Common illnesses affecting UK domestic cats are almost completely preventable

The top 6 diseases affecting domestic cats in the UK are listed in the table below.

Gum disease15.23
General dental disease9.23
Overgrown nails5.23
Flea infestation5.07
Heart murmur4.44
Table showing the top 6 domestic cat diseases in the UK from a “random sample of 18,249 cats was obtained from 1,255,130 cats under primary care during 2019 within VetCompass”. Link to the study:×231155016
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Is the kitten healthy?
Is the kitten healthy? Checklist infographic by MikeB

Overall assessment of the results

The lead co-author in this study about domestic cat health in the UK, Prof Danielle Gunn-Moore, Professor of Feline Medicine at the University of Edinburgh said something which is very telling about her study and it is this: “Britain is a country of animal lovers, yet this study shows that the most common illnesses cats suffer with are almost completely preventable”.

Comment: Brits can do better in their cat caregiving. I am not sure that Britain can genuinely be described as a country of animal lovers in an absolute sense. Perhaps relative to many other countries, yes, Britain it but there is far too much animal neglect and outright abuse.

Video gamer hoodie for cat lovers who want the company of their cat when gaming
Video gamer hoodie for cat lovers who want the company of their cat when gaming. Photo: Bauhutte and Unihabitat.

Top six diseases – first gum disease

Turning to the table of the top six feline diseases suffered by domestic cats in the UK we can readily see that she is correct. Gum disease is the most common of all and anybody who has read up about domestic cat health will recognise this health problem.

Middle-aged and elderly cats almost invariably suffer from gum disease for the obvious reason that the teeth of domestic cats are never kept clean. You can forget about the concept of large-pelleted dry cat food cleaning cats’ teeth. There is some benefit with “dental care” dry cat food but it isn’t sufficient to prevent gum disease.

And the reason why this disease is in our hands is because if every cat owner who adopted a kitten trained their kitten to accept teeth cleaning by their caregiver it would radically reduce this high prevalence. But who does this? I didn’t do it. I passed up the opportunity to do it for no good reason. I was negligent.

There are numerous articles on the Internet about how to clean a cat’s teeth. They remind us that we should begin the training of our cat’s acceptance of this when they are very young. I think that it is very hard to train an adult cat to accept having their teeth cleaned. And it is about cleaning teeth.

The technical term for gum disease is periodontitis or gingivitis. It is caused by a buildup of tartar or calculus at the gum line and the material contains bacteria and without treatment periodontitis can destroy the bones supporting teeth. It can be avoided.

Tellingly, the kind of prevalent gum disease in domestic cats does not occur their owners. And yet about one in six cats from middle-aged to elderly, according to the study, suffer from the disease. As the professor said, it is almost completely preventable.


The next most common disease is obesity, which certainly is preventable. This is a disease caused by poor cat caretaking. There is no other way to describe it. And of course, obesity can lead to many other diseases such as feline diabetes which is far more common than it used to be. There are probably three major factors affecting feline obesity:

  • overfeeding
  • under exercising (link here to the trend for full-time indoor cats)
  • dry foods which are very popular and which contain a high level of carbohydrates in order to make the product.
  • a possible fourth reason: fire retardants in soft furnishings.

Poor oral health

The third most common disease is general dental disease which refers to the whole mouth, which in many cases might be severe enough to cause stomatitis – an inflamed sore mouth. There might be broken teeth, cavities, feline oral resorptive lesions and glossitis (inflammation of the tongue). The cat might drool and there will be bad breath which is a sign of poor oral health. I’d use that sign as a diagnostic tool.

In addition to cleaning your cat’s teeth there are at least two products which you can add to your cat’s drinking water that may help reduce tartar and plaque accumulation. In the US there is Dental Fresh and Pet Kiss Plaque and Tartar Control Liquid.


My favourite veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM, who is a practising veterinarian and the world’s best vet/author, has a tip about how to prevent gum disease in cats. He calls it “Bruce’s bones tip”. He agrees that gum disease is the most common reason why he is obliged to anaesthetise cats. Please note that. In order to clean a cat’s teeth veterinarians, have to anaesthetise them which carries a health risk of its own.

He states that “Most tooth and gum disease can be avoided if a cat learnt early in life to eat bones”. He says that he started his kitten on chicken bones at eight weeks of age. He admits that there are drawbacks both in terms of shards of bones breaking and raw chicken bones may carry salmonella bacteria but he concludes that “the benefits from a cat gnawing on bones vastly outweigh the risks.”

Overgrown nails and flea infestation

Both overgrown nails and a flea infestation concern a failure to check basic health matters. Older cats tend to have ingrowing nails because they are less active. Full-time indoor cats are prone to suffer from the same problem. It mainly concerns the paws of their front feet. All you have to do is to trim your cat’s nails regularly and check them at the same time. QED. As for a flea infestation, each and every cat owner should flea comb their cat at least once a day to check for fleas. If they have fleas, they should approach the problem holistically which means cleaning the house top to bottom to make sure there are no fleas in the home and then flea comb your cat daily.

My personal opinion is that cat caregivers should avoid using insecticides; either a spot-on treatment or any other such as a flea treatment collar unless it is absolutely necessary because there have been too many cat injuries and deaths arising out of the incorrect application of flea treatments. Many people, nonetheless, use a spot-on treatment as per instructions routinely. I don’t and I don’t need to because my cat and my home is flea-free.

Heart murmur

This, is a veterinary problem. To the best of my knowledge, a heart murmur is a precursor to potential full-blown heart disease which in domestic cats is commonly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy otherwise known as HCM; a disease which affects quite a few purebred cats by inheritance and some random bread cats too. This problem in purebred cats is also human-made because it is due to a negligent approach to selective breeding as administered by the cat associations. There does not need to be an increased prevalence of HCM in purebred cats such as the Maine Coon and Bengal [link]. It is not obligatory. They can remove it from breeding lines by altering the breed standards.

Full list of the most common disorders in pet cats 2023 in the UK

  1. Gum disease
  2. Obesity
  3. Dental disease
  4. Overgrown nail(s)
  5. Flea infestation
  6. Heart murmur
  7. Weight loss
  8. Vomiting
  9. Abscess
  10. Diarrhoea
  11. Haircoat disorder
  12. Thin/underweight
  13. Wound
  14. Hyperthyroidism
  15. Chronic kidney disease
  16. Anorexia
  17. Conjunctivitis
  18. Disorder not diagnosed 
  19. Flea bite hypersensitivity
  20. Osteoarthritis
  21. Cat bite injury
  22. Cystitis 
  23. Lameness
  24. Post-operative wound complication
  25. Cardiac dysrhythmia
  26. Otitis externa
  27. Over-grooming
  28. Constipation
  29. Poor quality of life
  30. Road traffic accident 

1 thought on “Common illnesses affecting UK domestic cats are almost completely preventable”

  1. Kidney disease is most certainly not the 15th most common illness/disease, unless they counted kittens right through to older cats


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