Cat Health Issues

Unfortunately, we've had experience with some very serious cat health issues and I've written about them here.

Then of course there's flea control, weight control, and tricks for getting a sick cat to eat

Haemobartonella (feline infectious anemia)

It's not easy to find much information about this disease on the web, so I'll describe my experience with Ed. This was a distressing situation for me because Ed was extremely ill and it took 6 days before the vets were able to diagnose his problem and get him on the road to recovery. I had lost Smokey to lymphatic cancer just 2 months earlier, and I was not "ready" to deal with another critically ill kitty. But we got through it, and Ed is as healthy (and pudgy) as ever. 

Chronic Renal Failure

Ed was diagnosed with chronic renal failure (CRF) in April 2006, at the age of 15. CRF is a progressive disease where the kidneys lose their ability to filter the blood of the body's waste products.  It is incurable, but steps can be taken to try to slow it's progress. Here is a comprehensive CRF education page. Although it was written with consideration for a cat who is also diabetic, the information about CRF applies to any cat. 

Since lab tests don't indicate renal failure until a significant amount of kidney damage has already occurred, CRF kind-of sneaks up on you. I had taken Ed to the vet on because I could tell he had lost a little weight and noticed some blood in his urine. Off and on for several months he had unexplained and unpredictable bowel irregularities.  Sometimes he's have diarrhea, while other times he seemed constipated. Only eight months earlier when he was also having bowel irregularities, all his lab tests were normal and I was keeping an eye on his potty habits. But now he had a massive urinary tract infection and was diagnosed with kidney disease. 

We tried giving subcutaneous fluids to Ed (a standard therapy), but even with a mild tranquilizer he would not tolerate it. Fortunately, his CRF was mild and we were able to manage it using diet and lactulose. He had another milder urinary tract infection that we successfully treated. Ed's CRF never became severe and we managed it until he died of an unrelated neurological disorder 7 months later.



We've had experience with two types of lymphoma.

Smokey was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma in July 2002 and we tried extending her life with a multi-drug chemotherapy protocol. When she was diagnosed, her specialist told me that this was an incurable disease and the best we could hope for was for Smokey to live out the rest of her life in comfort. Smokey did not have long to live, and I made the conscious effort to make all decisions based on what was best for her, and I would not attempt any "heroic" attempts to save her from a fatal disease. She surprised us all by surviving almost 12 months after her initial diagnoses. During those final months, she was indulged with anything and everything she wanted: food, treats, outdoor time, and lots of attention from her mom and dad. I've written a separate page describing the medical issues and our experience in dealing with Smokey's lymphatic cancer. 

Felix was diagnosed with intestinal small cell lymphoma. At-home chemotherapy using prednisolone and chlorambucil is often successful in treating this disease, but Felix fell into the 20% category of cats who do not respond to this treatment. Here's the story of what happened before his diagnosis, and our attemt to manage this disease with chemotherapies

Felix's kitty friend Pumpkin was also diagnosed with intestinal small cell lymphoma. Fortunately, she is responding to the same treatment that did not work for Felix. You can read Pumpkin's experience here.

Liver cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)

Barney was diagnosed with this serious liver cancer in June 2000.  This is the most frequently reported malignant liver tumor in cats and it is an extremely aggressive and invasive cancer. Surgery can be performed to remove as much of the tumor as possible, but since it is extremely invasive, the prognosis is poor. Chemotherapy is not an option for this type of cancer.  Barney underwent surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, but the cancer returned.  You can read about his experience on his diabetes story page.


Hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder in cats, and is one of the most common diseases of older cats. Barney's hyperthyroidism was managed using a low dose of tapazole twice daily. He already had diabetes when the hyperthyroidism began, so the radio-iodine therapy was not a practical option. 

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excess amount of thyroid hormones.  I've written a comprehensive educational page about the signs and treatment options for hyperthyrodism.


Barney was part of the Indulged Furry Family during his diabetes years and we successfully controlled his diabetes from when he was 14 until he passed away from cancer at 17 years old. In both dogs and cats, diabetes is a manageable disease and with the partnership of a good vet, owner education, and commitment to your pet's care, your pet can live a healthy and full life.  You can read Barney's diabetes story to see what a high quality of life he had and how we managed his diabetes.

Flea Control

Since the indulged furries are indoors or confined to my back yard using the Cat Fence-In "Combination Barrier" system (which also kept other cats out of the yard), fleas were not too much of a problem for us.  But fleas are everywhere and 2 or 3 times in the past 10 years I've had to deal with them.  I used Advantage for Cats on all the healthy kitties.  When Barney lived with us, he was diabetic and I did not put Advantage on him, just on the other cats.  I found that the dose sold for cats 10 pounds and under worked well...even my 15-18 pounders!  I treated them as soon as I saw that they had fleas, so only 1 month's application was necessary.  I did not treat them every month as the product label recommends.  Years ago we had a serious infestation, so I also sprayed all the carpets with a home use product that contained pyrethroids and an insect growth regulator. The pyrethroids are insecticides that kill adult fleas; the insect growth regulator prevents the flea eggs from maturing into adults.  It's been 5-8 years since I had to use a product inside the home, and it was an Enforcer product.  The closest product I can find to what I used then is called ENFORCER Flea Spray for Homes.

If you need to use any products on your pets or in your home, read the labels carefully and follow the instructions.  Treating the cats with Advantage, washing all their bedding, spraying the carpets with Enforcer, and vacuuming daily eliminated the fleas very quickly. Flea collars and house foggers are never used in our house because they are ineffective means of controlling fleas and are not the safest choices for you or your pets. Flea collars simply don't work and they constantly expose you and your pet to pesticides. Foggers fill the air with pesticides and coat all the surfaces in the room, but they don't get under furniture where the fleas are living!

Weight Control

Both Ed and Smokey are "ample" kitties who LOVE to indulge themselves with food.  Smokey has passed away now, but weight control is still an issue with Ed.  He weighs about 15 pounds and I'd prefer he weigh 13-14.  He eats Eukanuba Restricted Calorie dry food, a little less than 1/2 cup twice daily.  He also splits a 3 ounce can of "regular" canned food with Felix, just for some variety and to help reduce any problems that eating only one food can cause.  I feed Felix and Ed at different locations so that Ed can not jump up to the counter where Felix's full-calorie food is kept.  We don't deprive Ed of his food indulgences. Occasionally he gets a little bit of some of his favorite treats: graham cracker, Fig Newtons beef jerky. chicken, ice cream, etc.

Some tricks I learned for enticing a sick cat to eat

These tips work any time you have a sick cat, but when Smokey was sick with a terminal illness, I could pull out all the stops and feed her whatever she would eat. 

  • Offer every variety of canned cat food you think they might like. If turkey isn't working, try fish or beef
  • Meat baby food - lamb and turkey were two of her favorites.  Check the ingredients and make sure there is No ONION or onion powder in the baby food. Onion is toxic to cats and if you're using baby food for several months as I was, you must make sure it does not contain onion.
  • Tuna (packed in water), or water from the tuna can if I just wanted to get her to drink.
  • Cooked chicken, turkey, ham or whatever else we were eating for dinner.
  • Salty meats: sliced lunch meat - ham or bologna sometimes did the trick.  Little bits of Beef Jerky crumbled on his food would do the trick for Ed...he loves beef jerky.
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Milk
  • Fresh catnip cut into tiny bits and sprinkled on her food worked well as an appetite stimulant.
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos crumbled on top of her food (Smokey loved Doritos...I wish they needed a cat to advertise for them....I'd be rich!)
  • Pounce treats or other cat treats from the pet store
  • Try room temperature, slightly warmed, or cold food...sometimes a change in temperature changes the aroma (more or less smelly) and that might entice a sick kitty to eat.
  • And don't forget the Ice Cream if your kitty is needing a little treat. Smokey loved ice cream!