5 Rare diseases in cats: what they are and how to recognize the symptoms

The pathologies of felines are many, they can be common or rare. Let’s look at 5 rare diseases that can affect cats.

When vets have to visit a sick cat, the first thing they do is make a list of the various diseases that could be responsible for the feline’s ailment. In this list, common diseases are at the top and rare ones at the bottom. This is called the differential diagnosis.

Veterinarians then make a diagnostic plan to begin confirming or eliminating any potential disease. Usually the answer is at the top of the list, but sometimes specialists go all the way to rare diseases before reaching a diagnosis.

Here are some cat diseases that, although rare, still deserve to be included in the differential diagnosis of a feline.

5 Rare Diseases in Cats: Here’s What They Are

Feline hyperesthesia

Feline hyperesthesia is a diagnosis of exclusion. Cats with feline hyperesthesia can develop a number of unusual behaviors, including biting to the point of injury, puckering skin, odd vocalizations, random bouts of running and / or jumping, and even seizure-like episodes.

Before a cat can be diagnosed with hyperesthesia, the most common diseases that have symptoms like these must be ruled out. This condition is often treated with anti-anxiety drugs.

Feline infectious peritonitis

Many cat owners have heard of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) even though the condition is quite rare. FIP is caused by a viral infection.

The strange thing about FIP ​​is that most cats are infected with the causative virus when they are young, but only a small fraction of infected felines continue to develop FIP at a later time, due to the virus mutating within their cats bodies. Cats with FIP can develop a number of symptoms, including:

  • Loss of appetite in the cat
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss in the feline
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen or chest
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Eye anomalies
  • Behavioral changes and seizures

Treatment for FIP is limited to supportive care.

Notoedrica mange

Many diseases can cause cats to itch, including common ones like flea infestations and seasonal allergies. But another disease that can cause this symptom is notoedric mange, also known as feline scabies. The latter is caused by microscopic mites that pass from cat to cat.

The mites burrow into the cat’s skin and cause thick scabs and intense itching, often around the head, neck, and front legs. The treatment for this condition is a drug that kills the mites.


Acromegaly is caused by an overproduction of growth hormone within the cat‘s body, often due to a tumor within the pituitary gland. The result is an excessively large cat with a large head and enlarged organs. Acromegaly is also associated with the development of diabetes mellitus and cat heart disease.


Dysautonomia, also known as Key-Gaskell syndrome, is caused by abnormalities within the feline’s nervous system. Cats with dysautonomia typically experience poor appetite, vomiting, pupils that do not respond normally to light, enlarged third eyelids, dehydration, constipation, difficulty eating and urinating, poor tear production, and slow heart rate.

Treating the symptoms of dysautonomia can make these cats feel better, but most are euthanized due to poor quality of life.

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