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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22615
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Hello I would like some advice on my cat. She is 19 years old

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Hello I would like some advice on my cat. She is 19 years old and cries when we try to pick her up. She isn't eating but is drinking. She was sick last night twice but a while apart. She hasn't been outside since the weather has gone cold. She will only go out for the toilet. She isn't as affectionate as yesterday morning so I can tell something is wrong. She let's us stroke her but won't come and sit on us or curl up next to us. It's like she has a tummy ache but I'm not an expert so would really like some advice. She goes to the toilet fine and hasn't gone for a poopy since yesterday morning. Her poopies are smaller in size but normal consistency. Wee is fine.

Please can anybody give any advice?

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.


Now Smokey is showing quite a few signs here that do raise concerns that she is quiet poorly. Specifically, the withdrawal (ie not sitting on laps or near by, lack of affection), possible discomfort when lifted, the sudden nausea/vomiting, and decline in appetite (likely secondary to nausea). In regards XXXXX XXXXX lack of desire to go out in the cold, this is likely an old change (potentially related to arthritis) and not directly related to her other signs. As well, just to note, her lack of appetite is likely responsible for her smaller feces (Less food in = less output).



Now when a cat goes off their food with lethargy, it is a vague clinical signs that can occur with a range of issues. If we are able to remove oral differentials (since there has been no drooling or noted struggling to eat) then we can turn our attentions to the conditions that affect the body as a whole. This includes grumbling bacterial infection, viral disease, cancer (ie lymphoma), pancreatitis, metabolic conditions (ie hyperthyroidism), organ disease (ie liver or kidney troubles) toxin and/or foreign material ingestion (the last two be less likely in her situation). Furthermore, we must appreciate that if she does have abdominal pain or discomfort, this could be a sign of an inflamed pancreas or even a tumor within her abdomen.

To complicate matters, we get very concerned for cats who go off their food (so we don't want this to linger) because cats were not well designed for the anorexic lifestyle. When they are off their food, body fat is broken down and released into the blood stream, causing their liver distress (ie. hepatic lipidosis) that can make getting them better even more difficult for us.

Now if you think she is truly painful when lifted, then I would advise it'd be prudent to have her seen today rather then waiting to see if we can settle her stomach at home. Because if she is sore, we need her vet to identify why and get her on treatment as soon as possible.

If you don't think she is painful, then you can try her with supportive care I will now outline but you do want to monitor her closely. Now if Smokey is turning away from food and showing a bit of vomiting, then nausea is a major concern (often nauseous cats go off their food rather then eat/vomit like a dog would). This means stomach upset would be a consideration but it can also be associated with systemic diseases that have an associated nausea. To rule out nausea as an anorexia differential, you can try her on antacid therapy. There are a number of antacids that are available over the counter and pet friendly. I would advise only treating with one, but the two I tend to recommend are Pepcid (LINK) or Zantac (LINK). This medication of course shouldn’t be given without consulting your vet if she does have any pre-existing conditions or is on any other medications. Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to easy her upset stomach.

As well, you will want to try and see if you can get her eating (as I am sure you have been). Favorite foods are allowed or you can tempt her with a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be boiled chicken, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), meat baby food (do avoid the ones with garlic powder in the ingredients) or there are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used here (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity.)

Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we may have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food into her. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D (LINK) or Royal Canin Recovery (LINK) from your local vet. This is a critical care diet that is comes as a soft, palatable pate. It is calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some more calories into her even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet (LINK). It is actually by the same people who make Ensure, but is formulated to meet out pet's dietary needs. Your vet should be able to order it for you but it is available without a prescription (Amazon stock it as well). They also make one specifically for older cats with kidney troubles, and this could be an alternative for an older cat. This way it would a means of getting food, staving off hepatic lipidosis, and buying you time to uncover the reason for her anorexia and lethargy.

On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on her water intake. It is good that she is drinking but cannot be sure that this is enough (with her vomiting losses and/or if she has a condition that caused increased thirst but also urination). Therefore, do check her hydration status now. To do so and make sure she is not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether she has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE. ( They use a big dog but it makes it easier to see and the principles are exactly the same) If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your kitty seen by her vet before this gets out of control for her.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX you can do to help stave off dehydration at home (though do note that if she is already then she will likely need more the oral rehydration), encourage her to drink but offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting her to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. If she isn't amenable to drinking, you may wish to offer unflavored pedialyte via syringe feeding. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting profusely, it may be an option for this situation. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal 48mls per kilogram of her body weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total she needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of her daily requirement. If she does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want her vomiting because of our intervention).

Overall, when a cat is anorexic and lethargic, it can mean a wide range of underlying issues. If you think she has abdominal pain or discomfort, then it would be ideal to have her checked by her vet today (since we don't want her to suffer). If you are sure she is not sore, then do try the above. But since she is an older lass, if you try the above and do not see improvement in 12-24 hours or she worsens (vomits, etc), then you do want to get your vet involved at that stage.They can assess her hydration, check her signs of any sinister lumps/bumps or internal issues. As well, you may consider having them check a blood sample to assess the state of her organs. They can also cover her with antibiotics, anti-nausea/vomiting medication by injection and even appetite stimulating drugs if necessary. Depending on the findings, the vet will be able advise you on what is likely our culprit and what can be done to help your wee one before she just fades away on us.


And just to note if you do want to have Smokey seen now, I wanted to mention that most veterinary practices here do have contingency plans for emergency care for their patients. This means that if you ring the practice, they will likely have a message to direct you on how to contact their emergency service. And if you don't have a vet you can find one local to you, you can check RCVS register (LINK). or you can check here to find your local Vets Now (LINK) who are open all nights/weekends.



I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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