A cat that has little or no energy compared to its usual behavior is a lethargic cat. Cats may be lethargic for a number of reasons, and while lethargy can sometimes indicate a behavioral problem, most of the time it’s a cat’s way of telling you they’re sick.
What is sleepiness?
Lethargy is a lack or lack of energy or enthusiasm. A lethargic cat looks depressed, tired or calm, sleeps more than usual, and doesn’t play as much as usual. They may also appear weak and less active than usual. A lethargic cat may not want to get up to use the litter box, or may be sick in other ways.
Some lethargic cats also develop a fever, an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea, or are not interested in food, water, or their favorite treats. If the lethargy persists for a while, they may show signs of weight loss or muscle wasting.
Cats may have varying degrees of lethargy.
Some cats may just be a little lethargic and not as interested in play or activity as they usually are. Other cats are moderately lethargic and won’t play at all. Severely lethargic cats don’t even want to move, and sometimes refuse to raise their heads.
Cats are creatures that will hide their disease for as long as possible. Often, cat owners will not know that the cat has been sick for some time, and when the cat finally shows symptoms of illness, the disease may have deteriorated significantly.
Lethargy can be confusing, especially in older cats. When young and active cats reach old age or old age, they tend to become slower and less active due to arthritis, muscle loss, and other normal aging changes.
Difference Between Tired and Lethargic Cats
It can be difficult to determine if a cat is really lethargic and sick, or just tired and needs more sleep.
behavior of a tired cat
A tired cat will sleep more, but once awake it will play, run around, explore and behave normally while eating and drinking. Tired cats only get tired for short periods of time. Once they’ve had an exciting afternoon, they’re ready to get back to their normal day as a curious and active feline.
sleepy cat behavior
A lethargic cat will be weak, depressed, or lack energy for prolonged periods of time. Even after a long nap or a relaxing sunbath, these cats can feel tired and not as active as usual. A lethargic cat is sick, and there are often other warning signs that something is wrong.
Many lethargic cats will hide in quiet and dark places, such as under a bed or in a closet. They tend to prefer a place away from people and other pets.
Causes of Cat Lethargy
The list of causes of lethargy in cats is long. Almost any illness, disease, or injury can list lethargy as a clinical sign or symptom.
Some causes of lethargy in cats are not related to disease or other medical conditions. These causes are less common, but cats who experience them can be considered lethargic.
Non-medical causes of sleepiness
stress and anxiety
Cats can become tense or anxious for many different reasons. Cats may be nervous about changes in the house or environment, they may be sick or injured, there may be a lot going on around the house, or anything else that is causing the cat stress or anxiety.
READ ALSO: 5 Visual Signs of a Stressed Cat and How to Help
To help a stressed or anxious cat, think about what’s going on around the house that might upset your cat. Provide cats with rich food such as toys, lasers, playtime, scratching posts, cat trees, cat grass and more.
Try cat-specific pheromone or calming supplements recommended by your veterinarian. Eliminate any sources of stress that can be eliminated.
Changes in your cat’s environment, whether internal or external, large or small, can be a big deal for your cat.
loss of a close pet or owner
Losing a close family member is hard for people and pets alike. Some cats are more susceptible to these losses than others, becoming inactive, depressed or withdrawn. Give it time to make sure the cat is still eating, drinking and pottying normally.
Moving can be stressful for anyone, and cats are no exception! For cats, moving to a new home can be intimidating with all the new sights, smells, and noises. Cats may hide or change their behavior as they adjust.
Similar to moving house, moving can be stressful and scary for cats. They may respond to this type of change by becoming less active, hiding, or showing other signs of stress or anxiety.
new additions to the family, such as newborns or other pets
Adding a new family member to a cat’s already established circle can be stressful for a cat. Help your cat get used to it slowly by slowly introducing the new family member.
boarding or pet sitter
When you go on vacation, your cat is either left in a kennel in a strange place, surrounded by strangers, or in your own home in the care of someone else, with varying schedules.
Cats are resilient animals, but they also tend to be creatures of habit, where changes in the environment or routine can lead to changes in behavior and energy levels.
While you’re away, try to keep your cat with something familiar, like a piece of clothing or blanket that smells like you, their favorite toy or bedding, and make sure they eat a normal diet.
Medical Causes of Cat Lethargy
The list of medical causes of drowsiness is extensive. However, there are some general abnormalities that are common in cats that can cause lethargy.
Cats can get infections in many different body systems or organs. Infections can be caused by different organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or other infectious organisms. They may have a localized infection, such as an abscess or a wound, or they may have a more systemic infection, such as a virus.
Infected cats usually have a fever and a decreased appetite.
Cats can have many different types of cancer in different organs. Cancer in cats is usually seen in older or geriatric cats.
Cats with advanced cancer are often weak, depressed, and often do not eat or drink on their own.
There are several types of urinary tract disorders that afflict cats. Urinary tract infections, cystitis, urethral obstruction, and bladder stones are all lower urinary tract disorders that can cause lethargy in cats.
Watch for changes in your cat’s urination, which is a sign that something is wrong.
Older cats are prone to chronic kidney disease or failure. The disease is a progressive loss of kidney function and cats often appear weak, weak or tired and sometimes vomit and drink or urinate excessively.
Liver and gallbladder disease can also make cats sick and lethargic. Often, when cats don’t eat, they develop fatty liver disease, which can make them worse than they started.
Cats can accumulate more and more tartar on their teeth as they age unless they receive regular dental care. Rarely, cats will chip or break teeth, and more often, teeth with a lot of tartar will become infected, resulting in abscesses in the root of the tooth.
Accompanying gingivitis and stomatitis can cause mouth pain and sensitivity when eating or drinking. Cats with dental disease or infection may stop eating, become lethargic, have bad breath, have difficulty chewing, and may grind their teeth or chatter.
Nervous system disease
There are several different neurological disorders that can affect cats, ranging from spinal cord injuries to seizures. When a cat’s nervous system is affected, their behavior is also affected, and they are often less active than normal.
Injured cats are almost always less active simply because their wounds are painful and they are unable to enjoy the activities they normally enjoy.
Cats often suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes the heart muscle to enlarge. This makes the heart work harder and can lower the cat’s activity level.
Lung diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, or bronchitis can cause cats to become lethargic, uninterested in food, or have a fever. Cats with respiratory disease may experience difficulty breathing, coughing, or exercise intolerance.
Cats with gastrointestinal problems are often sick and depressed, especially if they have been sick for a while.
Often these cats don’t eat as much as they used to and sometimes get sick after eating. They also lose weight, vomit, have diarrhea, and sometimes have more hairballs than usual.
There are several diseases that commonly affect cats and make them sick. Anemia, autoimmune diseases, and viral infections are some of the health problems that can cause lethargy.
What to do if your cat is lethargic?
If you notice that your cat is lying down more than usual, not playing as usual, looking depressed or tired, or showing other signs of illness, you should contact your veterinarian immediately to make an appointment to examine your cat.
After taking a good look at your cat’s health and habits and performing a complete physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests, such as blood work or x-rays, to determine the cause of lethargy.
If lethargy develops suddenly, continues to worsen, or does not resolve on its own, then you should see a veterinarian immediately.
It’s important to know what’s normal for your cat so you can compare it to any changes you’ve observed in your cat’s behavior.
Knowing your cat’s normal behavior will also help you answer questions when your veterinarian asks about your medical history during your cat’s exam.
Once you notice that your cat is lethargic, make sure there is a quiet and dark place for him to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the household.
Offer fresh food and water to stimulate appetite. If your cat doesn’t want dry kibble, try canned food.
As you can see, there are many causes of lethargy in cats. The bottom line is to know what is normal and what is abnormal about your cat, and to seek veterinary care if you notice that your cat is behaving unusually.
frequently asked questions
What does it mean when a cat is lethargic?
Lethargy in cats is a lack of energy and interest in activities they normally enjoy.
Is my cat sick or just tired?
A sick cat will continue to lethargic, not eat, and show no improvement, while a tired cat should resume normal activities after bedtime.
How Long Does Cat Lethargy Last?
The duration of illness in cats can range from a few days to several months, depending on the disease the cat has.
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