getty Images

    Some kittens are born without hearing. This condition, while incurable, does not incapacitate a cat. White cats with two blue eyes are often, but not always, deaf from birth.

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  • 08 of 15

    Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

    Closeup of a cat's face
    aymen_bet / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    While FIP can often be found in areas with large numbers of cats, it can also be found in kittens with a genetic predisposition. While exposure to this coronavirus is widespread, few of the infected cats actually get FIP. The downside is that once contracted, the disease is fatal.​

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  • 09 of 15

    Hip Dysplasia

    Hip Dysplasia is thought to be a genetic disease, although it does not always show up immediately. It is a deformity that can, in many cases, be corrected through surgery.

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    Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia (FCH)

    Cat getting a vet exam
    webphotographeer / Getty Images

    FCH is commonly caused by Feline Distemper, contracted either after birth or during gestation. As it centers in the cerebrum, CH is a neurological disease, which usually affects motor skills, including the ability to walk and control of the head.

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  • 11 of 15

    Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

    Gray and white cat at the vet
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    Certain breeds of cats are subject to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). They include Maine Coon Cats, Ragdolls, and Sphynx, among other breeds. This eventually fatal disease is sometimes also a side effect of Hyperthyroidism in cats.

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  • 12 of 15

    Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

    Persian kitten and reflection by window
    Benjamin Torode / Getty Images

    Polycystic Kidney Disease is found most often in Persian Cats and the related breed, Exotics. It is a progressive genetic disease affecting the kidneys, and often not diagnosed until later in life. Conscientious breeders are now testing their breeding queens in an effort to keep the PKD gene out of their line.


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  • 13 of 15

    Flea-Transmitted Diseases

    Cat scratching its ear
    Chris van Dolleweerd / Getty Images

    Several parasites are carriers of dangerous diseases to kittens. The common flea, as well as ticks and mosquitos, can transmit a number of diseases:


    Hemobartonella, aka Hemobartonellosis, is a form of anemia. It is potentially deadly in kittens, and they may even need blood transfusions as part of the treatment.


    Even if a kitten doesn't get Hemobartonella from fleas, the mere act of the fleas dining on the kitten's blood over a period of time can cause a different, still serious anemia.

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  • 14 of 15


    Vet giving a cat a pill
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    Veterinarians will almost always treat flea-infested kittens for tapeworms. However, you may be asked to bring a fecal sample from the kitten with you at appointment time, as they are also susceptible to roundworms. 

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  • 15 of 15

    Lyme Disease

    Cat scratching its chin on a piece of wood
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    Lyme Disease ​is a zoonotic disease transmitted by ticks which can affect cats and other mammals, as well as humans. It has a wide range of symptoms that can impact joints and cause heart problems.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.