Cat illnesses: seven popular cat breeds & their common health problems

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Your pet cat is as much a part of the family as anyone else, so it’s always concerning if they fall ill.


Some breeds are more likely to suffer from certain health issues than others, so we’ve put together this guide to help you understand the kinds of cat ailments you might need to deal with. We’ve also included a glossary of all the medical terms at the end.

We’ve used data from our pet claims, and it’s important to bear in mind that this is based on averages. Depending on the condition your cat has and the treatment it needs, any costs may recur or increase.

We know you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your pet healthy, so make sure you take your cat to the vet if you’re at all worried about them. And a cat insurance policy will give you extra peace of mind and help deal with vet bills.  

1. Bengal

The Bengal is a fairly new breed that first came about when an Asian Leopard Cat was crossed with a domestic cat. The hope was to create a breed that would be a great family pet, but with the exotic looks of a wild cat.

As you might expect, it usually has a distinctive marbled or spotted coat that’s short but thick and luxurious.

The Bengal cat is friendly, playful and intelligent. They’re very vocal and easily bored, so they need plenty of distractions and toys to keep them occupied.  

The Bengals insured with Admiral suffer from the following ailments:

Commonly claimed ailment Average treatment cost
Otitis externa £131.72
Growth/tumour £414.48
Digestive disorder £1,343.36

Bengals can be prone to other issues including:

  • Eye problems like glaucoma, cataracts and entropion
  • Infections and abscesses from wounds
  • Kidney disease
  • Cystitis

2. Ragdoll

The Ragdoll cat is beautiful, with blue eyes and a silky, long grey coat, often with markings on the face, ears and legs. Because of the length of their fur, they need weekly grooming to detangle it.

They tend to be placid and friendly, making them great family pets. They aren’t usually very active, but they’ll follow you around the house to be near you.

We’ve found the top two conditions among Ragdolls to be:

Commonly claimed ailment Average treatment cost
Hyperthyroidism £194.76
Kidney problems £219.17

Other Ragdoll cat health issues include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

When looking for a kitten, it’s a good idea to check the medical history of its parents and grandparents for any health problems that are likely to be passed on.


3. British Shorthair

The British Shorthair is a fairly large breed of cat with rounded features. It has a short coat that comes in a huge variety of colours and patterns.

It’s a pretty low maintenance cat as it requires grooming less than once a week and isn’t very active. This breed doesn’t demand a lot of attention and is generally quiet too. They have very loving and affectionate personalities, and they’re good with both people and other animals.

The British Shorthair generally has good health and there are few conditions it’s prone to, but there’s a small chance of cats of this breed developing polycystic kidney disease. (They’ve been bred with Persian cats in the past, and this is a condition Persians often suffer from.) It may be more likely to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy too.

4. Birman

The Birman is a semi-longhaired breed of cat with a pale body, white feet and darker face, legs, ears and tail. It also has striking blue eyes. Twice-weekly grooming is enough unless your cat is shedding, in which case it’ll need to be upped to daily.

They love people and will follow you around the house. Your Birman will curl up on your lap if it gets the chance, but other than that they’re more likely to be on the floor rather than jumping up or climbing on anything. They’re happy to play with toys although they’re not particularly active otherwise.

The only specific Birman cat health concern is kidney disease. The blood tests of young Birman cats have shown impaired kidney function and some then go on to develop kidney failure.

5. Persian

Persian cats are a calm and gentle medium-sized breed of cat. They don’t tend to be very active or energetic and are usually content to sit quietly. Your Persian cat probably won’t seek out your attention but will appreciate it when they do have it.  

They have long fur which requires a big time commitment from their owner. They need daily grooming, since they have a thick undercoat that they can’t groom properly and keep free from matts on their own.

Persians are brachycephalic, meaning they have a flat face which can cause breathing problems. Common ailments for Persian cats include:

Commonly claimed ailment Average treatment cost
Cystitis £555.18
Urinary calculi £352.85

Other Persian cat health problems include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome
  • Primary seborrhoea
  • Dermatophytosis (ringworm)
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)


6. Siamese

The Siamese cat has a very distinctive look: a long, slim, athletic body, with large, pricked ears and a long tail. They’re very active, vocal cats that demand a lot of attention.

The Siamese has a short coat, with a pale body and much darker face, tail, legs and ears. Originally, this was a cream body and dark brown points, but other breeds were introduced to the mix, widening the range of colours. Their eyes are always blue, whatever the colour or pattern of their coat.

We’ve found Siamese cats to be prone to the following conditions:

Commonly claimed ailment Average treatment cost
Renal failure £474.25
Skin disorders £1,022.18

This breed tends to have a long lifespan (there have been reports of cats living into their twenties), but they can also be prone to:

  • Mediastinal lymphoma
  • Asthma
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Systemic amyloidosis


7. Exotic Shorthair

The Exotic Shorthair came about from selective breeding of the American Shorthair and the Persian to develop a cat that was exactly like the Persian in every way other than its coat. The coat of the Exotic Shorthair is much easier to look after than the Persian, while still coming in a huge range of colours and patterns.

This breed has the same gentle and affectionate personality as the Persian without being as energetic as other shorthaired breeds. The Exotic Shorthair is perfectly happy to be at home by itself. 

The most commonly claimed condition for this breed is urinary disorder, which has an average treatment cost of £181.24.

As this breed is brachycephalic (flat faced) like the Persian, it has potential for breathing problems and issues with its face. Other health concerns include:

  • Excessively watery eyes, leading to skin rashes and sores
  • Eye disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)


  • Asthma: a disease of the airway, causing coughing, laboured/fast breathing, noisy breathing and wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome: Breathing issues such as shortness of breath and inflammation and swelling in the airways due to the flatness of certain breeds’ faces.
  • Cataract: The lens in the eye gradually becomes cloudy, causing a decrease in vision.
  • Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder, often caused by an infection.
  • Dermatophytosis (ringworm): A fungal condition that causes itching, fur loss and crusty/scaly skin. It can be transmitted to people.
  • Entropion: The eyelids roll inwards towards the eyeball.
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): A viral disease which is usually fatal.
  • Glaucoma: The optic nerve is damaged by the pressure of fluid inside the eye.
  • Hip dysplasia: Abnormal formation of the hip joints.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: the heart pumps less blood with each contraction, causing faintness, tiredness and other signs of heart disease.
  • Mediastinal lymphoma: A cancer which causes fluid to build around the lungs, causing coughing and breathing difficulties.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD): Cysts in the kidneys grow until they prevent the kidney working normally, causing kidney failure.
  • Primary seborrhoea: Scaly, greasy skin that can affect the whole body.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): Deterioration of the retinas in both eyes causing gradual vision loss.
  • Systemic amyloidosis: Protein is deposited abnormally in various organs, sometimes leading to liver or kidney failure.

Doing all you can to keep your pet healthy is vital, especially as vet bills can be expensive. 

Half of animal-loving Brits have taken annual leave to look after a sick kitty or poorly pooch. Take a look at the figures in our Pawly Pets campaign

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