Understanding Lethargy in Cats: Causes and Remedies

When a normally active feline friend suddenly becomes lethargic, it can be a cause for concern. Lethargy in cats refers to a lack of energy, enthusiasm, or a significant decrease in activity levels. In this article, we'll explore what lethargy looks like, examine some potential causes, list common symptoms to watch for, and discuss remedies to help your cat get back on its paws.

Lethargy in cats

What Does Lethargy Look Like?

Lethargy in cats manifests as a significant decline in physical and mental activity. A lethargic cat may exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Reduced Mobility: Your cat may move less than usual and be less interested in playing or exploring.
  • Excessive Rest: While cats are known for their love of napping, a lethargic cat might sleep even more than usual.
  • Loss of Interest: Lethargic cats may lose interest in their favourite toys, people, or activities.
  • Hiding: Some cats become reclusive and hide in quiet, dark places when they feel unwell.
  • Change in Appetite: A lack of interest in food, even favourite treats, is common when cats are lethargic.

When evaluating your cat for lethargy, watch for the following additional symptoms that can help you determine if your cat is unwell. If your cat is experiencing secondary symptoms listed below, they may need a check up with their veterinarian. 

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Loss of Appetite: A reduced interest in food is often an early sign of a problem.
  • Weight Loss: Lethargic cats may lose weight due to decreased food intake and metabolic changes.
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea: Gastrointestinal issues often observed in lethargic cats 
  • Changes in Grooming: A lack of self-grooming or a disheveled coat can indicate a problem.
  • Behaviour Changes: Agitation, irritability, or excessive vocalization can be signs of discomfort.

Potential Causes of Lethargy

Lethargy in cats can be triggered by various factors, and identifying the underlying cause is essential for effective treatment. If your cat experiences symptoms of lethargy, a call to the veterinarian may be necessary. Some potential causes of lethargy include:

  • Infections, such as respiratory or urinary tract infections, can lead to lethargy. 
  • Chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease can also be culprits.
  • Pain and discomfort from injuries, arthritis, or dental problems can result in decreased activity.
  • Changes in the environment, like moving or introducing a new pet, can lead to stress-related lethargy.
  • Inadequate water intake can cause dehydration and lethargy.
  • Cats may ingest toxic substances like plants or household chemicals, leading to lethargy as a symptom.
  • Internal or external parasites, such as fleas, ticks, or worms, can make your cat feel unwell.

Remedies for Lethargy in Cats

If you suspect your cat is lethargic, it's essential to consult your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and establish an appropriate treatment plan. However, here are some general remedies and care strategies that can help prevent lethargy in your cat or to help them feel better when they are lethargic:

  1. Hydration: Ensure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. You can encourage drinking by using a clean water bowl and even investing in a cat water fountain for flowing water. Cats can struggle to consume adequate water. Feeding a gently cooked fresh pet food, which is high in moisture, can help ensure proper hydration for your cat. 
  1. Proper Nutrition: Offer high-quality cat food that matches your pet's age, health, and dietary needs. We offer meals suitable for all life stages, kittens, adult cats, and specifically for senior cats. Proper nutrition can help prevent lethargy and causes of lethargy and aids in a speedy recovery for cats experiencing lethargy. 

Healthy meals for cats

  1. Stress Reduction: Create a calm and stable environment for your cat. Minimize changes in the household that can cause stress. Ensure they have space where other pets can not reach them. 
  1. Pain Management: If your cat is in pain, discuss pain relief options with your veterinarian. These might include medications, supplements, or therapies like acupuncture. For simple comfort throughout the home, ensure your cat has access to both vertical and horizontal space to help movement and muscle mass maintenance. Soft beds and heating pads can be great for promoting comfort as well.
  1. Regular Vet Check-Ups: Schedule routine vet visits to monitor your cat's health and catch potential issues early. 
  1. Medication and Treatment: If an underlying medical condition is identified, follow your vet's prescribed treatment plan to get your cat back on track!

Lethargy in cats is a concerning symptom, and early intervention is crucial to identify and address the underlying cause. By providing your feline friend with a loving and supportive environment and seeking prompt veterinary care, you can help your cat recover its vitality and enjoy a happy, active life.

Written by: Hannah Godfrey
Animal Nutritionist
BSc.H. | MSc. Animal Nutrition