A lethargic cat can mean a lot of things. Lethargy, in simple words, is a lack of energy and motivation to perform normal, everyday tasks like eating, purring, playing, and chasing the dog. The best strategy for cat lethargy is to monitor for other signs and symptoms to determine the root cause of the weakness.

The causes of lethargy range from simple fatigue to serious infections and illnessesOther factors like age and the environment can also affect your pet‘s liveliness. So, if wondering why is your cat lethargic, start reading. 

Symptoms of a Lethargic Cat

Symptoms of a Lethargic Cat

Some of the signs and symptoms of lethargy in cats are listed below:

  • A noticeable lack of energy
  • Drowsiness when awake
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Loss of interest in playtime
  • Less grooming behavior
  • Indifference to exploring their environment
  • Physical weakness
  • Hiding

When in suspicion of lethargy in your cat, take into account that cats naturally love to sleep for long hours. An average cat can sleep for 12 to 16 hours every day. If you get a new cat that sleeps for 16 hours yet your old cats sleep for 12, you may have nothing to worry about.

A number of signs and symptoms that may not be directly tied to lethargy can also become apparent in your cat. Some of these include: 

  • Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like gas and bloating
  • Tremors
  • Avoiding human touch even from the owner or family members that the cat usually loves to play with.
  • Fever
  • Labored breathing
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Aggressive behavior towards strangers or even the owner. 
  • Dull coat or hair loss

It is from these signs that we are usually able to tell what is causing a cat’s lethargy. For example, labored breathing could be a sign of respiratory infection or diarrhea and GI distress may indicate poisoning

Why is my Cat Lethargic? Common Causes 

The causes of lethargy in cats vary widely. Almost any condition that disrupts your cat’s sense of well-being can cause lethargy. Some of the common causes of lethargy in cats include: 

  • Disease. Both chronic and short-term diseases have a negative impact on overall behavior and can make a cat lethargic. Common cat diseases are liver disease, kidney disease, and diabetes mellitus
  • Mobility diseases. Diseases that hinder your cat’s ability to move can cause lethargy as well. Such diseases include hip dysplasia and arthritis
  • Infections. Infections caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses can greatly weaken the body and make the cat lethargic.
  • Poisoning. If your cat eats a slow-acting poison, she may display signs of lethargy as the poison takes its toll.
  • Cancers. Cancers of different organs like the skin and mammary glands can be painful and make the cat lethargic. 
  • Anemia. Anemia is a condition that affects the health of red blood cells. Since red blood cells are responsible for oxygen delivery which is needed for energy production, anemia causes body weaknesses.
  • Physical trauma. Pain from physical injuries like car accidents and falls hinders movement as well. 
  • Excessive weight gain. Heavier cats are usually less willing to move or participate in activities due to the extra weight.

When to See the Vet for Cat Lethargy

When to See the Vet for Cat Lethargy

The decision to see a veterinarian for your cat’s lethargy depends on several conditions. After you notice that your cat is lethargic, check for other signs and symptoms that may be present like weight loss, loss of appetite,  and physical injury. 

If your cat has any other signs and symptoms, contact your veterinarian on how best to proceed. If the signs are life-threatening, for example, difficulty breathing, rush your cat to the veterinarian immediately for emergency care.  

If your feline does not display any other signs, continue to monitor them for the next couple of days. If they do not improve, make arrangements to see your vet as soon as possible. 

Diagnosing a Lethargic Cat

Diagnosis of lethargy can be difficult as it can be triggered by a wide number of conditions. To establish what is making your cat lethargic, the vet will begin with a physical examination. A physical exam involves checking the health of the fur, skin, nails, and general physical appearance of the cat.

The vet’s physical exam will cover obvious concerns like swelling, skin problems, wounds or other injuries, tender spots, and abscesses on the skin or in the mouth.

The vet may also inquire about your cat’s medical history particularly in the days leading up to the lethargy episode. If your cat is living with a chronic illness, make sure to have as many details of their history as possible. Also, inform your vet of any changes that have occurred in your cat’s environment. 

After physical examination, your vet may also commission for some internal tests like:

  • X-rays. These are usually done if your vet suspects a physical injury on your cat that could have broken or dislocated a bone. 
  • Blood work
  • Urinalysis 
  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsies

Treatment Options for a Lethargic Cat

Treatment Options for a Lethargic Cat

The best treatment for your cat’s lethargy depends on what is causing it. Remember, lethargy is only a symptom of unwellness. To truly treat it, you must treat the underlying cause. 

Some of the ways you can improve your cat’s lethargy include:

  • Antibiotics. These are great for cats whose lethargy is caused by infections like urinary tract infections or respiratory infections. However, antibiotics need to be used responsibly and require a veterinary prescription. 
  • Medication. If your cat has a diagnosed illness, give her the medication prescribed by your vet. Also, use the medications in accordance with the vet’s instructions. 
  • Hydration. Give your cat enough fluids to boost hydration. If your cat is now a keen drinker, add a few drops of tuna juice into the water bowl to make it more enticing. 
  • Diet and exercise. If excess weight is making your cat duller, feed her a more balanced diet and encourage her to take part in physical activities like running and playing outdoor games.
  • Supplements can be given to cats that need nutritional support, for example, cats with mobility issues may need supplements like calcium, CBD, vitamin D, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussels. We recommend Honest Paws CBD oil for cats that is derived from pure organic hemp to improve your cat’s sense of wellness by reducing symptoms like anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Try it for your cat and see how it can improve her quality of life. 
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