What can I do if my cat is lethargic?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – my cat is 6-years-old indoor mostly black cat and he is just slow to respond. Doesn't seem too interested in what is going on. Sleeping a lot. What can I do? Should I worry?


James B.


Hi – thanks for your email James. You asked – what can you do if your cat is slow to respond and not interested in what is going on. I'd describe those traits as lethargy. What is lethargy?

Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy may also refer to the general malaise and decreased activity exhibited by animals that do not feel well. It can be one of the first signs of illness or a later sign, depending on the underlying problem.

Some cats may sleep more one day than they do on another day. If a cat seems to be a little drowsy or less active – but is still eating, drinking and once they "wake up" seems playful – then I am not very worried. If you think your cat is a little lethargic, I'd recommend watching your cat to ensure that it does resolve. Watch for any additional signs.

These are the situations in a lethargic cat that bring me concern: A cat that also (in addition to lethargy):

If you see any of these signs, I worry that there is an underlying condition that may be significant and need evaluated by your veterinarian.

What else can you do?

Keep your cat inside (if he goes out) so that you can observe for any abnormalities. If your cat is not feeling well, he may not be able to defend himself if a problem arises while out.

If you are not sure if your cat is eating, offer some fresh food. Make sure he eats. Pay careful attention to his litter box habits. Make sure he is urinating and defecating normally. If you notice abnormalities, then call your veterinarian.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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