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Taking Care of Your Cat: Feline Health Considerations

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Cats are mischievous, independent little bundles of joy. Their hilarious antics, like knocking stuff off a table or trying to fit into the tiniest of spaces, have been the subject of countless online videos. One study from back in 2015 estimated that 15% of total internet traffic is cat-related content.


So whether you’re a long time cat owner or someone who has been affected by the cat distribution system, there’s one thing for certain: we love our kitties, and we want to keep them healthy.

But when our feline friends are sick, it can be tough to spot. Your kitty will do all that they can to mask or hide their symptoms from you, including hiding, generally avoiding you, and even showing signs of aggressive behaviour like hissing, biting, or scratching when you try to get close.

This isn’t because your kitty has suddenly decided that they don’t like you, it’s because, in the wild, a sick animal is an easy target for predators. Therefore, cats have evolved to hide signs of illness to protect themselves and any other felines around them. Since you are part of their colony, so to speak, their hiding and aggression are actually a way to protect you.

Of course, if you observe these behaviours in your cat, you should take action immediately. But it’s better to be able to recognize the often subtle signs that your cat is developing a health problem so that you don’t have to wait until your cat is at the hiding and aggression stage. With some understanding of how cats show signs and symptoms of illness, you can be better prepared to help your cat and explain these important indicators to your veterinarian.

This article outlines common feline health issues and gives some insight into how to deal with them.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Health Distress

Before we get into discussing common feline health issues, it’s important to be aware of the difference between signs and symptoms, especially when it comes to your kitty.



Physical, observable indicators, like bleeding, an open wound, cat limping, etc.

What your cat is feeling—pain, discomfort, lethargy, behavioural changes

In other words, signs are objective, and symptoms are subjective. Your cat can’t speak English, so they can’t tell you what they are feeling, so you have to look for visual indicators of poor cat health. Knowing your cat and their unique personality is key, as you’ll be the best person to recognize when they aren’t acting like themselves. This is especially important when the health issue isn’t something obvious like a cut or scrape but instead an internal illness.

Common Feline Health Issues to Be Aware Of


Just like any animal, there are a number of feline health issues that can affect the quality of life of our furry friends. These issues include:


When a cat has hyperthyroidism, it means that the thyroid gland in the neck is overproducing hormones. The various hormones that the thyroid gland produces affect many different areas of your kitty’s body, meaning that they can get a whole host of problems from an overactive thyroid.

Cats with hyperthyroidism usually exhibit a variety of subtle signs at first, which then develop into more severe problems. Unfortunately, these signs can be pretty general, such as:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Increased appetite
  3. Increased thirst and urination

These signs can be pretty easy to miss, especially considering that over 60% of house cats in North America are overweight, so your kitty losing a few pounds might be seen as a welcome change, and you might just think they are playing more. An increase in appetite might also not be easily noticed, as many kitties dramatically beg for food like they’ve never been fed in their lives, and giving your cat an extra spoonful of wet food or half a scoop of dry kibble might not seem like that big of a deal.

The increased thirst and urination are easier signs to recognize, as it can be unusual to see a cat drink an entire bowl of water in less than a day, and you can also physically see the amount they urinate in their litter box.

Thankfully, hyperthyroidism can be easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. If the results come back that your cat’s thyroid is overproducing, one medication has been approved to treat the condition in cats: feline methimazole. Cat thyroid medication comes in an oral tablet, compounded liquid, or ointment that can be applied to the skin (usually the inside of the ear flap) to be absorbed into the bloodstream.


The dreaded “C” word is one that nobody wants to hear. Unfortunately, like in many animals and humans, cancer is relatively common in cats. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available for cancer in cats.

The most common types of feline cancer are outlined in the table below:

Feline Cancer Type



As one of the most common types of cancer in cats, accounting for over 30% of new feline cancer diagnoses, lymphoma affects the blood cells and lymphoid tissues throughout the body. Treatment for lymphoma includes chemotherapy, which results in remission for about 70% of patients.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

A cat skin cancer that, if caught early, is highly treatable. SCC is confirmed via a biopsy of the affected tissue. For treatment, surgery is usually needed to remove the affected tissue to prevent the cancer from spreading. Unfortunately, if not treated promptly, the cancer can progress to other body parts and prove fatal.


Often appearing as lumps or bumps anywhere on a cat’s body, Fibrosarcoma affects about 1 in 10,000 cats. The bumps often appear under the skin and can develop on the head, neck, trunk, limbs, and even between your cat’s toes. The most common treatments for fibrosarcoma are surgery and radiation. This cancer has a high likelihood of recurring.

Mammory Tumours

Mammory tumours most often occur in older female cats that have not been spayed. It’s estimated that about 90% of these tumours are cancerous. Spaying your cat at a young age (between 6–12 months) reduces the risk of this cancer. Diagnosis is done by physical exam, x-rays, and biopsy. Treatment includes surgical removal of the breast or entire mammary gland and associated lymph nodes.

Feline Leukemia

Contrary to popular belief, feline leukemia (FeLV) is not actually a type of cancer, it’s a virus, and a highly contagious one at that. It’s one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2–3% of all cats in the United States. Because the condition is so contagious, cats that are primarily outdoors (increased chance of being exposed to other cats) and immunocompromised are at a significantly higher risk for contracting the disease.

FeLV affects feline health in many ways, usually from secondary conditions due to the cat’s immunodeficiency caused by the virus. When your cat’s immune system can’t protect their body from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi they may come into contact with, they can easily gain a nasty infection that causes them to deteriorate quickly. In fact, many cats with FeLV don’t exhibit any signs of the disease until a secondary illness brings it to light.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Not to be confused with FeLV, feline immunodeficiency virus is extremely common in cats and is usually transmitted through bite wounds from an infected feline. FIV attacks your cat’s immune system, preventing them from fighting diseases and infections.

While there is no cure for FIV, a cat with the condition can actually live a relatively normal life with an average lifespan, provided that they are protected from the outdoors and don’t contract another serious disease like FeLV.

Thankfully, FIV isn’t super contagious, so an affected cat can normally engage with other cats with activities like grooming, sharing food and water safely, and even sexual activity as long as no biting or scratching occurs. Only in rare cases can a mother transmit the condition to her kittens.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

FIP is a virtual disease secondary to certain strains of feline coronavirus (FeCV). Usually, either disease doesn’t cause significant problems, but affected cats can get bouts of diarrhea and coughing that resolve spontaneously.

However, in a small number of cats (around 10%), one or more of these FeCV viruses can mutate further to affect the white blood cells in your cat’s body, causing an intense inflammatory reaction called FIPV. This inflammatory reaction usually occurs around blood vessels in the kidney, abdomen, or brain. The resulting interaction between the disease and your cat’s immune system, unfortunately often results in death.


Feline diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, often occurs in overweight and older cats. When the cat’s pancreas isn’t able to filter sugar out of their bloodstream effectively, diabetes is possible. Although diabetes isn’t always easy to diagnose, the condition can be identified through investigative blood and urine tests and learning the cat's medical history.

Potential risk factors of diabetes in cats include:

  1. Male
  2. Neutered
  3. Over seven years of age
  4. Overweight or obese (refer to body condition score)
  5. Taking medications such as corticosteroids
  6. A secondary effect of other conditions like hyperthyroidism, infection, and renal issues

Like other conditions in this section, potential signs, and symptoms that your cat could potentially have diabetes include:

  1. Increased urination and thirst
  2. Increased appetite
  3. Walking on heels instead of toes (plantigrade stance)
  4. Decreased activity or lethargy
  5. Urine is sticky

Kidney Disease

Just like in humans, your cat’s kidneys have a variety of important functions. They remove waste products from the bloodstream and regulate certain minerals and nutrients in the body, most notably potassium, calcium, and sodium. The kidneys also have a hand in conserving water in the body.

The thing with kidney disease is that no signs will show until the kidneys lose between 67–70% of their functionality. Worse yet, many early indicators of kidney problems in cats are often dismissed as signs of aging. However, one of the biggest signs of kidney disease in cats is significantly increased urination and excessive thirst. The reason for this is that your cat’s kidneys are unable to remove as many impurities from the blood, so they will produce a larger amount of urine with fewer waste products present in it (i.e., the urine is more dilute than it should be).

Kidney disease in cats is diagnosed through a blood test where the vet measures the cat’s creatinine level in the blood. However, it’s still a difficult condition to diagnose because even in cats with kidney disease, bloodwork can appear normal until the function of the kidneys has dropped to that 67% or more level.

Treatments for kidney disease in cats revolve around treating the symptoms caused by the disease rather than treating the disease itself. Special diets, supplements, and vitamins can be provided to improve quality of life and slow disease progression as much as possible.


Until recently, osteoarthritis (often just called arthritis) was a less commonly diagnosed disease in cats. However, it turns out that cats can develop arthritis just as often as dogs. The main finding in one cat osteoarthritis study that analyzed accumulated data was that the older that a cat gets, the more risk they have to develop the disease. Of course, genetics and contributing conditions are significant factors as well, but in every cited research that this study analyzed, whether the researchers were looking at 100 cats or 200 cats, the prevalence of arthritis was usually more than half.

One of the ways that you can help to protect your feline friend from the symptoms of arthritis is by feeding them a daily joint supplement. TRI-ACTA is a great preventative supplement that includes all the good stuff, like two types of glucosamine (so your kitty can get maximum benefit for their joints), Chondroitin (works with glucosamine to repair and regenerate joint cartilage) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM, a natural anti-inflammatory). If your kitty is already showing signs of arthritis, TRI-ACTA H.A. our extra-strength supplement that includes hyaluronic acid in addition to the above ingredients, which increases the viscosity of joint fluid to allow for easier movement.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


Heart Disease

There are two distinct ways that cats can develop heart disease:

  1. Congenital, which means that the cat was born with a heart condition that is usually caused by a developmental problem that has caused malformation of the heart as it grew.
  2. Adult-onset heart disease is usually caused by trauma to the heart at some point in the cat’s life, resulting in abnormal function.
With heart disease, cats will exhibit these specific symptoms in addition to common ones like lethargy, weight loss, and poor appetite:
  • Increased respiratory rate and effort to breathe
  • Sudden collapse
  • Hind leg paralysis accompanied by blood clot pain, also called “saddle thrombus”
  • Stunted growth in kittens

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTIs in cats are very common, and can be caused by a wide variety of feline health issues, including hyperthyroidism, diabetes, bladder stones, and much more. While UTIs can recur frequently in some cats, there is effective treatment available through antibiotics.

There are several important ways that you can identify whether your cat potentially has a UTI and needs veterinary care:

  • Constant licking around the rear
  • Passing small amounts of urine at a time (usually, your cat will visit the litter box frequently)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating outside of the litter box (cats can associate the litter box with the pain they feel from urination, and think that urinating elsewhere will help)
  • Crying or whining when urinating

To diagnose the UTI, your vet will likely want a urine sample as well as a blood test.

How to Prevent Feline Health Problems

Prevention is key to making sure your cat stays as healthy as possible. Here are some tips for maintaining feline health:

  1. Take your cat to the vet regularly. Just like people, regular checkups are important to protect feline pet health. Your vet will perform routine physical exams and may perform blood and urine tests to ensure that your kitty is in tip-top condition.
  2. Ensure your cat drinks enough water. If you ask any cat owner, getting your kitty to drink enough water can be a chore. Feeding your cat at least one wet food meal a day helps them get moisture through their food and is an easy way to increase your cat’s daily water intake. Cats also don’t like their food and water in the same location, so be sure to use separate bowls for each and keep them at least a meter apart. Many cat owners have also had success with providing their kitty with a cat fountain, which circulates water constantly and helps it stay fresh, which is appealing to cats versus standing water.
  3. Clean the litter box on a regular basis. Just like we don’t like stinky washrooms, your cat doesn’t want to go in a dirty toilet, either. Ensure you’re cleaning your cat’s litter box or boxes at least once a day, if not more.
  4. Get your cat neutered or spayed. Reproductive diseases and conditions in cats are fairly common in general and can include cancers and diabetes. Getting your cat spayed or neutered not only helps with their overall health but also helps prevent unwanted kittens from being born in your area. Most cat rescues are overrun with unwanted cats, so doing your part to not contribute to the problem is important.

Elderly Feline Health Problems to Watch Out For


Some conditions are more common in elderly cats due to their advanced age. If you have an older cat, you may notice signs that they could have one or more of the following elderly feline health problems:

Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes, and Heart Problems

This trio of conditions tends to present itself more often in senior cats versus their younger counterparts. The exact reasons are unknown but could be due to various factors, like diet, trauma, and exposure to certain illnesses and conditions over the cat’s lifespan that weaken certain parts of their body.

Weight Loss

Some people think it’s normal when an elderly cat gets skinny, and their hips and ribs start to show. Unfortunately, while senior cats do tend to lose weight, the weight loss is often a secondary symptom of a variety of common elderly feline health problems, including hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, and more.

Dental Issues

Dental disease in cats is extremely common, with over half of cats over the age of three having some sort of dental disease. The older a cat gets, the higher the chance they have of getting affected by feline dental disease.

Thankfully, there are some steps that you can take to help prevent dental disease in your cat. Water additives, dental treats, and feeding your cat dry kibble can help reduce tartar accumulation. However, the best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your cat’s teeth daily. There are special cat toothbrushes that you can purchase in pet stores. Never use human toothpaste on your cat, however, as it could cause internal problems. Dipping a cotton swap in tuna juice is a great way to help your cat get used to the brushing process.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) or Arthritis

The prevalence of arthritis or DJD in older cats is much higher compared to younger cats. One expert suggests that as many as 70% of cats over the age of 8 years will exhibit some signs of arthritis. Being able to anticipate and manage this condition is key to helping your cat stay happy and healthy as they enter their golden years.

TRI-ACTA H.A. is a fantastic option for maintaining the joint health of older cats as in addition to glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM (all essential ingredients for optimal joint support) the supplement contains hyaluronic acid, which helps increase the viscosity of synovial fluid in your cat’s joints, allowing for easier and pain-free movement.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


Recommended Senior Feline Health Supplements

To support cat feline health well into their senior years, it’s important that you consider giving your cat supplements. When you’re looking for cat supplements, there are a few considerations that you should keep in mind:

  1. Reputation of the supplement company: Pet joint supplements are not regulated in the USA and Canada by any official government organization, so cat owners have to perform due diligence for any supplement they purchase for their cat. Learning how to read a supplement label is a great first step, as it will help you learn about the difference between active and inactive ingredients. However, some companies go the extra mile and seek official approval. Integricare’s TRI-ACTA products, for example, are approved by Health Canada as Veterinary Health Products, which means that the ingredients are highly regulated and independently batch-tested to ensure quality.
  2. Active and inactive ingredients: When you’re looking at a supplement label, there will be a number of ingredients listed. Learning more about which active ingredients should be present in your supplement of choice is important. For instance, with joint supplements, you should be looking for glucosamine for cats (improves cartilage regeneration and repair), chondroitin (works with glucosamine for lubrication and cartilage support), and Methylsulfonylmethane (abbreviated as MSM, a natural anti-inflammatory). A good joint supplement should have as many of these ingredients per dose as possible. Inactive ingredients are things like fillers, additives, and preservatives that don’t provide any therapeutic value for your cat. In other words, if you pay for a supplement with high levels of inactive ingredients, you’re wasting your money. TRI-ACTA only contains 100% active ingredients, so dosages are low and cost-effective.
  3. Reviews and overall customer feedback: Aside from the above, it’s always a good idea to read the reviews of previous customers so you have an idea of what others are experiencing with the product. Don’t just limit yourself to bad reviews; be sure to read a variety of reviews across different websites to get an overall big picture of what people think about the product.

Now that we’ve gone through some considerations for choosing a supplement for cats to support feline health, let’s get into our recommendations:

Feline Joint Supplement: TRI-ACTA and TRI-ACTA H.A.

triacta joint supplement for cats

Although people often talk about joint problems in dogs, cat joint health issues are also extremely common. Protecting your cat’s joint health is important, especially as they get older. Giving them a daily supplement like TRI-ACTA, which contains only 100% natural ingredients, effectively supports your cat’s joint health.

TRI-ACTA is unique compared to most other joint supplements because it contains two types of glucosamine, sulfate and HCl. Sulfur, a component of glucosamine sulfate, is essential for joint health, as your cat’s body uses it to maintain healthy joint tissue. Glucosamine HCl, on the other hand, is highly bioavailable, which means that it’s absorbed and used by your cat’s body faster. Combining these two types of glucosamines in one supplement ensures that your cat gets the maximum benefit from the joint supplement.

For older cats or cats that are already experiencing joint health issues, TRI-ACTA H.A., our extra-strength joint supplement, is great for helping to remedy these issues as a senior feline health supplement. While TRI-ACTA H.A. has the same core ingredients as TRI-ACTA, it includes hyaluronic acid, which helps improve joint fluid viscosity allowing for easier and more pain-free movement.

TRI-ACTA H.A. for Pets

Our maximum strength formula is optimally designed to accelerate the formation of cartilage, minimize inflammation, expedite the healing process, and improve joint conditions.


Starts at $23.99 CDN for a 60 g container. Pricing as of September 2023.

Feline Health Supplement: Fortiflora For Cats



While Fortiflora isn’t specifically for senior cats, our older feline friends often have issues with their sensitive tummies, so it’s a great supplement to have on hand when diarrhea or vomiting strikes. As a probiotic supplement, Fortiflora helps balance your cat’s healthy gut bacteria to soothe their stomach and aid in digestion. To administer, simply sprinkle it on your cat’s regular food, once a day for at least seven days.

$44.98 CDN, pricing as of September 2023.

Final Thoughts

Proving regular feline health care is important for ensuring that your cat remains healthy well into their golden years. Regular checkups with your vet alongside knowing the signs and symptoms of feline health issues, like lethargy, weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, more urination or lack of urination, and more are important for catching feline health issues early.

Another way that you can help prevent feline health problems is by giving your cat supplements like TRI-ACTA. Containing only 100% natural ingredients, TRI-ACTA helps protect your cat’s joint health as they age.

Purchase TRI-ACTA online or learn where to buy in stores.