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Thanks for your contributions to the National Kitten Coalition Feline Medical Dictionary! We started off each week with four NKC words in our Facebook Tuesday Tips, included the words you provided in the comment section, and added more of our words to create this dictionary of words from A to Z. What is your favorite word in the dictionary?


Abscess (ab-ses): A localized accumulation of pus that forms under the skin, as may occur following a fight between cats because the bacteria from their mouths and claws infect the wounds

Acute (uh-kyoot): A problem with a sudden and generally severe onset, as may be seen with messy and dangerous diarrhea in kittens

Adspection (ad-spek-shuhn): A diagnostic method consisting of thorough observation, typically of an animal, for example, when watching a limping cat walk before feeling (palpation) the affected limb

Aerobic (ayr-oh-bik): Requiring oxygen, as in Pasturella multocida, a common bacteria of the oral cavity of cats

Agenesis (ey-jen-uh-sis): The lack of specific cells within an organ or the complete absence of an organ, which may occur with atresia ani

Allergen (al-er-juhn): A foreign protein that the immune system tries to remove

Alopecia (al-uh-pee-shee-uh): A condition of hair loss resulting in either patches of baldness or complete baldness, as may be caused by ectoparasites

Alveoli (al-vee-oh-ly): The air sacs at the end of the bronchioles (tiny branches of air tubes in the lungs) where the lungs and the blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide during breathing

Anaphylaxis (an-uh-fuh-lak-sis): An acute allergic reaction to an antigen, for example to a vaccine or antibiotic

Anastomosis (uh-nas-tuh-moh-sis): A surgical procedure to join two body parts that are not currently connected,.which may be required for rectal prolapse

Anaerobic (an-uh-roh-bik): Not requiring oxygen, as in anaerobic bacteria normally living in the cat’s abdomen, vaginal canal, intestines and mouth but cause infection and tissue death when they invade tissues due to deep injuries, surgeries or internal infections

Anemia (uh-nee-mee-uh): A lower than normal level of red blood cells (also referred to as erythrocytes) carrying oxygen to the body.

Anisocoria (an-ahy-suh-kohr-ee-uh): A condition in which the pupils of the cat’s eyes are different sizes; in other words, one pupil is larger than the other, as may be seen in Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Antibody (an-ti-bod-ee): A protein produced by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens

Ankyloblepharon (anki-loh-blef-er-on): The partial or complete adhesion of the edges of the upper eyelid with the lower eyelid

Antigen (an-ti-juhn): A substance that triggers the production of an antibody

Anorexia (an-uh-rek-see-uh): Loss of appetite, whatever the cause

Anurous (uh-noor-uhs): Without a tail, as in the Manx breed

Apnea (ap-nee-uh): A disorder causing breathing to briefly stop, as in sleep apnea which occurs in overweight and brachycephalic breeds and may causing snoring, gasping or choking

Arrhythmia (uh-rith-mee-uh): An irregular heartbeat caused by delay or blockage of the electrical signals that tell the heart to contract and pump blood·

Arthritis A chronic, painful, progressive condition, also known as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis) is a involving the joints of cats, which likely affects 70-90% of cats over 12 years old

Ascites (uh-sahy-teez): An accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, as may be seen with Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Aspirate (as-puh-reyt): To draw in or out using a sucking motion. Aspiration can also mean breathing in a foreign object (such as inhaling food into the airway).

Asthma (az-muh): A disease of the lower airways of the lungs affecting 1-5% of cats most likely caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens that stimulate the immune system

Ataxia (uh-tak-see-uh): A lack of muscle coordination, usually resulting in an abnormal or staggered gait, as may be seen with cerebellar hypoplasia

Atelectasis (at-uh-lek-tuh-sis): A complete or partial collapse of the entire lung or area of the lung, which is caused by compression of alveoli (air sacs) and may be seen with Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Atresia ani (uh-tree-zhee-uh ah-nee): A congenital malformation resulting in the lack of a patent anus due to the failure to rupturing of the dorsal membrane, which separates the rectum and anus

Auscultate (aw-skuhl-teyt): Auscultation is a method used to listen to the sounds of the body during a physical examination, usually with a stethoscope.

Aural (awr-uhl): Is defined as relating to the ear or the sense of hearing, as may be seen in an aural hematoma, a collection of blood, either fresh or clotted, within the pinna (ear flap)


Bacteriophage (bak-teer-ee-uh-feyj): A virus that parasitizes bacteria and can be helpful to overcome resistance to antibiotics, for example to treat feline Escherichia coli urinary tract infections.

Baculum (ba-kyuh-luhm): The bone in a cat’s penis

Barbering (bahr-ber-ing): The act of overgrooming, which leads to shorter hair or areas of baldness and skin inflammation caused by the tongue’s barbs (hooks called papillae)

Bartonella (baar-tuh-neh-luh): A flea- and tick-borne bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae, which is known as Cat Scratch Disease when it is transmitted to people through the scratch or bite of an infected cat

Blepharitis (blef-uh-rahy-tis): An inflammation of one or both eyelids, commonly seen in brachycephalic breeds, that may be caused by allergies, tumors and infections

Blepharospasm (blef-er-uh-spaz-uhm): The spasmodic squinting or blinking of the eyelid/s, as may be seen with cornel ulcers and Feline Herpesvirus Type-1

Borborygmus (bawr-buh-rig-muhs): The grumbling, gurgling sounds caused by gasses passing through the stomach and the intestine

Brachycephalic (brak-ee-suh-fal-ik): A shortening in length of the skull bones that gives the face and nose a pushed-in appearance, as seen in pedigreed cats such Persian and Himalayans

Bradycardia (brad-i-kahr-dee-uh): A heart rate below the normal range, which is 120-140 beats per minute for an adult cat and 200-260 for a kitten

Break: The indentation of a cat’s nose

Bronchitis (brong-kahy-tis): Feline chronic bronchitis is a disease involving inflammation and excessive secretions that plug the smaller airways that branch out from the trachea (windpipe) and impair the ability to bring oxygen into the lung’s alveoli for delivery to the rest of the body

Bunting (buhn-ting): The butting or rubbing of the head against other things, including people, which is a form or marking and affection

Buphthalmos (byoof-thal-muhs): a congenital, abnormal enlargement of the eyeball


Calicivirus (kuh-lee-see-vai-ruhs): Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is highly contagious and a major cause of Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)

Catheterization (kath-uh-tuhr-uh-zay-shuhn: Insertion of a catheter (a flexible or rigid hollow tube employed to drain fluids) into the body, such as urinary bladder catheterization, in which a catheter is inserted into the urethra to permit urine to flow out of the urinary bladder

Cerebellar hypoplasia (seh-ruh-beh-lr hai-puh-play-zhee-uh): A neurologic condition, known as CH or wobbly kitten syndrome, affecting kittens and cats that is most often caused when a pregnant cat is exposed to feline parvovirus, the virus that causes feline panleukopenia, whether from a natural infection or from a vaccination

Cheyletiellosis (ki-la-te-el-lo-sys): A highly contagious skin disease of cats, also called walking dandruff, cause by Cheyletiella mites

Chimera (ky-meer-uh): A cat with two distinct sets of DNA, which occurs when one fetus reabsorbs its fraternal twin while in the womb, resulting in different colors on either side of the face

Chronic (kraa-nik): A condition that persists for weeks, months or a lifetime. An example of a chronic condition is kidney disease

Cleft palate (kleft pal-it): A congenital defect of the palate in which a longitudinal fissure exists in the roof of the mouth

Coccidia (kok-sid-ee-uh): Microscopic, single-celled protozoan parasites that infect the intestinal tract, causing smelly, watery or bloody diarrhea

Coccidiosis (kok-sid-ee-oh-sis): An intestinal tract infection caused by coccidia, protozoan (single-celled) parasites.

Coloboma (kaa-luh-bow-muh): A congenital maldevelopment of the eye/s involves the upper eyelid margins of one of both eyes

Colopexy (kol-a-pek-see): A surgery to correct rectal prolapse that attaches the rectum to the inside of the abdominal wall

Colostrum (kuh-los-truhm): The watery fluid rich in antibodies and nutrients secreted by queens during the 24-36 hours after giving birth and before producing true milk

Congenital (kuhn-jen-it-tl): A condition present at birth, such as cryptorchidism and cerebellar hypoplasia, which may be inherited or caused during pregnancy

Congenital hypothyroidism (hahy-puh-thahy-roi-diz-uhm): A disorder of insufficient thyroid hormone in the body, which is important for the development of the nervous and skeletal systems, that may be underreported and not diagnosed since kittens appear normal but die at birth or die as juveniles before symptoms ever become evident

Conjunctiva (kon-juhngk-tahy-vuh): The tissue lining the inner surface of the eyelids and covering the white of the eyes (sclera), also called pink eye

Conjunctivitis (kuhn-juhngk-tuh-vahy-tis): Inflammation of the conjunctiva

Constipation (kon-stuhpey-shuhn): An abnormal accumulation of feces in the large intestine, which may result in hard, dried feces, straining to defecate and reduced frequency of defecation or absence of feces

Coprophagia (kow-pruh-fay-zhua):The eating of feces, which may be related to certain diseases or behavioral problems

Cornea (kawr-nee-uh): The transparent front part of the eye coverng the iris and pupil that admits light into the eye

Crepitus (kreh-puh-tuhs): A crackling chest sound heard in pneumonia and other lung diseases; the grating sound of two ends of a broken bone rubbing together

Crepuscular (kri-puhs-kyuh-ler): Appearing or active during dawn and dusk; cats are crepuscular animals

Cryptorchidism (kript-awr-ki-diz-uhm): A condition where one testicle or both (testes) don’t descend from the groin area, where they develop before birth, into the scrotum

Cutaneous (kyoo-tey-nee-uhs): Relating to or affecting the skin

Cyanosis (sai-yuh-now-suhs): The bluish tissue discoloration resulting from increased concentration of reduced hemoglobin, a protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen

Cystitis (si-stahy-tis): Inflammation of the urinary bladder


Defecation (def-i-key-shuhn): The act of voiding excrement from the bowels; bowel movement

Dehiscence (dih-his-uhns): Any opening in a wound after surgery, which may be prevented by burying dissolvable sutures

Dehydration (dee-hahy-drey-shuhn): The excessive loss of water and electrolytes (minerals such as potassium, sodium and chloride) that may occur in kittens with inadequate milk intake or excessive fluid losses due to prolonged diarrhea, vomiting or overheating (hyperthermia)

Dermatitis (dur-muh-tahy-tis): Inflammation of the skin, which may be caused by fleas, food allergies or environmental stimuli

Dermatophyte (der-mat-uh-fahyt): A type of skin fungus, such as Microsporum canis, which causes ringworm and especially affects kittens

Diarrhea (dahy-uh-ree-uh): Loose, watery stool that does not hold its form; fluid loss from diarrhea can lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance

Digitigrade (dij-i-ti-greyd): Describes animals that stands or walks on their toes, such as cats

Dilated (dai-lay-tuhd): A state of being widened or enlarged, as in dilated pupils caused by short-term fear or a progressive disease such as glaucoma

Dislocation (dis-loh-key-shuhn): The displacement of a body part from its proper position, which may be due to trauma to a bone or be present at birth (congenital diaphragmatic hernia)

Distemper (dis-tem-per): Feline distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia virus, is a deadly virus to which kittens are at highest risk

Distended (dih-sten-did): Swollen or expanded, as may occur when a kitten’s abdomen is enlarged due to spoiled milk replacement formula, intestinal parasites and panleukopenia

Distichia (di-stuh-kai-uh): The condition of having two sets of eyelashes, which often results in injury to the eye’s lining and may require treatment to correct

Dysbiosis (duhs-bai-ow-suhs): An imbalance that can occur in the intestinal bacteria and disrupt the GI tract’s normal functions, which can be life threatening in young kittens

Dyschezia (dis-kee-zee-uh): Difficult or painful defecation, usually associated with hardened feces, and may have many causes, including dehydration and parasites

Dysphagia (dis-fey-jee-uh):The condition in which eating and/or swallowing is difficult, as may occur with cleft palate

Dysphoria (dis-fawr-ee-uh): Extreme anxiety and agitation, which may occur in the 20-30 minutes postoperative period due to drug reactions or pain and be accompanied by thrashing, restlessness, and continuous activity

Dyspnea (disp-nee-uh): Breathing that is difficult or labored, which may be a symptom of Feline Infectious Peritonitis or lower respiratory tract infections

Dystocia (duhs-tow-shuh): An abnormal or difficult birth, which may be due to maternal factors, such as uterine inertia, and/or fetal factors, such as an oversized kitten

Dysuria (dis-yoo-ree-uh): Urination that is painful or difficult and should be treated as a medical emergency in male cats whose narrow urethras can become blocked


Eartip: The removal of approximately 1/4” of the top of the ear flap is the universally recognized sign of a spayed or neutered cat, which is standard in most Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs

Ectoparasite (ek-toh-par-uh-sahyt): An external parasite, such as a flea and tick

Edema (ih-dee-muh): The swelling caused by increased fluid moving from blood vessels into tissues or insufficient fluid moving from tissues back into blood vessels

Effusion (ih-fyoo-zhuhn): The accumulation of fluid in the thoracic, pericardial or abdominal cavities due to its movement from its normal location in the body

Electrolytes: Elements in the blood which are critically important to life, including sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorous

Emesis (em-uh-sis): The ejection of the contents of the stomach or upper intestines through the mouth, which is also known as vomiting

Emetic (uh-met-ik): An agent used to cause vomiting, such as xylazine hydrochloride, particularly when given subcutaneously or intramuscularly to eliminate a toxic substance

Endoparasite (en-doh-par-uh-sahyt): An internal parasite, such as roundworms and coccidia

Enteritis (en-tuh-rahy-tis): Inflammation of the intestines, especially, the small intestines, which may occur with Feline infectious enteritis (FIE), a disease caused by infection feline panleukopenia virus

Entropion (uhn-trow-pee-aan): The abnormal rolling inward of the eyelids, which may allow eyelashes to irritate the cornea and cause pain and swelling of the eye

Enucleation (ih-noo-klee-ey-shuhn): The surgical removal of an eyeball, which may be necessary in severe cases of feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1) that cause pain and limit eyesight

Epiphora (ih-pif-er-uh): An overflow of tears due to excessive secretion of the lacrimal (tear) glands or obstruction of the lacrimal ducts

Epistaxis (ep-uh-stak-sis): An acute hemorrhage (bleeding) from the nostril, nasal cavity, or nasopharynx (upper part of the throat that lies behind the nose, just above the soft part of the roof of the mouth and just behind the nasal passages). It is commonly referred to as a nosebleed.

Erythema (er-uhthee-muh): Abnormal redness of the skin, due to irritation, injury, or inflammation, caused by dilation of superficial blood vessels in the skin

Erythrolysis (ih-rith-ruhl-ahy-sis): The destruction or dissolution of red blood cells, which causes the release of hemoglobin

Eructation (ih-ruhk-tey-shuhn): The act of burping or bringing up gas from the stomach


Facultatively social: Displaying flexible social behavior depending on environment and upbringing, as in cats who can live socially or solitarily

Failure to Thrive: This condition, aka Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS), may cause sudden death or within a few days between birth and weaning

Feces (fee-seez): The solid waste from an animal that ideally is brown, firm and log or nugget shaped

Fever coat: A condition of a kitten being born with a grey or silver coat which changes color after a couple of weeks, which may be due to the queen being ill or stressed during pregnancy

Feline audiogenic reflex seizure (FARS): A seizure caused by loud sounds, such as crinkling tin foil and tapping a metal utensil against a ceramic bowl, resulting in brief muscle spasms without loss of consciousness

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (hahy-per-uhs-thee-zee-uh): An extreme sensitivity in a cat’s skin, almost always on the back and often in the area right in front of the tail, which may lead to self mutilation

Flehmen response (fley-muhn): A behavior in which the animal inhales with the mouth open and upper lip curled to facilitate exposure of the vomeronasal (Jacobson’s) organ to a scent or pheromone for analysis

Focal infection: A very rare condition of FeLV-positive cats in which infection is restricted to certain tissue (eg, spleen, lymph nodes, small intestine, mammary glands) ad FeLV test results are discordant (positive and negative)

Focal seizure: The most common type of seizure in cats occurs as the result of inappropriate electrical activity on one side of the brain; may be a symptom of feline infectious peritonitis, feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus and toxoplasmosis

Fomite (foh-mite): An inanimate object, such as clothing, that carries and spreads disease and infection

Frank blood: The fresh, bright-red blood visible in feces that indicates bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs): Also known as zoomies and may occur to release pent-up energy, after defecating and as a symptom of hyperthyroidism


Gastrointestinal (gas-troh-in-tes-tuh-nl): Part of the digestive system, the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and anus

Gestation (je-stay-shun): The period of pregnancy from conception to birth, which averages 65 days for queens (unspayed cats)Giardia (jee-ahr-dee-uh): A single-celled, protozoan organism that causes severe gastrointestinal disease when ingested from infected feces themselves or soil and water contaminated by the organism

Gingiva (jin-juhvuh): The membrane around the teeth and the lining of the mouth, also known as the gums, which should be pink and moist

Gingivitis (jin-juh-vahy-tis): Inflammation (swelling) of the gums, which is the immune system’s reaction to bacteria and plaque under the gums, accompanied by redness, bleeding and pain

Glaucoma (glaw-koh-muh): A painful condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, which damages the optic nerve and gradually leads to blindness

Gram: A metric unit of weight, with 28 grams equaling an ounce, that provides a more accurate weight for small animals such as kittens


Hematemesis (hee-muh-teh-muh-suhs): The act of vomiting blood which 1) if new or recent is bright red or 2) if old and partially digested resembles brown coffee grounds

Hematoma (hee-ma-toh-muh): A collection of blood, usually clotted, in a tissue or organ, caused by a break in a blood vessel, which may occur if an ear flap is injured

Hematuria (hem-uh-toor-ee-uh): The presence of blood in urine, defined as gross hematuria when seen with the naked eye and occult when only seen with a microscope

Hematochezia (hee-muh-toh-kee-zee-uh): The presence of bright red blood in the feces, which may indicate irritation or inflammation in the lower gastrointestinal tract (colon and rectum)

Hernia (hur-nee-uh): The protrusion of an organ or tissue through an opening in its surrounding walls, especially in the abdominal region, such as an umbilical hernia in kittens caused by the queen biting the cord too close

Heterochromia (het-er-uh-kroh-mee-uh): A condition that causes a cat’s eyes to be two different colors, more commonly seen in white cats such as Turkish Vans

Heteropaternal superfecundation (heh-trow-puh-tur-nl soo-per-fee-kuhn-dey-shuhn): The fertilization of two or more ova by separate acts of conception with two or more male cats during the same heat cycle of a queen, which accounts for litters having multiple fathers

Hyperthermia (hahy-per-thur-mee-uh): An elevation in the body’s core temperature, which may be caused by exercise, excessive heat, reactions to drugs or poisons and medical conditions

Hypoglycemia (hahy-poh-glahy-see-mee-uh): An abnormally low glucose level in the blood, which may occur when kittens don’t get enough food per meal or have been without food for several hours

Hypothermia (hahy-puh-thur-mee-uh) : An abnormally low body temperature, which is a common risk especially to orphaned neonatal kittens who are unable to shiver or regulate their body temperature

Hypoxia: (hahy-pok-see-uh): Low oxygen level in blood and tissues


Iatrogenic (ahy-a-truh-jen-ik): An unintentional outcome caused by a person, medical treatment or diagnostic procedure, for example, iatrogenic hypothyroidism can occur in cats treated for hyperthyroidism

Icterus (ik-ter-uhs): The yellow discoloration of the skin, eyes, ears, gums, foot pads and serum, aka jaundice, caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin, a waste product of red blood cell metabolism

Incubation period: The time between exposure to an infectious disease and the appearance of the first signs or symptoms of the disease

Idiopathic (id-ee-uh-path-ik): A disorder or disease without apparent cause, for example, feline idiopathic cystitis, an inflammation of unknown origin of the urinary bladder

Imperforate anus (im-pur-fer-it ey-nuhs): A rare congenital condition in kittens in which the anal opening does not develop

Induced ovulator: The cat is an induced ovulator, meaning that the release of eggs from the ovaries is stimulated by the act of breeding; most females require 3-4 matings within a 24-hour period for ovulation to occur

Intussusception (in-tuhs-suh-sep-shuhn): The folding of an intestinal segment into an adjacent segment caused by excessive motion of the intestine, for example, when overstimulated by a foreign body such as yarn


Jacobson’s Organ: A part of the olfactory system, located in the nose and opening into the roof of the mouth behind the upper incisors, that detects pheromones, chemicals used for communication

Janus: A cat with a fully or partially duplicated face (aka craniofacial duplication) that is due to abnormal activity by the sonic hedgehog protein during early development; see polydactyl

Jaundice (jawn-dis): The yellow discoloration of the skin, eyes, ears, gums, foot pads and serum, aka icterus, caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin, a waste product of red blood cell metabolism

Jejunum (ji-joo-nuhm): The second and longest part of the small intestine, located in the upper GI tract, that absorbs nutrients from food into the bloodstream for distribution to the body’s organs

Jugular (juhg-yuh-ler): The large veins in the neck, located on both sides of the trachea (windpipe). that return deoxygenated blood from the brain, neck and face back to the heart


KCS: A condition of the cornea and surrounding tissues, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also called dry eye, results from inadequate tear production, which may occur with feline herpesvirus

Keratin (ker-uh-tin): The hard protein making up hair and claws, which can cause feline acne when too much is produced and plugs hair follicles, usually on the chin

Keratitis (ker-uh-tahy-tis): The inflammation of the cornea (the surface layer of the eye) that causes cloudiness and affects vision, which may occur with feline herpesvirus

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (ker-uh-toh-kuhn-juhngk-tuh-vahy-tis si-kuh): A condition of the cornea and surrounding tissues, also called dry eye, results from inadequate tear production, which may occur with feline herpesvirus

Ketoacidosis (kee-toh-as-i-doh-sis): A life-threatening condition of excess buildup in the blood of ketones (acids produced from the breakdown of fat for energy), which may occur with uncontrolled diabetes mellitus

Kitten: The American Association of Feline Practitioners’ definition of the life stage from birth up to one year, which equals 15 human years

Klinefelter Syndrome: A rare genetic condition that gives male cats an extra X chromosome (XXY) needed to be calico or tortoiseshell

Kyphosis (kahy-foh-sis): An abnormal curvature of the spine that causes bulging at the upper back, which may occur with flat chested kitten syndrome


Lactation (lak-tey-shun): The secretion of milk through the mammary glands to feed kittens is the most energy-demanding stage of a queen’s life, usually peaking at 3-4 weeks after birth, and requires increased calories for her

Latent (leyt-nt): The dormant (inactive) stage that occurs between exposure to a disease-causing agent and the onset of the disease

Leukopenia (loo-kuh-pee-nee-uh): A decrease in the number of white blood cells in the blood, which may be caused by feline panleukopenia

Lice: External parasites that live on and feed on skin and cause rubbing, scratching and biting; infestations are most common among kittens or debilitated cats living in unsanitary environments

Linea alba (lee-ne-ah ahl-buh): The band of tissue that marks the midline of the abdominal muscles along which the skin is incised for a cat spay

Lordosis (lawr-doh-sis): An abnormal forward curvature of the spine at the lower back; the posture female cats assume when they are in heat and ready to mate

Louse (louz): Singular of lice

Luxation (luhk-sey-shun): The dislocation or complete separation, which may occur, for example, between the bones that normally form a joint or the lens of the eye


Mandible (man-duh-buhl): The bone of the lower jaw

Mange: Any of several skin and ear conditions caused by a variety of mites

Mastitis (ma-stahy-tis): The inflammation of the mammary gland/s due to injury causing milk buildup in the gland/s (non-septic) or bacterial infection entering through the nipples, wounds or bloodstream (septic)

Maternal antibody: Antibody in a newborn animal which the newborn acquired through the placenta or colostrum (the first milk)

Maxilla (mak-sil-uh): The upper bone of the jaw

Meconium (mi-koh-nee-uhm): The first stool of a newborn that collects inside the fetus’ intestines

Megaesophagus (meh-guh-uh-saa-fuh-gus): A condition, which may be congenital in kittens or acquired in adults, that causes the esophagus to remain enlarged rather than contracting and prevents the proper movement of food into the stomach; regurgitation (often noted at weaning) and weight loss or poor weight gain are the most common signs with aspiration pneumonia as a complication

Melena (muh-lee-nuh): The discharge of black, tarry, bloody stools, usually resulting from a hemorrhage in the alimentary tract

Melanin (mel-uh-nin): The dark pigment in the cells of skin and hair

Microphthalmia (mai-krow-thal-mee-uh): Also known as microphthalmos, in which one or both eyes are abnormally small or missing

Micturition (mik-chuh-rish-uhn): The process of expelling urine from the body known as urinating

Milk Fever: This life-threatening condition, also called eclampsia, may occur 2-4 weeks after birth due to blood calcium loss during lactation or during the last weeks of pregnancy

Mycosis (mahy-koh-sis): The condition caused by a fungus such as ringworm, blastomycosis and histoplasmosis

Mydriasis (mi-drahy-uh-sis):The dilation (enlargement) of the pupil/s unrelated to the levels of light in the environment, which may occur from fear, drugs or health conditions such as glaucoma


Nasopharynx (ney-zoh-far-ingks):The upper part of the throat behind the nose, behind and above the soft palate (roof of the mouth) and just behind the nasal passages

Necropsy (nek-rop-see): The examination of an animal after death, an animal autopsy, to determine the cause of death or extent of disease

Nematode (nem-uh-tohd): An unsegmented worm of the phylum Nematoda, having an elongated, cylindrical body, such as a roundworm

Neonate (nee-uh-neyt): A kitten four weeks of age or younger who cannot eat solid food and must be stimulated to urinate and defecate (National Kitten Coalition’s definition).

Nephritis (nuh-frahy-tis): The inflammation of the kidney/s, some types which may be immunodeficiency virus caused by diseases such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus and feline infectious peritonitis

Nictitating Membrane (nik-ti-tey-ting): A thin, retractable membrane, also called the third eyelid, that extends across the eye from the inner corner to protect the eye

Nystagmus (ni-stag-muhs): The congenital or acquired involuntary, rapid horizontal, vertical or circular eye movement, which may occur with inner ear problems


Obligate carnivore (ob-li-geyt): An obligate carnivore, such as the cat, is one requiring nutrients found in sufficient quantities only in an animal-based diet

Obstipation (ob-stuh-pey-shuhn): A severe form of constipation that prevents the passing of stool or gas, usually caused by an obstruction in the intestinal tract

Obtunded (ob-tuhn-did): A diminished responsiveness to stimuli, often due to a state of reduced consciousness, which may occur in kittens with hypoglycemia

Occult (uh-kuhlt): Indicating a disease or condition that is clinically not apparent.

Off-label Use: Also known as extra-label, the use of a drug in a manner not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and not listed on the drug’s label, such as methimazole for hyperthyroidism and ponazuril for coccidiosisin cats

Oliguria (ol-i-gyoor-ee-uh): A medical condition in which there is not enough urination

Omphalitis (aam-fuh-lai-tuhs: An infection of the umbilicus and/or surrounding tissues that occurs primarily during the neonatal period and can rapidly progress to sepsis and death

Onychectomy (uh-nee-kek-tuh-me): An elective surgical procedure, also known as declawing, that involves the removal of the third phalanx bone using a guillotine-type nail clipper, surgical blade or laser

Oocyst (oh-uh-sist): The stage in the life of certain parasites in which they are encapsulated and usually passed through droppings

Opisthotonus (ow-pis-thuh-tow-nuhs): The abnormal, extreme extension of the head and neck toward the back caused by muscle spasms, which may occur with seizures

Otitis (oh-tahy-tis): Inflammation of the ear canal

Otoscope (oh-tuh-skohp): A hand-held instrument for examining the external canal and tympanic membrane (eardrum) of the ear

Ovariohysterectomy (oh-vuh-ree-o his-tuh-rek-tuh-mee): The surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus; generally referred to as spay when referring to female companion animals


Palpation (pal-pey-shuhn): Examination by finger pressure to detect growths, changes in underlying organs, and unusual tissue reactions to pressure.

Pancreatitis (pan-kree-uh-tahy-tis): Inflammation of the pancreas

Pandora syndrome: A disorder resulting from chronic anxiety (stressors that the cat finds threatening), which may lead to urinary problems, such as feline interstitial cystitis, in cats

Parenteral (pa-ren-ter-uhl): Feeding intravenously (via a vein), which may be needed because of uncontrolled vomiting

Parturition (pahr-too-rish-uhn): The act of giving birth

Pediculosis (puh-dik-yuh-loh-sis): The condition of being infested with lice

Periuria (per-ee-yoo-rahy-uh): Urination outside the litter box, which may be caused by medical (infection, arthritis) or behavioral (location of litter box, aversion to litter) factors

Persistent Right Aortic Arch: A congenital condition in which major blood vessels in the heart abnormally constrict the esophagus, restricting the passage of food into the stomach; regurgitation (often noted at weaning) and stunted (reduced) growth rate are the most common signs with aspiration pneumonia as a complication

Pheromone (fer-uh-mohn): A chemical released by an animal that influences the physiology or behavior of other members of the same species

Pica (pahy-kuh): Eating non-edible materials such as wool, plastic and cellophane, which can cause intestinal obstruction and require surgery

Piloerection (pai-low-uh-rek-shun): The lifting of the fur, typically on the back and tail, caused by the contraction of tiny muscles at the base of each hair, which may occur when a cat is frightened

Plasma drops (plaz-muh): A treatment option for deep or severe corneal ulcers, which requires using a cat’s plasma, the liquid part of the blood, to speed up healing

Plasma Cell Pododermatitis (poh-doh-dur-muh-tahy-tis): Inflammation caused by the infiltration of plasma cells into the paw pad, typically the central one, of more than one foot, which may heal spontaneously or require lifelong treatment

Polycythemia (paa-luh-see-mee-uh): A rare disease in cats characterized by the overproduction of red blood cells by the bone marrow

Polydactyl (pol-ee-dak-til): The presence of extra toes due to abnormal activity by the sonic hedgehog protein during early development; see Janus

Polydipsia (pol-ee-dip-see-uh): Excessive thirst

Polyestrous (pol-ee-es-truhs): Having several estrus cycles during a breeding season and continuing to come into heat if not bred

Polyphagia (pol-ee-fey-jee-uh): Excessive appetite or overeating

Polyuria (pol-ee-yoor-ee-uh): Urinating larger volumes than normal

Primordial pouch (prahy-mawr-dee-uhl powch): The extra loose skin and some fatty tissue along the belly that protects the vital organs, provides flexibility and expands for food storage; all cats are born with a primordial pouch

Prognosis (prog-noh-sis): The forecast of the probable survival or recovery following a disease or injury

Pruitis (proo-rahy-tuhs): Any intense sensation of itching, which may occur with fleas, infection and allergies

Purulent (pyoor-uh-luhnt): Being full of, containing, forming, or discharging pus

Pus (puhs): A thick, yellowish-white fluid seen in wounds and sores and containing white blood cells, microorganisms, and tissue debris

Pyelonephritis (pahy-uh-loh-nuh-frahy-tis): Inflammation of the kidney and its pelvis, caused by a bacterial infection

Pyoderma (pai-uh-dur-muh: Any skin eruption characterized by pustules or the formation of pus

Pyometra (pai-ow-meh-truh): A disorder characterized by the accumulation of a large amount of pus in the uterus

Pyrexia (pahy-rek-see-uh): A feverish condition


Q: A common medical abbreviation meaning “every” in Latin and indicating how often something should happen, as in “give 1 tablet q6h,” which indicates every 6 hours

Q fever: A zoonotic disease, which may result in abortion, caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii that cats get from infected tick bites or contaminated farm animal carcasses

Quality of life: The ability to enjoy normal life activities, which is an important welfare consideration if medical care does not provide appreciable benefits

Quarantine: A period of time in which an animal is kept away from other animals and people to prevent the spread of contagious diseases to them

Queening: Birthing kittens, which may last up to 24-36 hours, with each birth taking 30-60 minutes of mild labor and 5-10 minutes of intense labor, plus rest periods between kittens

Quick: The triangular pink portion at the base of the nail that contains the blood vessels, nerves and other tissues; cutting the quick causes bleeding and pain


Recumbent (ri-kuhm-buhnt): To be lying down, not standing, which may be caused by trauma, metabolic imbalances, brain diseases or severe sickness

Refractory (ri-frak-tuh-ree): To not yield, or not yield readily, to medical or surgical treatment, which may occur with chronic gingivostomatitis, a debilitating feline dental disease

Regurgitate (ri-gur-ji-teyt): The ejection of the contents from the esophagus or stomach without active retching, as opposed to the ejection of the contents from the stomach and upper intestine with active retching, which is to vomit

Retrovirus (re-truh-vahy-ruhs): An RNA virus, such as Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, that produces an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which permits it to insert copies of its own genetic material into that of the cells it has infected

Rhinitis (rahy-nahy-tis): Inflammation of the nose, which is a common complication of upper respiratory infections such as feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus

Ringworm: A fungal skin infection, most commonly caused by Microsporum canis in felines, that is highly contagious to other animals and people

Roundworms: Intestinal parasites that can be transferred via the placenta or queen’s milk or by ingesting infected feces and/or grooming fur contaminated with infected feces; roundworms may cause extreme illness and even death in kittens from anemia, dehydration or malnutrition


Scoliosis (skoh-lee-oh-sis): Lateral curvature of the spine due to a congenital or developmental abnormality or trauma or injury

Sepsis (sep-sis): A toxic state, also called septicemia and blood poisoning, caused by the absorption of disease-causing microorganisms and their products into the bloodstream or tissues

Serum (seer-uhm): Blood serum is the clear yellowish fluid component that can be separated from clotted blood plasma and does not contain coagulants and blood cells

Skin tent: A “test” to determine hydration, which involves lifting the skin between the shoulder blades and seeing how quickly it falls back into place; this test may be unreliable in kittens under 6 weeks of age

Spay: Sterilization by surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female animal

Stenosis (sti-noh-sis): The narrowing or stricture of a passage or vessel, which may lead to nasopharyngeal stenosis following upper respiratory infections

Strabismus (struh-biz-muhs): A medical condition in which one or both of the eyes are deviated from one another

Stropping (straa-puhng): Conditioning the front claws by dragging them on a horizontal or vertical surface to loosen and remove the outer sheaths and expose sharp claws


Tachycardia (tak-i-kahr-dee-uh): A high heart rate, typically above 220 beats per minute (bpm) in cats; a normal heart rate is 120-150 bpm when resting and 150-220 bpm when stressed

Tachypnea (tak-ip-nee-uh): Excessively rapid respiration, which may occur with hyperthermia

Tapetum lucidim (tuh-pee-tuhm loo-sid-uhm): A thin layer of tissue located in the back of the eye behind the retina that reflects light back to the retina, allowing it to absorb more light and the cat to see better in the dark

Tendonectomy (ten-duhn-ek-tuh-mee): A surgical alternative to declawing that severs the tendon that controls the claw, which results in the cat keeping the claw but being unable to control, scratch or groom

Tenesmus (tuh-nes-muhs): Straining to defecate with repeated attempts at defecation, which may be a symptom of constipation, the infrequent or difficult passage of hard, dry feces

Toxoplasmosis (tok-soh-plaz-moh-sis): A zoonotic illness caused by an infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii that reproduces in the intestinal tracts of cats

Tragus (tray-guhs): The vertical open pocket along the outermost side of the pinna (outer ear flap), which widens and narrows to detect and convert vibrations traveling into the middle and inner ear into sounds

Trichobezoars (trih-koh-bee-zawrz): Hairballs, which are normally vomited or passed in the feces, may occasionally get trapped in the GI tract and can cause dangerous partial or complete obstruction

Tube feeding: A method of providing liquid nutrition via a flexible tube passed from the mouth into the stomach, which may be used, for example, if a kitten has a cleft palate or weak suckling reflex

Turgor test: A “test” to determine hydration, which involves lifting the skin between the shoulder blades and seeing how quickly it falls back into place; this test may be unreliable in kittens under 6 weeks of age

Turner Syndrome: A genetic condition in females that results from one of the X chromosomes being missing or misshapen, having symptoms of incomplete sexual maturation, short stature and pterygium colli (webbed neck tissue)


Ulcer (uhl-ser): A lesion in which the tissue surface is eroded away; painful oral ulcers may be a symptom of calicivirus

Undercoat: The soft and dense down hairs of the undercoat are the shortest hairs, which insulate and help regulate body temperature, and. If not groomed properly, is prone to matting

Upper respiratory tract: The section of the respiratory system that contains the mouth, nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and epiglottis

Uremia (yoo-ree-mee-uh): The dangerous buildup in the bloodstream of toxins and waste products, such as urea and creatinine, which may occur with urethral obstruction

Uremic (yoo-ree-mik): A condition in which waste builds up in the bloodstream

Ureter (yoo-ree-ter): The tube leading from the kidney to the bladder

Urethra (yoo-ree-thre): The tube leading from the bladder to the outside

Urticaria (ur-ti-kair-ee-uh): Raised, itchy areas of skin, also known as hives, which is rare in cats but may indicate an allergic reaction to medications and insect bites and stings

Utricle (yoo-tri-kuhl): A sac inside the middle ear partly responsible for an animal’s sense of balance

Uvea (yoo-vee-uh): The part of the eyeball consisting of the iris, ciliary body and choroid

Uveitis (yoo-vee-ahy-tis): Painful inflammation of the structures of the uvea, located in the middle layer of the eye, which may lead to blindness ; the most common infectious diseases associated with uveitis are toxoplasmosis, feline infectious peritonitis and feline immunodeficiency virus


Valiance (va-lee-uhns): Refers to an animal’s response to novel stimuli; a high valiant kitten or cat is likely to approach new stimuli while one who is low valiant is likely to retreat

Vascular ring anomaly: A congenital condition which can lead to compression of the esophagus (megaesophagus) and cause food to be regurgitated

Vector (vek-ter): Any organism that carries an infectious agent between organisms of a different species, such as fleas that transmit feline bartonella and ticks that transmit Cytauxzoon

Vellus (veh-luhs): The sparse and baby-fine hair, known as peach fuzz, that covers the body of Sphynx cats and humans

Venipuncture (vee-nuh-puhngk-chur): The insertion of a needle into a vein to withdraw blood or give drugs, medications and fluids

Vermicide (vur-muh-sahyd): Anything that is designed to kill worms or other parasites; anthelmintic substance

Vermifuge (vur-muh-fyooj): Any chemical that causes worms or parasitic worms to be expelled from an animal’s body

Vertebrae (vur-tuh-brey): The bones of the spine, which, in cats, have elastic cushioning on the disks between the bones that contribute to their grace, flexibility and speed

Vibrassae (vai-bri-see): Hairs, also known as whiskers, located on the chin, above the eyes and lower back of the front legs, which have nerve-packed follicles and are 2-3 times thicker and 3 times deeper than body hairs

Visceral (vih-seh-rul): Related to the viscera, which are the soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, heart and organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive and circulatory systems

Vitreous (vi-tree-uhs): A clear, gel-like fluid in the space in the eye between the lens and retina, which may be affected by uveitis

Vomiting: The ejection of the contents from the stomach and upper intestine with active retching, as opposed to ejection of the contents from the esophagus and stomach without active retching


Weaning (wee-nuhng): Transitioning from the queen’s milk or milk replacement formula to solid food, which is often a stressful process for kittens and may result in diarrhea due to the introduction of new proteins and other nutrients

Western blot: A test that is considered confirmatory for the presence of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) antibodies in a cat’s blood

Wheezing (wee-zuhng): An abnormal sound caused by airway narrowing due to constriction, partial blockage, inflammation or other health issues, which may occur with hairballs, asthma, and polyps in the sinus or throat

Whisker fatigue: The stimulatory overload to the brain caused by whiskers brushing against food and water dishes can make cats feel stressed or agitated and can be remedied by providing shallow dishes with low sides

Wobbly Kitten Syndrome: A neurologic condition, known as cerebellar hypoplasia or CH, affecting kittens and cats that is most often caused when a pregnant cat is exposed to feline parvovirus, the virus that causes feline panleukopenia, whether from a natural infection or from a vaccination


X chromosome (kroh-muh-sohm): A cat with two X chromosomes is female and a cat with an X and a Y chromosome is male. Calico is a distinctive coat color pattern linked to the X chromosome, and over 95% of calico cats are female.

Xiphisternum (zif-uh-stur-nuhm): The cartilaginous process (extension) forming the lowermost part of the sternum (breastbone)

Xiphoid process (zai-foyd): Another term for the xiphisternum, which may stick out on the chest, especially in kittens and young cats whose bones are still developing

X-rays: Medical x-rays (radiographs) use high-energy electromagnetic radiation to generate images of tissues and structures inside the body and can provide useful diagnostic information

Xylazine (zai-luh-zeen): A central nervous system suppressant used in veterinary medicine as a sedative, anesthetic, muscle relaxant and emetic

Xylocaine (zai-luh-kayn): An injectable anesthetic used as a treatment for abnormal heart rhythms or cardiac arrhythmia and also to numb the skin and mucous membrane


Y chromosome (kroh-muh-sohm): One of the Y chromosomes’ genes, the SRY (sex determining region Y), makes a protein that triggers embryonic development as a male

Yawning: An involuntary deep, open-mouth inhalation often accompanied by stretching which cats do when bored, relaxed, irritated, stressed, waking up or seeking attention

Yeasts: Microscopic, single-celled fungi that reproduce by budding and although bacteria commonly cause inner ear infections in cats, yeasts can also be the cause

Yellow fat disease: Also called Feline pansteatitis causes inflammation and discoloration of body fat and is associated with eating large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids found in foods such as tuna and other oily fish

Yohimbine ( yoh-him-been): A drug used to reverse the sedative effects of Xylazine, particulary after emesis is successful


Zona pellucida (zoh-nuh puh-loo-si-duh): A transparent, non-cellular layer or envelope of uniform thickness surrounding an oocyte (egg)

Zoomies: The act of running around erratically, also known as Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), may occur to release pent-up energy, after defecating and as a symptom of hyperthyroidism

Zoonosis (zoo-ah-nuh-seez): An infectious disease that can be transferred between species from people and animals and from animals to people

Zoonotic disease (zow-uh-naa-tuhk): Another term for zoonosis, such as rabies, ringworm and Q fever

Zoophobia (zoh-uh-foh-bee-uh): An abnormal fear of animals, which when related to cats is known as ailurophobia

Zygote (zai-gowt): A fertilized egg cell that results from the union of a female egg or ovum with a male sperm