Lethargic Cats and How You Can Tell it is a Problem

Jun 3, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

I’m lying on the couch as I write this with two of my cats asleep beside me. The third is in her little house sleeping. I ask myself "How can I tell if they are lethargic? They do tend to sleep a lot. They’re also getting older. Isn’t this just normal aging?"

As a feline veterinarian, I know that the answer is yes and no. Cats do tend to sleep a lot… in fact, they lie still for about 16-20 hours a day and that is normal. However, subtle changes in behavior can be early signs of problems.

So how do we know when these subtle changes are signs of problems? It is challenging because cats are both predators and prey. This means that it can be life-threatening to "admit" to being vulnerable. This makes it a challenge to determine when changes in your cat’s activity levels are normal or signs of a problem! Our feline friends are experts are hiding when they are sick. This is an excellent strategy in the wild, but maybe not as useful in modern household situations.

One of the best ways to determine the differences between normal aging and illness is a comprehensive physical examination. Something as simple as a change in body weight or blood pressure can be very telling. Sometimes more in-depth testing such as blood and urine tests or X-rays can help establish a diagnosis. Cats are very stoic and are good at hiding the signs of underlying problems, especially of pain. Regular exams allow us to ask questions about your cat’s habits, behavior and current activities that may shed light on potential concerns.

Even if your cat is young and healthy, regularly scheduled exams provide us with a "baseline" for comparison in the future should there be any medical problems. If we find subtle changes, we may recommend testing now or recommend specific monitoring at future visits.

Given that cats age more rapidly than humans, twice a year visits really aren’t excessive. In fact, they may help us to detect problems early, before they become advanced.

These days, thanks to good lifestyles and early detection of the subtle signs of sickness, 15 is the new 10 for cats, just like 50 is the new 40 for their human friends. Check out Healthy Cats For Life for more info.

The Feline Age Chart

Adapted from Metzger FL, Senior and Geriatric Care Programs for Veterinarians in Vet Clin Small Anim 35 (2005) 743-753.

Age Relative Age* Senior Geriatric
6 40    
7 44    
8 48    
9 52  
10 56  
11 60  
12 64  
13 68  
14 72  
15 76  
16 80  
17 84  
18 88  
19 92  
20 96  

* Relative age in human years

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957
Email: novacatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://novacatclinic.com/
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