depression and lethargy in kittens

Lethargy in Cats

Lethargy often a symptom of problems like obesity, FIP, cancer, heart disease, leukemia, diabetes pneumonia or injuries. Parasites like heartworm, lungworm, hookworm can also cause lethargy in cats.

Lethargic Kitten with Fever (FIP)


Dear Simba - Cosmo is 4-months old. A week ago we
noticed that Cosmo was not playing anymore. I took him to the vet. He had a fever of a 105! The vet gave him a shot to bring his fever down and he got a little better. This morning, I took his temperature and he had a fever of 106! Our vet put an IV on him, and gave him another fever reducer and an oral antibiotic. The vet thinks he might have a virus or a bacterial infection. He has no other symptoms. he is been in the house since we had him so no other cats could have infected him. My partner thinks he dying. Please help! CosmoMom
Hi CosmoMom,
I certainly hope that Cosmo is doing better. One of the major causes of unexplained fevers in cats is FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) an immune disease in cats that is fatal in most cats. Other, less common causes of 'unexplained' fevers include:
FIP is caused by a coronavirus. Cosmo could have picked it up while out or from infected items. Unfortunately, there is no reliable treatment for FIP, although a few cats have been known to recover. The harm to the body from FIP comes from the reaction of antibodies and virus that develop from the infection. Your best bet for now is to continue anti-viral or antibacterial treatment. Hopefully your vet will find the underlying cause of Cosmo's fevers and he will recover. Simba
Follow-up:
Julie writes: After 5 days of high fever, with antibiotics treatment and IV, Cosmo was put to rest yesterday. It was FIP. I miss him. I'm looking for a new kitten now. Do you have any advice on picking out a healthy kitten? Keep up the good work!

Julie, I am so sorry to hear about Cosmo, I am sure he is chasing the big ball of yarn in the sky right now! I have put together some facts and then some tips to help you in your search in the new Selecting Kittens section. All the very best to you, Simba


Hi Simba,
I wrote about my lethargic kitten and shortly after, took him to the vet. He had a high fever and they treated him for a light case of Calici virus. He has been vaccinated, but I guess it is not completely effective.

He was better for a few days and then felt hot again and was shivering…so I took him back. His fever was even higher so they did some blood work and decided that it was a virus he had gotten from being bitten by a parasite. Some of his red blood cells had burst and the insides of his ears were splotchy red. I was given Ronaxan pills for him to take and he was much better after the first and second dose, but he has now returned to his lethargic ways and the fever seems to be back, but his ears are fine.

Do you have any thoughts as to what this may be? Am I jumping the gun in taking him back to the vet tomorrow? We are going out of town for a few days and I'm frantic as to what to do. Amy

Dear Amy,
One of the most common causes of high fevers in cats is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Please click here to check out the section devoted that disease.

Generally, cats that do not respond to antibiotics should be tested for FIP, although you should be aware that FIP is hard to test due to similarities between FIP antibodies and other viral antibodies. You are not jumping the gun in going to your vet again. Also, have him check your kitten for FIV. Keep me posted. Simba


Lethargic Kitten with Diarrhea



Hi Simba
I have an 8-month-old sweetheart who I got from a shelter. I have always had a cat but Stella is different from any other...she actually is quite a 'talker'...and she owns me completely!

About 3 weeks ago she started to have diarrhea and became a bit lethargic, she was eating ok and using the litter box. I brought her to the vet after a couple of days.
kitten care diarrhea treatment for kittens
He checked her over, found she had an elevated temp-also did some blood work to rule out certain problems. I left with a bottle of Metronidazole to give to her twice a day (she is a small cat, 3.8 pounds). The diarrhea continued and Stella started to vomit. I took her back to the vet…she now weighed 3.5 pounds and still had a temperature. The blood work showed an elevated white cell count, high potassium, and low protein and she was dehydrated. He gave her Lactated Ringers, vit. B and sent me home with Prednisone and asked me to try her on baby food.

It has only been a couple of days since then, but now she is not hanging out with me while I am on the computer (she usually drapes herself over my shoulder and purrs) nor does she sleep beside me-I found her under the bed and in a box yesterday. More frightening is her appetite. She will not eat. I have tried all varieties of baby food and even several varieties of Fancy Feast, but she has no interest. I am so worried about her-today we got back to the vet for X-rays and more fluid- I do not want to lose her....I love her with all my heart.

My other two cats are fine and very active. Do you have any ideas? Dyane

see also:Ask a Vet Online
Dear Dyane,
I am worried about the symptoms you described and the possibility that kitty may have FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). FIP is a difficult disease to test for diagnose and to treat. Testing for this disease is not too accurate (the anti-bodies produced mirror those produced for less dangerous viruses) and the symptoms are easily confused with a number of other diseases. Because of this it is possible that your vet may not have caught the FIP.

White blood cell count (WBC) is typically elevated when the body is fighting a severe infection or stressed by metabolic toxins. The progression of FIP can also lead to increases in WBC (these follow a low count at first). The increase in blood protein and the anemia you described implies some possible internal organ (liver, kidney problems).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIP and I sincerely hope that kitty is free and clear of it. However, there is a possibility kitty may have it and I recommend that you rule it out.

FIP can be transmitted from cat to cat it might be worthwhile to keep Estella away from your other cats, although your other cats may have been vaccinated against FIP and may be safe (if your cats have not been vaccinated against FIP, have them vaccinated). Keep me posted. Simba

Follow-up
I am sorry to let you know that Estella passed away two weeks ago- I had her at Angel Memorial for about a week. They still do not know what happened. I miss her so much- she was a friend and not 'just a cat'. I doubt that I will ever have another one like her, but I am lucky that I had the time that I did. Thank you for all your support and kind words. Dyane ---- Thank you for the note. I am heartbroken at your loss. Be well. Your Friend, Simba



What is a cat's normal temperature? - JB

Dear JB,Cats have a normal temperature of 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit. If you believe that your cat or kitten is suffering a fever or has too low a body temperature go to your vet or local animal hospital right away! Your Pal, Simba


Hey Simba!
I have a little 6-month old Persian kitten, and he is not very active. I try to encourage him as much as possible to get up and pounce on his toys or run around. I'm worried that he is not as active as a kitten should be. Sometimes he'll be very energetic and he'll run around everywhere. What games do you think I could play with him to get in the habit of exercising? he is not overweight, I just want him to be more active like a kitten should be. -Kate

Hi Kate,
Kittens are usually pretty hyperactive. They are also pretty big sleepers and can spend up to 16 hours sleeping every day. Ensure that he is getting the proper nutrition (make sure he eats kitten food only!) and water. As for games kittens love these:
  • Climbing cat trees

  • Chasing balls made of paper, aluminum foil or foam

  • Cat teasers
If you find that your kitten is unusually tired do not hesitate to take him to the vet since lethargy is sometimes a result of more serious problems. Also, if you have not done so, make sure he has his initial checkup and that he gets his shots. Your Pal, Simba


Hi Simba,
I have written before and your advice has always been so helpful, not only in healing my kitten, but in calming my anxieties. Unfortunately, I have another situation. My 4-month old kitten has always been very active, but the past few days he is become quite lethargic. I have to coax him to get him to play, he'd rather just snuggle up and sleep. Also, he is also not eating as much. He was diagnosed with the Cat Flu early on and was given medications to take care of all his symptoms. The past few days, though, he is been breathing harder, but there's no nasal discharge or runny eyes.

Could his change in behavior be from the change in weather (it is turned cold where I am) or should I be worried about something else? I have thought about giving him the Clavamox he was prescribed for his earlier bouts with the Cat Flu, but I do not want to unnecessarily medicate him. I have a vet appointment in two weeks and want to avoid jumping the gun as I am prone to do, but should I take him in earlier? Thanks, Amy


Dear Amy,
Do not let kitty out in the cold weather. With his Cat Flu and other problems, the cold can adversely impact his immune system. Also, do not medicate him w/o your vet’s supervision! As to what could be causing this, I worry that it could be bronchitis or another upper respiratory infection. I would take him to the vet sooner rather than later so as to get him on a treatment plan. Also, consider supplements to ensure that he is getting the nutrition he needs. Here are some tips for improving his appetite.
  • Encourage him to eat by petting it while you serve the food.

  • Warm the food. Some cats prefer warmed meals.

  • Feed him tuna or something else he loves. This should get him eating pronto!
Get well and keep me posted. Simba



Kitten Not Thriving



Dear Simba,
I am a volunteer at a nearby animal shelter. I foster several kittens. I am currently fostering a 6-7 week old kitten who does not seem to be thriving. I am concerned, because she does not eat a lot and would to sleep in my lap all day if she could. She plays occasionally, but not like other kittens her age. I had her tested for leukemia and she received her 7-in-1 shot. She uses her cat box on a regular basis. She is allowed to sleep in my daughters bed. What can I do? Julianne

Dear Julianne,
You are a kind person for your fostering efforts. The best thing to do for the little gal is to ensure that she receives the proper nutrition. It is this that drives all her energy. If she does not eat on her own you may want to try feeding her from a bottle. At 6-7 weeks the kitten was probably just recently weaned. You may want to extend the bottle feeding period until you are more confident she will be ok. Also, lethargy is not unusual immediately following vaccinations. However, continued lethargy can be quite serious and can result from many diseases. Simba

SLEEPING KITTEN


Hi Simba
we just got a new 3 month old kitten. But it sleeps ALL DAY. Is this normal? I understand that he is still a baby, but how long do they usually sleep per day? thanks, Bookie

Dear Simba:
We recently lost our kitty of 22 years and after a little while we decided to get a new family member. He is 12 weeks old and has been with us for several weeks. He has not been himself the last three days. He eats ok but has lost his energy. Prior to the last three days he would play non-stop. He sleeps all the time except when he wakes up to eat. He has been wormed and recently got his leukemia and distemper shots. Can you offer me a little advise.- Worried DAD

Dear Simba,
We just got a kittens (8 weeks old) from an animal rescue center. One is energetic and eating just fine. His sister (the runt of the litter) is sleeping a lot and not eating. We have tried feeding her small amounts of KMR with a syringe. How can we get her to eat? - Robin

Dear Bookie, Robin & Worried Dad,
Many times lethargy and depression in cats is not so much a disease in itself but a symptom of other problems. Aside from being overweight and under-stimulated lethargy and depression can result from more serious illness ranging from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, FIP, parasites like heartworm or lungworm, anemia brought on by hookworms, leukemia, injuries, diabetes among many others others.

It is important that kitties do not skip meals as this can cause liver problems. Go to the vet, rule the bad stuff out first and if he/she says your ktten needs treatment start right away! Your Pal, Simba