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Dr.Fiona, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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my cat has become very lethargic (tired), and her fur has gone

Customer Question

my cat has become very lethargic (tired), and her fur has gone really oily and scruffy and she is hardly moving around as if she cannot be bothered she is 11 years old
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.
Hi there,

Welcome to Just Answer! I would be happy to try to help you with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

When did this start?

Has she lost weight?

In the last 6 months or so:
- any vomiting or diarrhea?

- has she been drinking a lot and/or urinating a lot?

- has her appetite decreased?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Fiona,


yes she has suddenly lost a lot of weight, she is a long haired tortishell 11 years old, we have recently moved home to a smallholding in the countryside about 8 weeks ago and she seemed her normal self but over the last week or so I have noticed she is not eating as much, still drinking ok but seems very tired, her fur looks a mess not shiny any more, oily looking and lifeless and she really isn't going out as much although she is has always been quite lazy but now she is just staying in more, her eyes seem ok but I have noticed that when you pull back her fur her skin doesn't look pink inderneath it looks yellow, she also looks and acts as if she just cant be bothered, but still happy to have fuss but sitting in corners of the room and just laying down more. Caroline

Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.

What you have told me is very concerning!

I'm quite worried that your cat has Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease). This is something that can happen if cats drop their food intake which can happen with a stressful event like a move.

Let me explain...

Hepatic Lipidosis is something that overweight cats are more prone to than slim cats. If an overweight cat decreases her food consumption by approximately 30% for as little as 2 weeks she is likely to develop hepatic lipidosis. Also, if a fat cat stops eating completely for 2-3 days she is likely to develop hepatic lipidosis.

Essentially what happens is the body goes into a state of starvation, and a signal is sent out that the body must mobilize the fat stores to provide energy.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a signal about how much fat to mobilize and fat cats have a lot... so it all gets sent to the liver to be converted from fat into glucose. And the liver gets overwhelmed and shuts down. This leads to nausea and vomiting, which means the cat won't eat, and the body tries to mobilize more fat. The cycle continues and the liver gets into more trouble.

Often, in older, overweight cats an underlying problem like cholangiohepatitis (an inflammation of the liver and bile ducts) could have been the initial reason for the loss of appetite. Or it could be something as simple as a hairball or dental pain... but the consequences of not eating or eating very little are serious.

I will add some links with further details:

You may want to ask your veterinarian whether blood work would be helpful to look for signs of hepatic lipidosis or cholangiohepatitis developing. You may wish to consider antibiotics to treat any dental infection that may be developing, if these things have not been done.

Appetite stimulants prescribed by your vet can be very helpful to treat this problem.

Cyproheptadine is one that I have used for years, but more recently I have started using a new appetite stimulant in cats that I have had great success with. You could ask your veterinarian if he or she can get ahold of an antidepressant for humans called Mirtazapine (Remeron is the trade name in Canada).

Here is a link:

It has been used as an appetite stimulant in cats and dogs for the last couple of years with great results. You would use it instead of the Periactin (cyproheptadine).

And here is a link to cyproheptadine:

Now, as to what you can do at home for your cat...she definitely needs fluids. What you can do is try to get some calories into her in a liquid form - that way she is getting nutrition at the same time as fluids.

I suggest opening a can of tuna *in water* and offering the liquid.

Also, you can pick up Clam Juice in most grocery stores (sold in with the V8 or the canned tuna) and mix that with some water.

You could try Lactose Free milk (Lactaid is the Canadian brand). Whiskas makes a tetra pack of "Kitty Milk" that is lactose free milk with flavouring added.

You could try getting some human baby food in meat flavours (check that there are no onions or garlic in the ingredients) and mix that with warm water and offer that, or syringe it in little bits into your cat's mouth. Beech Nut makes a line of baby food that has nothing but meat (beef, chicken, turkey or veal) in it.

If you cannot find this, you could find another meat baby food - just read the label carefully to be sure there are no onions, onion powder, garlic, or garlic powder in it.

Offer her some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if she won't eat it.

Boil a chicken breast and then put it in the blender with water to make a baby-food consistency gruel to offer.

You could pick up nutristat It is a calorie-dense paste that you can syringe into them to get maximum caloric impact from a given volume of food.

Here is another link to ways to encourage cats to eat:
It has some good suggestions.

I'm afraid you may have to force feed her with a syringe. The human baby food (or making your own puree with cooked chicken breast in a blender with lots of water) goes through a syringe quite well.

I would like to see you getting at least a can a day of food into her - so about 3/4 cup of food. That seems like a lot! But if you can do it by giving her 10mLs (2 teaspoons) every half hour that will make it easier. You really have to work on this!!

The more she eats, the better her appetite. Every hour that goes by without her getting as many calories as she needs, is another hour in which her body is using fat and making the fatty liver disease worse.

This is a very serious disease and cats unfortunately die from it! In many cases, we have to place a feeding tube into the cat's esophagus so food can be placed directly in the stomach.

So, please get very strict about getting food into her. You have to push it into her mouth with a syringe. If you cannot, then you need to see your vet for appetite stimulants or for a feeding tube. She feels nauseated, so she is not going to eat on her own. And the more she refuses food the more nauseated she will feel and the harder it will be to get her to eat!


Good luck with her, and please let me know what happens!

If this has been helpful, please hit the green "Accept" button and leave feedback.

If you need more information, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.