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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. 

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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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Kitten

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Eight Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My kitten is sleeping constantly, not eating or drinking voluntarily. Sore bum. Diarrhoea, vomiting.

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 16, 2020

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Persian cat

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5months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Hight Body Temperature

I want to know what happened

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Your kitten may have a viral or bacterial infection, and since I cannot see them, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 16, 2020

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Affenpinscher

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepiness

Is it something serious cause he doesn't even wanna play anymore ?

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. If your puppy is lethargic and sleeping more, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 20, 2020

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Tabby

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Weakness, Not Eating, Weight Loss

My 6 month old cat has been weak and won’t eat. He has only not eat for 2 days but is losing weight fast and not breathing well. This change had been drastic and only happened in one day. I thought he wasn’t eating because he has diarrhea but that seems to not be the case. He can barely walk and he is not normal anymore.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 22, 2020

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Feline

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

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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0 Recommendations

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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Barbarus

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Cat

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepiness
Not Moving
Gums Pale Pink
Whites Of Eyes Yellowish

hello everyone, my cat Barb fell from the 4th floor i just came back from the vet and she checked him and found no injuries or fractures and gave him antibiotics, he's not moving much all the time asleep refused to eat or drink water and has a white gum, the doctor said he's in shock. i would really love to get some advice about this and how i can make him better. thank you!

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Yolo Gupta

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Persian

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Lethargic

my 2 years feline Yolo has not been her usual self lately. I shifted to a new house lately and the painting work in the new house was still on. she fell ill and stopped eating, i took her to her vet, got her prescribed medicines. However, its been way to many days, but my Yolo is still very lethargic. She has been eating fine though, but still seems to be really week and not her usual self. please suggest something .

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Romeo

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Classic tabby

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Weakness
Thirst
Unresponsiveness

My cat,Romeo, has been showing signs of lethargy, extreme muscle weakness/soreness for the last couple days He still eats & drinks but I have to lift him to the bowl & hold him up.He also has an intermittent fever. -- he is normally a very active cat who very much enjoys catching birds & rodents. Often eating his kills. (Daily successful hunter) I have no clue what's happening to him. No info anywhere seems to fit though. I'm worried he ate something bad. But even those symptoms dont really fit, as this is really severe.

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Oliver & Maggie

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Cat

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

I have three cats. We moved into a new house three months ago and now the cats are able to go inside out as we have an enclosed courtyard. Last week my male three year old cat showed signs of being very lethargic, not eating or drinking water. I took him to the ER the following morning. They did blood work and his blood work showed that he is anemic of a score of 27. They prescribed a antibiotic and a anti nausea. The next morning he was breathing very heavy so I took him to my primary vet. He did a chest X-ray and it came back fine. He prescribed a oral steroid, iv fluids, appetite stimulate and .the next morning he made a 360 recovery. I still have to hand feed him his dry food?! But my other female cat starting showing similar symptoms the morning my other cat started feeling better....she showed the same signs lethargy not eating or drinking water. I thought I would wait it out and it must be a cat flu. I gave it two days. Then this morning she wasn’t any better, so I dropped her off at my vets while I was at work. They gave her iv fluids, and a appetite stimulate. Also did blood work. I’m waiting on the blood work results. I’m wondering why my vet didn’t prescribe antibiotics meanwhile? She doesn’t seem better and I’m concerned. Could this be a toxic reaction or cat flu?

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Mindy

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Common

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My cat is 3 years old. A week ago I decided to give it "bravecto" for fleas etc, but the petshop didn't have it and gave it "comfortis" instead. I think it is then that the lethargy started, or perhaps the day before, but I noticed it a couple of days later (as it is generally a lazy cat) and can't be sure. Now she hides all the time under couches and beds, eats very little only if you put it in front of her face, does minimal movements, no climbing anywhere. Doesn't complain or seem hurt, purrs when I pet her, and xray and blood-urine tests have come out fine. Any ideas what can be wrong?

Lethargy Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

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