ginger and white kitten

How can I know if my kitten is healthy?

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Common symptoms of illness in kittens: What to look out for and how to act

By Isabelle Vixège Veterinarian

Published on the

Kittens are so fragile... What are the diseases to watch out for? How do you recognise them? When should you worry? Here's a quick rundown of kitten ailments.

Just like babies, kittens are fragile beings - an otherwise benign illness could turn very serious if left untreated for too long. Here are some common symptoms to look out for in your kitten and how to act accordingly.

My kitten has diarrhoea and/or is vomiting

Diarrhoea manifests itself as watery stools, often accompanied by vomiting and a drop in appetite. The causes are varied, ranging from a serious case of infectious enteritis to a simple change in diet.


Cat typhus, or feline panleukopenia, is a disease caused by parvovirus. Symptoms include fever and severe digestive upsets leading to dehydration. In kittens, the prognosis is rapidly life-threatening.


Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea. The threat to your kitten's health varies depending on the cause (infectious, dietary, etc.).


Intestinal worms can be responsible for digestive problems in kittens. Check your kitten's litterbox as worms can sometimes be detected in the stools. The most common, roundworms, look like small white spaghetti. Kittens can also be contaminated by Giardia, which cause soft, discoloured stools.

Foreign bodies

Kittens get into mischief... and can ingest various objects that get stuck in their small intestine. Linear objects (such as wire or string) are particularly dangerous. In the event of an obstruction, the kitten will vomit, have a decreased appetite, and stop defecating, which can lead to rapid weight loss. The kitten's condition deteriorates rapidly.

Is it an emergency?

Digestive symptoms should never be taken lightly in a kitten under 6 months old. If your little friend is ill, don't delay in seeking medical attention.

My kitten is sneezing and/or their eyelids are stuck

Sneezing and a runny nose are signs of upper respiratory infections.


This cat cold is particularly common in kittens. Symptoms include fever, sneezing, coughing and a runny nose. The nostrils may be blocked, leading to a loss of smell often associated with a drop in appetite.


Eye damage is common in coryza. It can result in runny eyes or stuck eyelids. Ulcers may form on the cornea and, in the most serious cases, the eye may be lost.

Is it an emergency?

A kitten with breathing difficulties should be seen urgently. Rapid consultation is also essential if the eyelids are stuck.

My kitten is itching and/or shedding

Itching and skin problems are common in kittens.

Ear mites

Ear mites can infest the inside of your kitten's ears. Symptoms include itching and the appearance of abundant black earwax.

Fleas and lice

Kittens can be infected by fleas or lice. The parasites are sometimes visible in the coat. With fleas, you can also look for droppings (which look like small black grains) and with lice, you can look for nits (which look like small white eggs attached to the fur).

Ringworm in kittens

Symptoms of ringworm include the appearance of round, hairless areas on your kitten's body, often on the head or legs. Itching is generally absent.

Is it an emergency?

Dermatological diseases are not an emergency. However, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible to relieve the animal's pain and prevent contamination of others, including humans in the case of ringworm.

My kitten is limping

Lameness is more common in outdoor cats.

Bite injuries

Bite injuries caused by other cats are a frequent cause of lameness in kittens. Symptoms include swelling and pain in the affected limb. Bite marks are not always visible because of a kitten's abundant coat. A fever is often present.


Feline calicivirus is responsible for inflammation of the mouth and can occasionally cause temporary lameness in kittens.


Accidents are common in a cat's youth. Falls and road accidents can lead to various fractures. Symptoms of a fracture include severe pain and an inability to stand or walk.

Is it an emergency?

Open fractures (i.e. bones that have pierced the skin) are real emergencies.

The list of symptoms that your kitten could have is long, but fortunately, with the right care and attention, you can avoid most of them from getting worse. To prevent any kitten health issues from developing, ensure you vaccinate them from the age of 8 weeks, treat them against parasites, provide them with quality food and make their environment safe (by protecting your balcony, for example).

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