cat kitten health basics

Cat Health Info

Learn about cat balance problems, dwarfism, drooping tails, foaming and other health information.

Cat with Balance Problems

Dear Simba,
I have a Blue-Cream Persian Cat who is 5-years-old. Lately she has been acting really different.
Whenever she shakes her head she falls over. It looks almost like when you are dizzy and stumble around. She has been taken to the vet and the vet thought that she might have an ear infection. I do not think that is it. She is acting really different. She follows everyone around and sits on their lap, which she never has done until lately. Hopefully you might know what is wrong. Ryan

Dear Ryan - The symptoms you have described can be attributed to neurological damage, brain tumors or poisoning. The more likely of the three may be neurological damage.
Take her to a veterinary neurologist to have her checked out. You may also want to make sure that she has not gotten into any household goods that are hazardous to pets. These are fairly serious symptoms. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
My question for you is about our 4-year-old cat, Hank.
Hank likes to lick wood furniture. Could this be a sign of some sort of deficiency in his diet? I should also mention that in the last 1/2 year, he has started to pull his hair out from the middle of his back to his tail. It is very thin and getting thinner all the time. We are expecting our first child any day now and I cannot help but speculate that this behavior is somehow related to that. We do have another cat, Buck, who is Hank's littler mate. Buck has not had any adverse reactions to our pregnancy. Wondering in Nebraska, Susanne

Hi Susanne,
I remember Hank & Buck. I certainly hope that his balance problems have gone away. His hair loss and odd licking behavior could be symptomatic of neurological problems or immune system disease-induced skin problems. As I recall, he began exhibiting these shortly after a more to a new home. Because of that, I do not think these are pregnancy related.

Best thing to do after taking him to a vet is to ensure that he is receiving the proper love and affection. Be sure to read Kids & Cats for tips on bringing in a new child.

As for his wood licking behavior, a cat eating cat food that is complete and balanced should be fine. However, as I mentioned above, there may be other medical conditions at play. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
We have two 4-year-old cats, Hank and Buck. They are brothers and have always been as different as night and day. Buck has a small frame, is very trim and active. Hank, has a big frame and has a pooch that hangs from his belly. He would rather sleep than run. Hank has always had trouble with what we thought was hair balls, he vomits twice a week. I switched them to MaxCat and he has only vomited twice since. About 6 months ago, Hank started biting his back by his tail and started pulling out his hair. He now has a few bald spots. 2 weeks ago, he walked like he was drunk, he stumbled and fell over. During that episode while he walked he crossed his front legs one after another. This went on all evening.

The next day, our veterinarian looked him over and tested his blood for feline leukemia, diabetes and organ function...everything looked fine. Last night, he coughed quite a bit but did not spit anything up. It sounds as if he is congested. He acts normal and eats and uses his litter box just fine. Today his breathing is shallower than usual. Could all these strange symptoms be linked together? Our vet thinks it is all in Hank's head. Susanne in Nebraska

Dear Susanne in Nebraska,
Hank could be suffering from stress (vomiting, hair biting). The fur issues can be due to anything from Fleas on Cats & Kittens, mange, ringworm, allergies, immune system problems and bacterial infection. Did your vet test Hank for FIV? At the same time, the range of symptoms you described, particularly the walking and balancing problems, could be indicative of inner ear problems, growths, or neurological issues. Your best bet is getting Hank to a feline neurologist. It sounds as though you are not comfortable with your vet’s first opinion. Check out the vet and hospital finder tools on the front page of Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
My cat had surgery last year and has developed a nervous tick. His head will shake involuntarily, and just slightly, sometimes when he is staring at something. And when he is falling asleep in my lap, he often jerks his head back and twitches his whiskers involuntarily.

Could this be a symptom of something serious developing? Or is it likely just some minor nerve damage from the anesthesia he was given during surgery? - Concerned Cat Lover

Dear Concerned Cat Lover,
I encourage you to visit your local vet to get a thorough check-up. Only a vet can make a good diagnosis of this type of condition. A possible cause for your cat's condition may be slight nerve damage from surgery. Some things you may want to note so you can better help your vet, would be changes in your cat's behavior, appetite as well as the conditions under which these twitches occur. Keep me posted. - Simba

Kitten Foaming at Mouth

Dear Simba,
We have had Sunshine, our 7-month-old kitten, for 2 months. We took her to the vet last week for what our vet told us was feline acne. He gave her a shot. She started sneezing a couple of days later. This past weekend her sneezing got worse. She is less active and has less of a "Sunny" personality. She has no other symptoms besides the sneezing & mood change. She is eating, sleeping and using her litter box without problem and has no discharge.

The mood change is upsetting. The vet was stumped. He recommended children's Benadryl for allergies. Sunshine did not take too fondly to grape tablets…when we did finally manage to get her to swallow one she began foaming. This was upsetting. Is there anything we can do to alleviate her sneezing and congestion, and is the foaming normal when giving pills? -Caring 4 Partly Sunny

Dear Caring 4 Partly Sunny
Sunshine's sneezing can be caused by anything from stress, dust mites, litter dust (changed litters recently?) to the Cat Flu. The Calici Virus (one of the cat flu culprits), is known to cause some foaming, among other symptoms. Check out the Cat Flu section for information. I say take Sunshine to a vet to get a solid diagnosis. Your best bet until your vet visit is to keep her well fed and clean.

As for the foaming, the answer is yes, sometimes. So when do cats foam at the mouth?
  • when they suffer from disease (i.e. Cat Flu)
  • when they eat/drink stuff less yummy than anticipated (grape Benadryl?)
  • when nervous
  • after alcohol-based sprays are applied

Determine if the foaming was an isolated incident. If so, then it might have been the Benadryl. If you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable with the treatment your local vet has given Sunshine, get her a second medical opinion…she is your baby! Keep me posted. Simba

Hello Simba,
I have a 11-week-old Turkish Van boy who appears to be frothing a lot of clear saliva. I saw him eat some grass a couple of hours prior. Should I be worried about this incident. He eats a lot; on average 5 to 9 times a day. Are these two connected? Worried

Dear Worried,
Because I do not know what amount he eats per meal I cannot talk to the food question. However, you can find out if his eating is excessive by checking in Feeding / Weight. You will find some feeding guides there. However, the frothing of saliva and the eating of grass are of concern if some of the following are in the grass or in your home:
  • Snail/Slug Killers
  • Fertilizers
  • Pet Control (fleas, rodent, etc.)
  • unlimted foreign elements!

Is there anything in the grass or in your home that your kitten may have ingested that is unhealthy? If the answer is yes, go to a vet or animal hospital ASAP. Otherwise, watch his symptoms closely to see if he gets any better. Talk to a vet if you think the kitten is at risk. Your Pal, Simba

Kitten with Lip Blisters

Dear Simba,
I have a 4-month-old Persian. He has a blister on his bottom lip. I called the vet and he immediately said "oh that is leukemia, bring him in" Fearing the vet is leukemia-happy (a lot of money for tests and vaccines) I called the breeder. She said the mother is a "licker" and occasionally gets blisters on her lip. Mine is a licker too, but I have not heard of this before. It is large and looks like a cold blister, which is how the breeder explained her cats blister. She is sending me some ointment for it that she uses. Have you ever heard of this? Nancy

Dear Nancy,
Cats have abrasive tongues and their licking on a sensitive or irritated area can certainly lead to blistering. So your breeder may have it right (however, only a vet can make the call). Your reference to vaccines being expensive worries me. It is very important that your cat receive shots, even if he has no contact with other cats. Immunization will help ensure a longer healthier life…he is worth it, give him that. Simba

Hi Simba,
We have got our cat Sheba (female, Domestic Short Hair) from the SPCA about a month ago.
She is about 1-year-old and we keep her inside. She had a cut on her right side of her jaw, she was treated and the cut was cleared up. She now has a ulcer on the middle of her bottom lip. Is there something we can do to clear this up, or is it more serious than that…is it leukemia? Our vet said he could give her a shot, but it will not necessary clear it up. He could also do surgery to get rid of it, but it may come back. Do you have any other info for us? We just got out cat and we cannot imagine being without her. - Thank you, Paulette & Dennis

Dear Paulette & Dennis,
As always, know that your vet is best able to make an assessment on Sheba's condition. I have read nothing that would indicate the ulcer you described to be related to leukemia, but if you believe that Sheba is exhibiting symptoms you may want to have your vet check her out for it.

Based on what I have read, I think that he is right on the money regarding treatment options. Your vet may choose to do a prednisolone treatment(4 to 6 weeks) which may, depending on its success, be followed by surgery/cryosurgery. While surgery will leave a scar, recurrence may be less frequent than with other kinds of treatment. I think that Sheba will be ok. Let me know how things work. Your Pal, Simba

Dwarfism in Cats

Dear Simba,
I am writing from Italy. My cat has finally arrived from Holland, he is the kitten of my dreams: a black Persian male born in August. he is now 7-months-old. But I have a problem: his weight is only 1.870 kg. he is very small but perfect, and the breeder gave him to me as top show Persian. His parents are both large size. He changed all teeth and they are normal. My vet suspects a pituitary dwarfism. Also his coat is normally developed, and I do not know what to do. Please, give me some advice. In every case, he is my beloved cat, and I only care about his health. Sandra

Dear Sandra,
Pituitary dwarfism results from inadequate production of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland. This lack of production is often the result of Pituitary gland under-development, cysts within the gland, infectious diseases that affect the gland. Common symptoms in Pituitary dwarfism are hair coat problems and bone and teeth development. It is encouraging that your kitten's teeth and coat have developed well.

A kitten affected with pituitary dwarfism will not grow in the right proportion. This suboptimal growth causes internal organs to be pressed against each other much tighter than they would be normally. Sometimes, affected kittens may be unable to develop mentally. There are no good treatments for pituitary dwarfism in cats. The growth hormone available for use in humans has been used in dogs with varying degrees of success. I am unaware of any experiments on cats.

Given his teeth & coat development it is possible that your kitten does not have pituitary dwarfism…he could have been the runt of the litter, or he could be younger. Note also that he is still young and has room to grow. You may nonetheless want to get a second opinion on his size. Be sure to ask about his kidney health (a common problem affecting growth). Just continue to be the loving and caring person you are, get him checked up regularly and you should both be ok. Keep me posted. Simba

Cat with Drooping Tail

My 2-year-old indoor cat has all of the sudden been walking around with a drooping tail. Normally it is straight up, but now it is practically dragging. Other than that she seems to be ok, (i.e. eating and sleeping fine). I have touched her tail and it does not seem to bother her. Any ideas? Steve

Dear Steve,
A drooping tail usually indicates that a cat is nervous, fatigued or ill. Watch your cat closely and see if her energy level has changed in any way. Take her to your vet and have her checked out. It could be nothing, but then again…Your peace of mind and your cat's health is worth the visit. Simba


Hi Simba,
I have Hepatitis C and a lot of cats. I get clawed often and wondered if there was any danger of my cats catching it or passing it to others in my household. D

Dear D,
Based on some quick searching I found information indicating that Hepatitis transmission, whether from human to animal or from animal to human, can occur only with non-human primates. However, you should double check this with your doctor to be sure.

The concern that I have is of a cat transmitting the virus from you to another person. Say, for example, one of your cats scratches you, the cat could then carry the virus in his claws, and should he scratch someone else, could transmit the virus to them, in a manner similar to how the disease can be transmitted by the sharing of needles. Your best bet is to discuss this with your doctor, so you can take whatever precautions are necessary. Simba

Dear Simba,
I have 4-month-old pure Persian who has irritated paw pads. He is to the point of bleeding. I noticed this at his first show last weekend. Upon returning from the show I took him to the vet. He recommended soaks and antibiotic powder. Kitty litter , food, environment, have not changed since birth. Any ideas? - Gina

Dear Gina,
Your vet likely suspects a bacterial or parasitic infection of some kind. Be sure that you inspect his surroundings and clean thoroughly to remove any possible agents. It is possible that your Persian became infected from contact with another animal or where another animal had been. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions. Let me know how he does. Simba

I have a new kitty and it was doing just fine when we first got it. But now it hardly eats and when you pick it up it makes these funny noises in its stomach. Also when it meows at me it sound like it has a sore throat. I know this is not normal. What is it? Josh

Dear Josh,
It is never good for a kitten not to eat. I suspect that your kitty may have intestinal upset, a viral a bacterial infection or perhaps parasites. Have him checked out and treated. Simba

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