Lethargy isn't a disease in itself but it is a sign that there may be something wrong with your cat. This could be something relatively minor or a sign of something more serious.
What are the causes of lethargy in cats?
There are many possible reasons why your cat is behaving lethargically. Some of which include:
- Anemia - Reduced number of red blood cells.
- Acute or chronic kidney failure - Decline in the function of the kidneys.
- Addison's Disease - Insufficient secretion of cortisone by the adrenal glands.
- Certain medications.
- Feline herpesvirus - Viral infection.
- Feline infectious anemia - Bacterial infection resulting in destruction of the red blood cells.
- Dietary (inadequate amount of food, poor quality food)
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus - Viral infection which is similar to HIV in humans.
- Feline Leukemia Virus - Viral infection which causes immunosuppression and cancer in cats.
- Glomerulonephritis - Kidney disease caused by inflammation of the nephrons, which are tiny filtering units in the kidneys.
- Heartworm - Parasitic worm which infects the heart and lungs.
- Heat stroke
- Hepatic lipidosis - A form of liver disease caused by a build up of fat cells in the liver as a result of anorexia.
- High blood pressure
- Hypercalcemia - High blood calcium levels.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Hypocalcemia - Low blood calcium levels.
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Liver disease
- Nutritional disorders and or deficiency
- Pancreatitis - Inflammation of the pancreas.
- Pyometra - Infection of the uterus.
- Recent viral infection
- Ruptured bladder
- Yellow fat disease
This list is by no means conclusive, there are also many other possible causes of lethargy.
What are the signs of lethargy?
Lethargy describes inactivity, drowsiness, loss of interest in surroundings and activities your cat would usually enjoy (playing, spending time with you, following you around the house, chasing flies). It may or may not accompany other symptoms, depending on the cause. Some may include:
How is lethargy in cats diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you, including other symptoms you may have noticed. Some routine tests your veterinarian may wish to perform include:
- Urinalysis, biochemical profile and complete blood count to evaluate the overall health of your cat including how the organs are functioning, to check for signs of infection or anemia.
These tests may or may not show results which warrant your veterinarian to investigate further with more specific tests such as;
- ACTH stimulation test - This test is to evaluate your cat's adrenal gland function.
- Fecal examination - To look for parasites.
- FIV and FeLV tests.
- Specific tests for pancreatitis.
- Heartworm tests.
How is lethargy in cats treated?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the lethargy and offering supportive care while your cat recovers to ensure he continues to eat and giving him IV fluids if he becomes dehydrated.