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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
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Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My 17 year old male cat has been off for a couple of weeks.

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My 17 year old male cat has been off for a couple of weeks. At first he seemed like he was sleeping a lot but coming down when he wanted food and water. He's been clumsy at times with occasional bouts of being unable to stand because of back legs. He's always bounced back.

He seemed to be recouping over the weekend although he was unkempt and smelled awful. His breathe has gotten progressively worse over the last month but the smell seemed all over. I gave jim a sponge bath that was not well received.
I tried nutritional paste to fatten him up (3 types because he was not having it).

He seemed weak on Monday but came to visit me when I called. He's gotten progressively worse. His weakness and lethargy have enabled me to keep a better eye on him and feed him paste and fish broth directly into his mouth. He was slowly wandering off when I wasn't looking with careful steps, especially in back where his hips seem to be failing him. He was climbing etc. Into good hidey holes until this evening when I found him sprawled by a window.

He can no longer walk or stand because of his hind legs. One is worse than the other. He cries because he can't walk and occasionally as he lays there: he also licks his licks as he cries and his mouth is wet with saliva. He can swallow since I felt his throat contract when I fed him.

His tummy feels regular with no lumps or hard areas. He's always had a nervous tummy and vomited a lot. He had a thin yellow vomitus the last few times instead of food.

Eyes are reactive to light and inner lids are partially visible. They were recently oozing but are not red.

He can move one back leg if I hold him. The other is weaker causing him to fall to one side. And he flails when he tries to sit up.

He is breathing with his whole chest. Breathes seem normal compared to other cats, possibly more shallow and more rapid.

This cat hates hates hates the vet. The last time he went he bit my hand and put me in the hospital. This was 2006 and he hasn't been back.

I want him to end his life happy in the home he loves but this is hard to watch. I assume that he won't rally again and is dying. My husband fears rabies because of the drool (he's indoors only) and we had a bat in the house last year; however this recent period of decline has lasted two weeks and he has been unsteady on his feet on and off for a couple of months.

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


I am so sorry to hear that your lad is doing so poorly. First, I would note that rabies is very unlikely. Both because the exposure was too long ago (often true rabies infection leads to the animal dying about two weeks after they contract the virus) and his signs are more likely indicating other issues of old age for him.


First, we have to consider his appetite decline, the licking, terrible smell, wet chin and drooling. These are all signs that are very common of a cat with dental disease or can be related to kidney struggles. For dental disease, we often see older cats suffer from tooth decay which leads to mouth pain. And if a cat has a sore mouth, they may drool, lick (as if to displace the irritant), paw at their mouth, suffer from appetite depression and even anorexia (which then leads on to weakness and lethargy). As well, the teeth and gums will often become infected by bacteria giving rise to oral odor but also odor in the saliva (which he then covers his coat with when he bathes). So, this would be a high suspicion for your wee one.


The other consideration is kidney disease. While you may not be aware, kidney failure kitties can develop uremic (ammonia scented) breath when their condition is severe. Furthermore, we will see secondary ulcerations of the mouth or throat with kidney disease which may again cause oral pain and its associated chain of events. So, this too could be related to what you have been seeing with him.


Now more worryingly is his collapse and current state. Initially your history made me suspicious of severe arthritis causing his weakness and the wobbliness you have seen. But the issue with this weak back leg and his vocalizing/respiratory signs does may me worry that he may have a more sinister problem at this stage. As well, you have noted that he can only move one of the back legs. If he is truly unable to move the other back leg (or if it feels cooler then the other or if you pinch a toe on that foot and he cannot feel it) then we have to consider that he may have thrown a clot which is now blocking blood flow to that back leg. And if this is the case, then he will be vocalizing due to severe pain and his prognosis of getting through this will be even poorer then it already is.


In this situation, I am sure you understand that he should not be left to linger. I am afraid that given all that you have described that he is suffering now and that it is his time. Rabies is quite unlikely here (so your husband doesn't have to worry about that) but I am concerned that your kitty may have a clot lodged in one of his blood vessels and this is now causing paralysis of that back leg and significant pain. Therefore, we do really need to consider having him evaluated and likely put to sleep at this stage.


Now I completely appreciate that you do not want to take him to the vet's office. But as I am sure you understand, there will not be really be a humane way to put him down at home without the aid of a vet (since the drugs that are used are very tightly controlled since they could be used to harm people if they were being used improperly). Therefore, I would strongly advise phoning you vet and requesting a house visit (some will). Otherwise, you may want to consider using a mobile vet in your area. These are vets that will come to you rather then maintain their own practice. You can find one local to you via the Housecall Vet Database (LINK) or your own vet may know of those local to yourselves.


Overall, his signs do point to some serious end stage issues and I am concerned that his most recent signs are a turn for the worse. Therefore, I would strongly advise seeing if his vet can come to him and aid him in his time of need. That way he can go peacefully at home and not have to struggle anymore.



I hope this information is helpful.
Please do let me know if you have any further questions.
If you have no further questions, feedback is greatly appreciated.

All the best,

Dr. B.


Please remember to only rate my answer when you are satisfied. IF you have any lingering questions or concerns, please stop and reply to me via the REPLY or CONTINUE CONVERSATION button with the issue you have. I will be happy to continue further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. If you are satisfied, please click the 4-5 stars or associated happy face so that I may receive credit for my assistance.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thanks. I was worried that he might have come into contact with a bat or mouse that we were unaware of. Aside from wanting to sleep more in a secure place and becoming easy to handle as he weakens he hasn't had any change in behavior. Aside from the drooling which is bad now, he doesn't seem to fit what I've read for rabies. The crying followed by licking his lips makes me think nausea is causing the drooling. I will take him to a vet tomorrow. It will be less upsetting for the other cats if he disappears. They've been sniffing him and are worried.
The bad breathe was sudden. My 20 got fussy about eating so there is wet food now.
You are welcome.
And I am so sorry to hear that the other cats are worried for him. Often in kitty culture the ill cats will isolate themselves from the group when it is there time. But in his case, it sounds like he is even too weak to carry out that instinctive behavior. So, obviously they are telling us (as well as him) that he is really struggling here.

The lip licking and drooling can go either way. I agree that it can also be a sign of nausea and that would be a consideration here since struggling kidneys lead to uremia (a body toxin build up) and they often are quite sick with that. And if the bad breath is sudden (the history sounded like it was a chronic issue before) and perhaps ammonia scented, then uremia may be more likely here for him (I have to say that the one shame of discussing kitties online is that I can't have a quick peek in his mouth to just see which is to blame for him). Though in either case, be his motivation nausea or oral discomfort, these will often lead to cats going off their food.

To see if it is nausea and perhaps treatable, you can try him with an antacid. 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) . Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to just help settle the stomach. And if nausea is to blame, that might just settle his stomach enough to eat for you.

Overall, he does sound to be in a very advanced state. So, while it is always a hard decision to make, I do think that seeing the vet tomorrow is the best course of action for your wee lad.

Take care,
Dr. B.


Please remember to only rate my answer when you are satisfied. IF you have any lingering questions or concerns, please stop and reply to me via the REPLY or CONTINUE CONVERSATION button with the issue you have. I will be happy to continue further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. If you are satisfied, please click the 4-5 stars or associated happy face so that I may receive credit for my assistance.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
We are taking him at 8. I understood rabies is possible from your second answer. I pray not for me and the other cats sake! He has been less social but still coming downstairs where the action is.
Hi again,

I do think that is the right course of action for your wee lad.
I must say that I am a wee bit confused why my second answer might suggest rabies to you because I genuinely do not think you have any significant indicators that he does have rabies. Rather from everything you have noted, it sounds like a collapsed cat who cannot do the things he would normally due to his weakness and illness. Rabies would not even by on my differential list for what you have outlined about him. And as I noted from the start, if he had been exposed to rabies that one time then he'd have had clinical signs and passed on shortly after that exposure. So, rabies would not be a real concern here.

Take care,
Dr. B.
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