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What is Lethargy?

Because cats naturally sleep a large percentage of their day, especially older cats, you may not be immediately aware of lethargy indicating that something may be medically wrong with your cat. Lethargy is an indication of your cat not feeling well and could relate to a relatively minor medical condition or could be a sign of a more serious illness. Careful investigation by your veterinarian will be required to narrow down the cause.

Symptoms of lethargy in cats are abnormal sleepiness, low energy, and lack of response to surroundings. Lethargy is not a condition or disease in itself, but can be a sign that something is wrong with your cat. 

Lethargy Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Lethargy in Cats

Lethargy is a symptom in itself and is characterized primarily by the following:

  • General inactivity
  • Lack of interest or response to surroundings
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness

Other symptoms that commonly coincide with and are associated with causes of lethargy are:

  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Thirst/increase in urination
  • Jaundice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Dull hair coat/loss of hair
  • Behavioral changes, e.g. aggression

In addition, there may be specific symptoms present that are indicative of a specific medical disease or condition.

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Causes of Lethargy in Cats

Cats sleep a lot by nature, however, excessive sleep or inactivity could be a sign of illness. Rest is your cat's natural response to not feeling well and could be a normal part of recovery from a minor condition or it could be an indicator of a more severe condition.

Common causes of lethargy:

  • Being overfed
  • Being under exercised
  • Parasitic infection
  • Stress
  • Depression/too little stimulation
  • Medication side effects
  • Arthritis in older cats
  • Hairballs (can become serious if causing blockage)
  • Obesity
  • Infection with a minor common virus such as cat flu

Other more serious conditions that are common in cats and cause lethargy are:

  • Diabetes
  • Viral infections such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Bacterial infection 
  • Abscesses from bites by other cats
  • Musculoskeletal injury
  • Heartworm
  • Anemia
  • Urinary tract infections

Less common but serious conditions that could cause lethargy in your cat are:

  • Protozoal infection
  • Cardiovascular disorder such as heart disease
  • Respiratory problems resulting in low oxygen levels such as asthma
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Heatstroke
  • Cancer
  • Organ failure (kidney or liver disease)
  • Poisoning
  • Neurological Disorders
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Diagnosis of Lethargy in Cats

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical upon presentation of a lethargic cat. Diagnosis is complicated as there are many possible causes of lethargy in cats which range from mild to severe, as lethargy is a symptom of most illnesses and disorders. Your veterinarian will require a complete medical history of your cat including detailed description of symptoms in order to narrow down a possible cause. In addition, you should let your veterinarian know about any changes to your cat’s environment or exposures they may have had recently. Your vet will look for injuries and abscesses, skin problems, swelling, and signs of pain or discomfort during the physical exam that may help determine the cause of the lethargy.

The following tests are commonly ordered to narrow down the cause of lethargy:

  • Urinalysis and blood tests to check blood count and look for factors that would indicate illness, bacterial infections, and viral infections
  • Fecal sample to check for parasites
  • Ultrasound to reveal abnormalities in organs or tumors
  • Chest x-ray to reveal tumors or fluid buildup
  • Diabetes test
  • FIV and FELV tests
  • Heartworm tests
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Treatment of Lethargy in Cats

Treatment of lethargy will depend on the identified cause. General treatment of the symptom lethargy often includes an improved diet and supplements, such as iron supplements for anemia. It may also include intravenous fluids or oxygen therapy if required. Rest is also prescribed for lethargic cats that require it. Painkillers may also be prescribed if pain is a factor in your pet’s condition.

Common treatments prescribed for cats with lethargy according to their respective causes are:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infection
  • Dewormer for parasites or heartworm
  • Surgery for removal of tumors or to repair injury
  • Antiviral medication for viruses
  • Antidepressants for depression or stress
  • Diet and insulin for treatment of diabetes

Further treatment specific to the cat’s medical condition will be prescribed as appropriate.

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Recovery of Lethargy in Cats

Your pet will require follow-up care specific to the medical condition that was the cause of the lethargy.

Administration of any special diet and supplements prescribed by your veterinarian should be continued. If depression or stress were factors, a change to your cat’s environment may be needed to address this. 

A lethargic cat may be in need of recuperation and should be given a low stress, comfortable environment and be allowed to rest.

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Lethargy Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Lethargy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Feline

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Three Years

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Lethargy

My cat has been lame and lethargic for weeks now, I've gone to a vet they can't find anything wrong. He does eat or drink on his own, he can't even walk or make to the bathroom. He just poops and pees on himself. But, he's aware and conscious.

Aug. 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Without being able to see him, it is difficult for me to say what might be causing this. I suspect that there are some tests that your veterinarian wants to run, and I think if he is not getting better those tests are probably a good idea. I would think starting with some lab work would be a good place to start, and that would be something to talk to your veterinarian about. I hope that everything goes well and that your cat feels better soon.

Aug. 23, 2020

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deborahpeterson18@gmail.com

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10 months

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Deborahpeterson18@Gmail.Com

What do I do and is she dieing

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, and I'm sorry that your puppy is sick. Unfortunately without knowing anything about what is happening to her, it is hard for me to say what might be happening or if she is dying. If you are concerned, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian right away, as they can to see her, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 7, 2020

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bengal

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11 weeks

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Lethargy

Hi My kitten had been having liquid stools but was eating and playing a lot. Took him to the vet and he prescribed metronidazole, kitten has been sleeping essentially all day, ate a little bit but seems very sleepy. Should I worry?

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The lethargy and tiredness may just be a side effect of the diarrhea, as I have not seen that as a side effect of that medication. It would be worth giving it a day or two to see if it is going to help and if he gets back to his normal energy level. If he continues to be lethargic it would be best to call your veterinarian, let them know what's going on, and see what they would like you to do. I hope that he feels better soon.

Aug. 6, 2020

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Kitten

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4 weeks

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1 found helpful

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Very Week Poor Appitite

What is wrong with my kitten. He has been crying all day is very week sleeps a lot and has a very poor appitite. Please help me

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your kitten is not feeling well. Kittens can be affected by parasites and infectious diseases. It would be best to have your kitten seen by a veterinarian, as they may need medical help to survive. I hope that your kitten is okay.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Unsure

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5 months

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Lethargy

My kitten is 5 months old. He is lethargic. He is eating and drinking. I also saw him private in litterbox. Gums are pale pink.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. I do think with your kitten being lethargic it would be a good idea to have him examined by your veterinarian. I would bring a stool sample so that they can check for parasites and once they have taken a look at him they will better be able to assess why he’s not feeling well. I hope he starts feeling better soon.

July 31, 2020

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Smokey

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tabby

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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A cat adopted us. I have seen him around the neighborhood and little by little he trusted us and started coming inside to sleep at night. He had a good appetite until yesterday. He has slept for two days and is very lethargic. He lets you pet him and usually stays close to us but for 2 days he has distanced himself. He also hasn’t been drinking. I would love to take him to a vet but he doesn’t let us pick him up and I’m not sure if he would bite the vet. I’m very worried about him.

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Hazey

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Domestic shorthair

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Lethargy
Lethargi

So my female tuxedo cat who is 4 out of no where started to act lethargic and stopped eating/drinking. She was throwing up bile so we took her to her usual vet. They called us a few hours later and told us that her red blood cell count was extremely low and that she needed emergency vet care. Turns out she was severely anemic. The emergency vet took her in and did a blood transfusion and kept her 24 hours. That’s all we could afford. We spent $1700 in that single day and we didn’t even get a proper diagnosis as that would have cost an extra $3500 including ultra sounds and a 3 day observation. When we took her home the next day she still seemed lethargic of course but over the next course of those days she perked back up. The emergency vet gave us a steroid and doxycyline for her to take for two weeks. At her one week checkup her numbers from her blood work were holding steady but still not great. Here we are on week 2 and things took a turn for the worst. She’s back to not eating, she is basically skin and bones and she can’t get out of bed. My poor sweet baby looks miserable and it’s killing me that I can’t help her. We spent most of our money with the whole virus thing going on and my fiancé just got laid off. I know if I take her back to the vet they are just going to want thousands of dollars and we have nothing left to give. I honestly have no words for the pain that I feel. I raised her since she was 2 weeks old and she went through my entire pregnancy with me and loved and protected my son. They have such a special bond and it’s just breaking my heart. They are both 4 and connected at the hip. If vets had a credit system I would have no problem paying them monthly but most do not. Anyways the closest thing to a diagnosis we have is that she more than likely is suffering from FHM. I don’t know much about it other than the medicine she is already on is supposed to help. I hope she gets out of bed soon and shows some life. If anyone has any info or experience with there cat as well please share with me some insight. Thanks for listening

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Gilligan

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Black and white tuxedo.

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Lethargy, Dehydration, Not Eating

I thought my twelve year old cat had kidney failure and was dying. Terribly lethargic and eating very little and skipping some meals. Very dehydrated. Was drinking a lot of water, urinating ok. This all happened in about three days. Bowel movements had been dry and he’d been somewhat constipated over past month or two. For same time had been pooping in inappropriate places, such as on my bed, dining room table, near his food bowl and water bowl. I thought he was just being naughty but I think he was trying to tell me something. Brought him to the vet on Saturday as I didn’t think he’d last until Monday without at least being hydrated. Vet ran blood panel, kidneys fine, a few minor things that he felt was related to his poor little body being over run with fleas. I had no idea! He gave him a topical treatment that lasts x three months to kill fleas and flea eggs. I’d had him on two kinds of raw food, one frozen and one dehydrated plus home made bone broth. He did a subcutaneous hydration (with saline I think) and gave him a different food (Blue Diamond Gastrointestinal Support). It’s wet, canned and he loves it. Vet felt this was important and send us home with a case. He ate well Saturday dinner, skipped Sunday breakfast but has been eating well since Sunday dinner and it’s Monday evening after dinner. I’ve also been covering him with a light wool sweater as he sleeps on my bed and done some loving hands on healing. Realized the other cat who shares his food tray tends to eat quickly then steal the rest of Gilligans meal. So I had to become much more aware and present to the situation and make sure Gilligan wasn’t being bullied. So far so good! He’s pretty much back to normal and I thought he’d be dead by now. Lots of TLC, kisses, gentle strokes etc.

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Fatma

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moggie

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Fever
Lethargy
Vomiting
Loss Of Appetite
Not Eating

My 10 year-old rescue female cat stopped suddenly eating overnight. I've had her for Three years now. She loves to eat, she used to wait 20 lb and I was able to bring her slowly over the past 3 years 216.5 pounds. I saw her vomit on Friday morning and then she almost did not eat for 3 days, then completely stopped eating. I brought her to the vet three times since then. so far I have invested $1,500 Into trying to figure out what she has. bloodwork returned nothing special. Pancreas test revealed nothing either. Ultrasound was fine and revealed nothing, no foreign object, no blockage, No specific information. on the 6th day she started showing fever so they hospitalized her for 2 days with IV And antibiotics. she started eating a little bit and they sent her home with me with oral antibiotics to give morning and nights. we are now 72 hours later, And whatever little she can eat she eventually throws up. it's been 10 days since she stopped suddenly eating and she has lost one full pound. my cat is an indoor cat, but she is a rescue and from what I know Her previous owner sometimes let her out in the backyard. I am completely puzzled by her current situation, and very worried, as I feel that the antibiotics are only acting as a Band-Aid Over the real problem which I think is still present And still a total mystery. I am thinking of asking the vet tomorrow to ask the lab to test for feline leukaemia. I really would like to know what she has, and so far the two vets that I saw at the clinic plus the radiologist Cannot figure it out. I don't know how much more of the cost I can support hey breaks my heart to see her in this Situation. does anyone have any idea where this could be? Thank you! Ps: during all physical exams, exam of the mouth revealed no discoloration of gum, and no visual Clues in the mouth in general.

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Felina

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domestic short hair

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite
Loose Bowel Movements
Mood Change

My 14yo cat Felina (friendly, talkative, foodie, playful) was having loosing stool for 3-4wks, which caused her to occasionally have a bowel movement outside of her litter box. She had this issue last year Jan 2019 (loose stool, not using litter box consistently, and lethargy) and at that time and the vet had said the xrays of her stomach looked normal. She was given a nutritional supplement that helped her overcome everything other than the loose stool. Since Felina had access during certain times of the day to outdoors, she would use the grass and dirt in lieu of her litter box. Back to present time (Dec 2019), I gave her a mixture of wet food and white rice and this helped firm up her stool. However, she then started to eat very little food (dry or wet) and mostly drink water (as of Jan 3rd 2020). Her mood changed drastically and as a former foodie this is quite unlike her. She is using her litter box so that issue got resolved. Now I don't understand why the sudden turn in behavior and habits. I take wet food in gravy add hot water and blend it. She manages to eat most of that liquefied food but doesn't completely finish her bowl (leaving the concoction that is thicker than liquid). I gave her nutritional supplement in gel form that she licked off of her paws and on the 3rd day she refused it altogether. I am willing to try powder nutritional supplement to add to the blended food and see if that will help her recover (like last year). This particular supplement is $80. She will be going to see the vet (a different one from 2019) for a consult. It's very odd that so many cat parents have experienced this too?!?!? Any VETS in this community who can shed some insight would be very much appreciated, we love our cat kiddos and want to help them.

Lethargy Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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