Our glossary provides definitions of terms commonly used in the cat world. To find a definition click on the first letter of the word you’re looking for.
An antibiotic typically prescribed
for bacterial and other infections, like skin infections, urinary tract infections, or ear infections.
Is a condition where the body lacks hemoglobin (in its blood). It is a serious condition that could be life threatening or it may be an indication of a serious underlying medical condition.
May be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat eye infections, ear infections or urinary tract infections.
A bacterial disease affecting the upper respiratory system in cats. It is more commonly found in dogs (e.g., kennel cough) than cats, and it can spread quickly in catteries.
Bottle Babies -
Kittens that have lost their mother and are without mother’s milk and require surrogate supplemental commercial milk replacement and supportive care. Kittens will require nursing bottles and nipples and commercial kitten milk replacement such as KMR and a pinch of plain yogurt (for every feeding), which will help the kitty's digestion. There are several good milk replacers on the market, available in liquid or powder form. The ready-mix liquid is more convenient. The product must be engineered for kittens and fresh (some have a short shelf-life). Milk replacers can be found in any pet supplies store, most veterinary clinics, and even in some variety stores.
Are one-celled parasites that live in the intestinal lining of animals and cause an infection called coccidiosis. Symptoms are usually seen in kittens (less than 6months old) or adult cats with weak immune systems. It can be readily treated if detected early and medication is prescribed.
Conjunctivitis (or "red eyes") is an inflamation of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue of the eyelids. When infected, the eyes appear red. This can be caused by allergies to pollens, mold, chemicals or caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria.
Chronic Renal Failure, also known as kidney failure, results from waste products and electrolytes that can no longer be processed effectively and waste begins accumulating in the cats body. CRF is more often seen chronically in older cats. Although chronic renal failure can be managed through diet and subcutaneous fluids, CRF is the number one primary cause of death in older cats. The condition can be stabilized and managed with fluid therapy, drugs, and diet control for some time with an early diagnosis. The most common signs are increased thirst and excessive urination. In time, cats can experience loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, poor hair quality, and emaciation. It is vital to begin treatment as soon as the first symptoms appear.
Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of the cat’s toes. It is a painful surgery, with a very painful recovery period. Amputating the important part of the cats anatomy that contains the claws drastically alters the conformation of their feet, leaves them defenseless, and can significantly lead to changes in the cat’s personality, temperament, and contentment. It is considered by most veterinarians to be inhumane, and the majority of vets will not conduct the surgery. It is considered an American phenomenon, and in many European countries it is illegal as well as parts of the United States. Getting scratching posts, cat trees, trimming the front claws, or using nail caps—are all ways to leave your cats anatomy and toes intact, not mutilated.
A single-dose treatment, typically in pill form, used to elminate tape worms and round worms.
Ear Mites -
There are several species of ear mites that invade the ear canals of cats and kittens, but they can live anywhere on the cat’s body. Extremely contagious, they can be passed from mother to kitten, and pet to pet, but humans are not affected. In cats it’s detected by excessive scratching around the ears and shaking the head. Common, but serious, if left untreated, they can severely damage the ear canals, eardrum, and cause permanent hearing loss. Inside the ear, they appear as a build-up of coffee grounds. Revolution is often prescribed by a vet to treat ear mites.
Fatty Liver Disease -
Hepatic LIpidosis, or fatty liver disease, is a potentially fatal disease of the liver and is more commonly found in obese cats that are anorexic and that have lost weight rapidly and older cats. Fatty liver is an accumulation of fats (lipids) in the liver tissue. There is no known cause, but it is thought that is may be connected to the way cats metabolize proteins and fats. It can often be turned around by forced feeding, either by surgical intubation or by syringe feeding.
Feline Calicivirus, FCV, is part of the feline upper respiratory infection complex. It is considered a viral disease that is characterized by upper respiratory symptoms such as runny eyes and nose , pneumonia, oral ulceration (sores in the mouth), and sometimes arthritis. It is a common viral disease that rarely causes serious complications. The FVRCP vaccination reduces the incidence of the clinical disease.
Feline Leukemia Virus, FeLV, is a retrovirus transmitted between infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved, for example when sharing a feeding dish. The infection is responsible for more deaths among cats than any other infectious disease. There are three main types of the virus and FeLV-positive cats can be infected with one, two, or all three types including: FeLV-A causes severe immunosuppression or a weakened immune system. FeLV-B causes neoplastic disease (tumors and other abnormal tissue trowths). FeLV-C is the most rare and causes severe anemia. The virus replicates in the body once infected, then spreads via the bloodstream to other parts of the body, namely the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and intestinal tissues.
Feral Cat -
Feral cats are the offspring of domestic cats that have been abandoned outside but are born and live without any human contact. A true feral cat is totally unsocialized to people, however, if kittens are found young enough, they can be easily tamed, socialized, and adopted as an indoor house cat.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis, FIP, is a fatal, incurable disease caused by Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), which is a mutation of Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV/FeCoV). The mutated virus has the ability to invade and grow in certain white blood cells, namely macrophages. The immune system’s response causes an intense inflammatory reaction in the containing tissues. This disease is generally fatal, but its incidence rate is roughly 1 in 5000.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, FIV, is commonly known as Feline AIDS and is a lentivirus that affects domesticated housecats worldwide. FeLV and FIV are in the same biological family, and are sometimes mistaken for one another. However, the viruses differ in many ways. Although many of the diseases caused by FeLV and FIV are similar, the specific ways in which they are caused also differs.
Feline Panleukopenia, FPV, is more commonly known as feline distemper is caused by the feline parvovirus, a close relative of canine parvovirus. It is not related to canine distemper. Panleukopenia is primarily spread through contact with an infected cat’s bodily fluids, feces, or fleas.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, FVR, is a severe upper respiratory infection of cats caused by feline herpes virus Type 1 (FHV-1), of the family Herpesviridae. It is most severe in kittens and older cats, and is one of the most serious upper respiratory diseases seen in cats and kittens. It is also known as feline influenza. FVR is airborne and highly contagious. Cats with this infection are lethargic, and exhibit signs of respiratory suffering with sneezing and coughing. There is usually a discharge from the nostrils and eyes, and a high temperature. Some cats develop pneumonia and sometimes ulcerations in the eyes. Infected cats don’t want to eat or drink because their nostrils are plugged and throat is sore. Dehydration and weight loss are common.
A vaccine shot that protects against FVR Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FHV-1), FCV Feline Calicivirus and FPV Feline Panleukopenia.
Is an intestinal parasite that can be readily treated. Symptoms include: diarrhea, weight loss, excess drinking of water, increased appetite, or fever.
Like human gingivitis, feline gingivitis occurs when the tissues of the mouth and gums become chronically inflamed.
Though less common in cats than dogs, heartworm is a large, parasitic worm that lives and reproduces inside the heart of a cat, generally in the right side of the heart and the lung. Heartworms are transported from one animal to another, through mosquitos, who carry microfilariae, which are microscopic versions of the heartworm. Heartworm can be fatal, and treatment is particular risks associated with it.
Hookworms are the most common intestinal parasites of cats, especially kittens, and can cause severe anemia and diarrhea. Other symptoms include a dull hair coat, gums that will appear pale, weakness in the cat, and stools can appear almost black. Cats can become emaciated and eventually die from the infection. Hookworms infect by attaching themselves to the wall of the intestine and feeding on the cat’s blood. Larvae is entered through the skin, through ingestion in contaminated food or water, or through the uterus or mother’s milk.
Inner Ear Infection -
An infection to the inner ear and is the most severe. It can cause neurological problems and permanent deafness.
Intestinal Parasites -
These include tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, stomach worms, and several types of microscopic parasites like Coccidia, Giardia, or Strongyloides. Symptoms may include: vomiting, diarrhea, black/tar-like stool, dehydration, lack of appetit or increase appetite, anemia, skin rashes, worms present in feces.
Is a prescription medicine used for heartworm prevention, and is also used as a treatment for earmites.
A young cat under 1 year of age.
Milk replacement or supplement for kittens, newborn to six weeks of age. This colostrum milk gives extra nutrition and temporary immunity against some diseases. It can also be given to pregnant and lactating cats. Before feeding to kittens, warm KMR to room or body temperature.
see FeLV – Feline Leukemia Virus
Mange is a condition that effects the sking and cuases constant itching, scratching, skin flaking, or bumps. Depending on the type, it may be contagious to other cats, dogs or people.
A topical treatment for ringworm. Do not apply near the mouth, eyes, or nose.
Parasites that feed on dander, blood and ear wax, depending on where they are located. See also Ear Mites. Symptoms include scratching, shaking of the head, black in the ears (instead of golden colored ear wax).
Panleukopenia (FVP) Feline Distemper & Infectious Feline Enteritis -
A highly contagious virus that is still present in the feline population and has a high mortality rate. Most domestic cats are successfully vaccinated and protected from the disease. It can affect cats of all ages, but is most severe in young kittens. Most vulnerable are cat populations that live in shelters and who are exposed to un-vaccinated feral cats. The disease is very resistant and can remain infectious in the environment for up to a year.
The first symptom is loss of appetite, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. A lower white blood cell count can be indicative of the disease. Often cats must be hospitalized given intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and supportive care. The FVRCP vaccine is effective in preventing the disease.
Means to have one or more extra toes.
Is a potentially fatal infection that attacks the uterus of cats, usually within a week of being in heat.
Rabies is a deadly viral infection that is transmitted by the infected saliva that enters the body through a bite or broken skin. The actual time between infection and when you get sick, called the incubation period, ranges from 10 days to 7 years, however, the average incubation period is 3 to 7 weeks. Animals with rabies suffer deterioration of the brain, where it causes swelling or inflammation, and symptoms may include stress and anxiety, drooling, convulsions, muscle spasms, numbness, restlessness, and difficult swalling. Rabies is rare in many developed countries.
Recovery from spaying and neutering is providing your cat a safe, warm, healthy environment in which to recover from their surgery. Depending on the procedure performed, medication to control pain may be sent home with your cat. To provide a comfortable recovery – give the cat a quiet place indoors and away from other animals. Try to prevent your cat from running or jumping for the first few days following surgery. Prevent your cat from licking the incision site, which may cause infection. Consider using shredded paper instead of cat litter, since dust from the litter can also cause infection. Check the incision site daily to confirm proper healing.
Feline herpes virus
Also known as dermatophytosis. This is not technically a “worm”, but a fungal disease of the skin and hair. Ringworm is contagious to people and other animals, particularly the young or elderly.
Roundworms, formally known as ascariasis, are intestinal parasites that soak up nutrients from the cat’s diet. They are round, up to four inches long, white to pale brown in color, and look like spaghetti noodles. They are found commonly in kittens acquired through their mother’s milk. Cats can get them from eating rodents or other carriers. Once in the intestines they produce numerous eggs, which are passed in the feces. Signs and symptoms include weight loss or failure to gain weight; dull hair coat, pot-bellied appearance, diarrhea, and kittens will sometime vomit up roundworms or pass them through their feces. Roundworms are detected through stool samples brought to the vet. A vet will prescribe a medication to eradicate the roundworm from your cat. Prevention includes cleaning up pet wastes promptly and preventing cats from eating rodents.
Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy -
Also known as lactated ringers solution – are fluids that are administered through a needle, which is inserted under the cats’ skin. Solution amount and frequency is prescribed by a veterinarian based on the cat’s weight and severity of disease. Sub-Q fluids can improve cat’s hydration and rehydration, and can support kidney function and help with the passing of crystals that lead to kidney stones.
Tape Worms -
Tape worms are flat worms that consist of a head, neck and a number of segments. The head attaches to the cats intestine to absorb nutrients through their skin. Diagnosis can be through seeing eggs in the feces or in bad infections, the cat may feel abdominal discomfort or nervousness, may vomit, and the cat can lick her bottom or “scoot” on the floor. There are specific treatment medications that are effective.
A nutritional substance that is essential to cats’ health. Lack of taurine in the diet can lead to blindness or certain types of heart disease. Most commercial cat foods now contain enough taurine to prevent these conditions, but always best to check the ingredient labels.
Trap-Neuter-Return, TNR, is a method of humanely trapping unaltered feral cats, neutering or spaying them, and returning them back to the same environment where they came from. TNR is promoted by feral organizations as a more humane and effective alternative to animal control for managing and reducing feral cat populations.
Upper Respiratory Disease -
Is like a human "cold" and is the the most common illness that can be contracted by domesticated cats. It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection in the back of the mouth or throat and can be contagious to other cats in the household.
Feline vaccinations are essential in preventing common infections and diseases. The most commonly adminsistered ist he FVRCP vaccination. Kittens are typically given a series of 3 FVRCP injections. A booster should be administered a year later, and then every 3 years thereafter. Always consult your veterinarian for the appropriate vaccinations and schedule for your pet.
The process of transitioning a kitten from its mother's milk onto solid food, such as dry kibble or wet (canned) food. Kittens begin the weaning process around 4 weeks of age and should be fully transitioned by 8 weeks of age.