Will Your Shelter Cat Come with Expensive Hidden Vet Bills?

A common question that many people ask themselves before adopting a new cat is “how do I make sure I adopt a healthy cat with no expensive health problems?” Before you adopt a new cat or kitten, here are some of the most common health issues they can be prone to.

Keep in mind that even if you adopt a pedigreed cat, that doesn’t mean the cat won’t have health issues. Your best bet is to just be knowledgeable about the symptoms they might have, the questions you can ask, and what to do if your new cat or kitten appears to be sick.

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URI – Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

An upper respiratory infection (or a cat cold) is one of the most common sicknesses a cat can have, especially when coming from a multi-cat environment.

The symptoms can include a runny nose or eyes, along with congested breathing or sneezing. The cat might also have a fever or a lack of appetite. This can also be a sign of feline rhinotracheitis (FVR), or feline herpes.

Although cats can generally recover from cat colds on their own, it is always best to take them to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and so that they can get the care they need. Just like humans, cats can feel a lot better if they’re able to take medication to lessen the symptoms.

It is also important to help the cat keep their eyes and nose clean by gently wiping them with a warm cloth, and make sure they’re being properly fed.

Ringworm in Cats

Cats are able to get ringworm, which can easily spread to any mammal. This includes humans, so if you suspect your cat might have ringworm, you should make sure that they are properly treated considering it is so highly contagious.

Ringworm symptoms in cats can appear as a dry patch of missing hair instead of the typical ring-shaped rash seen on humans. Your cat will need a topical or oral antifungal medication prescribed by your vet, though most cats can recover within 3 months on their own.

Related: Losing a Cat is More Painful in More Ways than People Realize

Cat Parasites – Fleas, Ticks, Mites, Lice, and Intestinal Parasites

This is a very common problem for any animal you might adopt, especially if they come from an environment where new animals come and go.

The main symptoms are pretty obvious, such as scratching, head shaking, biting, and excessive licking of their skin. Then again, some cats might not show any symptoms at all, but you might notice the signs of parasites upon closer inspection of their skin and fur.

Topical ointments and oral medications are the usual treatment, and it is best to always consult with your vet to make sure there are no other issues. Even if you don’t plan on buying the cat medication from your vet, they can still let you know which products are safest, since some common grocery and pet store brands have been known to cause serious illnesses in pets.

If your cat has an intestinal parasite, your vet can prescribe an oral or injectable anti-parasitic or de-worming mediation. You should let a vet diagnose your pet if you suspect an intestinal parasite since they can take a fecal sample to ensure that they get the right kind of treatment.

Feline Leukemia Virus, FIP, and Feline Panleukopenia

There are other serious illnesses that cats can also get, such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and Feline Panleukopenia Virus (Feline Distemper).

A wide range of symptoms can be associated with all three of these viruses. Some of them can include a yellowish color of the eyes or mouth, pale gums, weakness, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, or frequent infections if a cat contracts FeLV.

Symptoms of Feline Distemper can include lethargy, bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, biting of the tail or legs, and depression, and is sadly sometimes fatal within just 24 hours of symptoms. It is extremely important to get your cat to a vet as soon as you notice any of those symptoms for your cat to have the best chance of survival.

As for FIP, cats are very commonly exposed to the feline coronavirus and most cats survive this. But sometimes, the coronavirus can mutate into FIP, which has symptoms that include loss of appetite, energy loss, a rising and falling fever, and possibly a fluid buildup in their abdomen.

The good news is that FIP used to be considered almost fatal, but there is a new treatment available called GS-441524 – but it can be hard to get and expensive. You can read about the treatment at The Atlantic, where they report on the groundbreaking results of the treatment.

Related: Is it Safe for Cats to Eat Cucumbers and Other People Foods?


Stress might not sound like a real cat illness, but it can cause a cat’s immune system to become suppressed and more susceptible to illnesses. The best way to treat this is to adopt a cat or kitten so that they may have the chance to spend time in a more loving, less stressful environment.

How to Make Sure Your Shelter Cat is Healthy

One of the easiest ways to make sure your shelter cat or kitten is healthy, and to help avoid expensive vet bills, is to schedule an exam shortly after you bring them home. You should also look out for the typical signs mentioned above, and you can also talk to the staff at the shelter or rescue to help make sure that the pet you adopt is in good health.

You’ll want to ask them questions, such as the cat’s vaccination history, if they’re showing any current symptoms or if they have any medication they should be taking. If you have any other pets at home, it is important to have the new pet checked out by a veterinarian before they meet, and you should quarantine your new cat or kitten for at least 7-10 days before you try any introductions.


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