Like any other living beings, cats may be subject to illnesses.
We can distinguish at least two groups of diseases (there are many more though):
Typhus: It is a parvovirus which causes severe damage to the lining of the intestines and may also suppress the immune system. It is commonly refered to as feline enteritis or feline panleukopenia. It is deadly for kittens and in pregnant females it brings about congenital malformations in the foetus. This virus is highly contagious.
For more details, see the Winnfeline Health article about panleukopenia. Click here.
Upper Respiratory viruses: "Upper Respiratory" refers to infections in the area of the nose, throat and sinus areas. There are two major viruses involved:
Rhinotracheitis: it is the most severe virus in this group. It is also called herpesvirus and it is specific to cats. Humans and other animals cannot catch it. This viral disease may cause the following clinical signs: Fever, lethargy, sneezing, abnormal discharge from the eyes or nose, and loss of appetite. More severe cases may have mouth and eye ulcers.
For more details, click here to see the Winnfeline Health article page about rhinotracheitis.
Calici virus: This virus may cause the following clinical signs: lethargy, loss of appetite, sneezing, conjunctivitis, and ulceration of the hard palate and tongue. Some strains of the virus may produce a "limping syndrome," especially in kittens. This virus is also specific for cats.
For more details about how cats get infected and how to treat them, click here to see the Winnfeline health article dealing with calici-virus.
A vaccine is available for both viruses, yet one must understand that it does not prevent cats from contracting them. Yet, the symptoms and the infection will be much milder.
IMPORTANT NOTE: once a cat is infected with either or both viruses, it will continue to spread it into the environment and to the other cats after recovery. Some cats manage to get totally rid of the virus later on but the majority (80%) will not. They become "latent carriers". As a result, cats may get sick again from time to time, especially in periods of stress. In a multi-cats household, it is very important to separate sick cats from the others so as to lower the risk of transmission.
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis): it is a virus which belongs to the group of coronaviruses. It infects the cat's bowels and sometimes brings about diarrhea and fever but the majority of cats remain healthy. It is highly contagious but usually benign.
Yet in the case of FIP, the coronavirus undergoes a mutation for some yet unknow reasons and spreads to the rest of the body. These mutant strains are called FIP.
This viral disease causes the following clinical signs: fever, lethargy, conjunctivitis, loss of appetite, diarrhea, ascites (fluid in the abdomen), pleural effusion (fluid in the chest). The virus may also cause neurological signs. The issue is always lethal.
For more details, click here to see the Winnfeline health updates on FIP.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV): Cats infected by this serious disease often have the following clinical signs: lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, pale mucous membranes, and labored breathing.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (F.I.V.): This relatively new viral disease affects the immune systems of cats. Cats that are infected with the virus may have the following clinical signs: gingivitis, anorexia, lethargy, fever, chronic upper respiratory disease, chronic conjunctivitis, and chronic skin infections.
Fortunately, vaccines are available for most of these diseases, namely Typhus, Upper respiratory diseases (URD)and FeLV. We must keep in mind though that vaccines are NEVER 100% efficient, and in the case of URD, it doesn't prevent the cat from getting sick.
The best protection for your cat resides in prevention:
1) regular vaccination
2) keep the cat indoor, or allow it out in a fenced garden designed for it to enjoy an outdoor run without incurring the dangers of complete freedom : diseases, accidents, poisons....
Click on the following diseases to have the details. You will be refered to the excellent international PAWPEDS Website, in which very clear and well presented information is provided. But don't forget to come back!!
P.K.D.: Polycystic Kidney Disease. This disease is an inherited kidney disease that has been found in Persian cats and in the breeds in which Persians were introduced. Polycystic disease is a disease that shows up later in life (late onset) with enlarged kidneys and kidney dysfunction occurring between three and 10 years of age (on average at seven years of age). The condition is inherited and cysts are present from birth, but are smaller in younger animals. Cyst size can vary from less than 1 mm to greater than 1 cm in size, with older animals having larger and more numerous cysts. Problems occur when these cysts start to grow and progressively enlarge the kidney, reducing the kidney's ability to function properly. The ultimate end is kidney failure.
Some of the clinical signs are depression, lack of or reduced appetite, excessive thirst, excessive urination and weight loss. There is a marked difference in when and how quickly individual cats succumb, with the possibility of this developing late enough in life that the cat can die of other causes before kidney failure. However, kidney failure is certain when the cysts can grow and cause problems. Rarely, cysts are also seen in other organs such as the liver and uterus. PKD is most easily diagnosed by ultrasound. Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging technique that can identify the disease very early in its course.
There is no specific treatment for this disease. Treatment is similar to treatment of chronic kidney failure of any cause. This treatment includes moderate dietary protein restriction using high biological value protein, dietary phosphorus restriction, providing fresh drinking water at all times, use of phosphate binders, and treatment of the anemia if necessary.
H.C.M. Hypertrophic CardioMyopathy (click on the title to access the PAWPEDS article)
Pr Mark KITTLESON, Dr Rebecca GOMPF and Dr Susan LITTLE have devised a document addressed to the breeder community concerning HCM. If you are breeding cats, we strongly recommend you to read it.
H.D. : Hip dysplasia is a disease of the hip joint. "Dysplasia" is a word that means abnormal development of a tissue. The hip is a ball and socket type of joint. The "ball" is the top of the femur (called the "head") which fits into the acetabulum. A normal joint has a close fit of the femur's head into the acetabulum, so that the joint functions smoothly and efficiently. The large muscles of the hip and pelvis help hold the joint in place and allow it to function properly. In hip dysplasia , parts of the hip joint are abnormally shaped, so that the fit of the ball into the socket is poor. This allows the head of the femur to move easily out of the joint to some degree (called "subluxation" = dislocation). Over time, chronic changes develop in the bones of the hip joint from this abnormal movement and degeneration joint disease may result. In most cases, both hip joints are affected although one may be more severe than the other. Many cats with hip dysplasia go undetected.
Due to their small size and the fact that cats are not exercised as much as dogs, along with their natural agility, they may have hip dysplasia and still function normally. In some cats, hip dysplasia is found incidentally when they are x-rayed for another reason. This disease is not obvious at birth, but develops as the young kitten grows. If a cat is known to have dysplastic hips and is overweight, weight reduction will reduce the chances that discomfort will be experienced.
For cats who are diagnosed with hip dysplasia because they developed clinical signs of lameness and pain, several treatments are available. Veterinarians use anti-inflammatory and pain medications as well as dietary supplements designed to help in joint repair. Restricting exercise, such as limiting access to outdoors or the ability to climb up on objects, can be helpful as well. For severely affected cats, a surgery called a femoral head and neck excision arthroplasty is widely available that removes the damaged tissue. Cats who have had this surgery can usually expect a full return of hip function and freedom from pain and discomfort once post-operative healing has occurred.
We must bear in mind that unfortunately every living being carries latent genetic defects.
Our role as breeders is to do our very best to have the healthiest cats possible: through careful linechasing, test screenings, as well as providing regular vaccine injections when they are available and doing regular veterinary check ups. But you must keep in mind that sometimes Nature prevails despite our best efforts.
Our cats' health - Maine Coon and household cats' alike - is a major concern to us as we want them to lead as long a happy life with us as possible and wish the same for our kittens with their owners.
All our Maine Coons are screened for PKD, HCM and HD prior to breeding. We follow the Pawpeds Health Programme's recommandations for testing and breeding for the Maine Coon. For more details on this project, please have a look at: <<<< (click on the logo)
You can find our cats' health information on their presentation page as well as in the Pawpeds database. To access their health record on Pawpeds, you need to click on the letter "h" next to the cat's name at the top of the cat's pedigree.
Our kittens leave our cattery with a copy of all the health tests performed on their parents.