What Illnesses Will Kill a Cat Within 24 Hours?

Observation is the key to monitoring your cat's health
Observation is the key to monitoring your cat's health (Image: Cat image by Mesarthim from Fotolia.com)

Cats and dogs are the most common family pets. Smart, lively and playful, a cat is a welcome addition to any home. These pets are generally solitary creatures so careful observation of your cat is the best way to monitor her health. In the cases of very fast acting illnesses it can mean the difference between life and death.

Feline Distemper

Feline distemper (panleukopenia) is a severe viral disease that attacks the digestive system, bone marrow or lymph systems of affected cats. It is so widespread that nearly every cat born is exposed to it within his first year. Symptoms of this illness include vomiting, high fever, diarrhea and seizures. Without immediate veterinary intervention this disease is fatal. Fortunately, there is a vaccine to prevent feline distemper. The live virus vaccine is administered to kittens at 6 to 10 weeks of age with one more series of shots at 12 to 16 weeks and annual booster shots thereafter. If exposure is suspected, a kitten can get a dead virus vaccine as young as 4 weeks, with protection at three to seven days post vaccination.


Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is the name for a wide variety of ailments affecting the bladder and urethra of cats. One of these, a urethral obstruction, involves the complete blockage of the urethra so no urine can pass through. Male cats are more susceptible to these blockages (plugs) as the urethra of a male cat is longer and narrower than that of a female. This condition is an immediate medical emergency for your cat and will require veterinarian intervention. Symptoms of a blockage include painful urination (often a cat will cry or howl while attempting to use the litter box), blood in the urine, urinating outside the litter box and frequent trips to the litter box with little to no production of urine.


Although not technically an illness, poisonings account for a great many trips to the veterinarian for cats. Among the most lethal substances is ethylene glycol, which is in automotive anti-freeze. The sweet taste is attractive to cats. Initially the cat appears drunken, followed by kidney failure and death. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin are also toxic in even very small amounts. Symptoms of ingestion are generally tied to gastrointestinal distress, but in the case of acetaminophen toxicity the cat will also have brown gums and a swollen appearance about her face. Any time you suspect your cat has ingested something she shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian immediately. Treatments are available, but they must begin without delay.

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