You know your cat’s routine as well as you know your own. Are they your morning alarm when they’re hungry? Is your feline friend playful in the evenings? If you have a kitty at home, you’ll also be aware that these extraordinary creatures seem to need a lot of sleep – somewhere in the order of 12 to 20 hours, in fact!

Of course, this depends on a number of things, like your pet’s natural liveliness and their stage of life. For example, kittens use so much energy growing to maturity, not to mention constantly exploring their environment, that they need lots of rest. When cats reach their senior years, they also tend to take more cat naps.

However, if your feline friend is sleeping more than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong. You may have a lethargic cat on your hands, and a trip to the veterinarian might be in order to sort out the cause. But, before you hunt for the emergency vet care number, let’s take a look at what lethargy is and some of the more common causes.

What is Lethargy?

Lethargy in cats basically means that they have low energy. It can also refer to weakness, like if your kitty doesn’t seem physically as capable as they usually are. Think of it on a continuum − a pet might be less playful than normal, could be sleeping for more hours in a day, or even having difficulty getting up and moving around. Lethargy describes a range of behavior. 

17 Signs of a Lethargic Cat

Make sure that you’re able to distinguish between your cat’s typical sleep patterns and what appears to be lethargy. Maybe they’re sleeping more than usual because they’ve been up mousing all night, or they’re recovering from a visit from the grandchildren. Even so, they should have some active time during the day and remind you when it’s their feeding time.

Here are the signs to look for in lethargic cats:

  1. A noticeable lack of energy

  2. Drowsiness when awake

  3. Refusing food

  4. Vomiting or diarrhea

  5. Loss of interest in play

  6. Less grooming behavior

  7. Indifference to exploring their environment

  8. Physical weakness

  9. Tremors

  10. Avoiding human touch

  11. Hiding

  12. Fever

  13. Labored breathing

  14. Increased thirst and urination

  15. Discomfort or pain

  16. Aggressive behavior

  17. Dull coat or hair loss

Certainly, some of these might be emergencies to address quickly. But, take heart. If they just seem a little listless, there are a few things you can try to see if they’ll perk up. First, bring out a few of their favorite toys and see if they’ll take an interest.

Open up a new can of cat food, or offer them a few treats. You can also spread a little catnip on the rug and see if it makes them curious. If they don’t respond much, it might be time to consult your veterinarian.

Common Causes of Lethargy in Cats

There are many reasons for low energy in pets. They could be a little out of shape, or may be feeling stressed or sad. Your cat could have a minor cold, or be having medication side effects. Hairballs are another reason they may be a bit lethargic. And, you could be feeding them too much, or not enough.

While none of these are emergencies, take time to rule out these particular causes. Having said that, weight gain and weight loss are matters you want to deal with before they cause bigger problems.

Aside from fairly minor concerns, lethargy can be a symptom of serious illness. It may suggest that something is wrong that needs a veterinarian’s attention. Following are some of the most common diseases and disorders:


Lethargic cats might be suffering from arthritis. Inflamed and painful joints will make moving around difficult, so they may be less active. For instance, you might notice that your pet takes their time lowering their body into their bed, or is slower climbing stairs. Movement may look more painful first thing in the morning when their joints are stiffer.


Is your cat wheezing and having trouble breathing lately? It can be quite distressing to see your kitty struggle to breath. While this shouldn’t impact their oxygen levels, it can definitely be a reason for lethargy. 

Blood Disorders

Blood conditions, like anemia, are another common cause of lethargy in cats. Anemic cats will have a reduced number of red blood cells, necessary for maintaining oxygen levels in the body. Fewer red blood cells mean that less oxygen is delivered to their tissues. 


Cancer can also cause lethargy. Have you noticed weight loss as well? These two symptoms can go hand in hand and point to several types of cancer. Cancers can vary in severity, so don’t be alarmed right away.


Underlying health problems could include diabetes. This causes excess blood sugar since the body isn’t producing enough insulin to process it properly. Diabetes is serious and can damage organs. 

Gastrointestinal Disorders

There are several different types of gastrointestinal conditions that may be at play when pets don’t seem as spunky as normal.

Lung and Heart Disease

Cardiovascular and pulmonary issues will result in breathing difficulties that will tire your feline friend. This is because there is a reduced ability to pump blood effectively throughout the body.


Infections can be viral to bacterial. It’s not uncommon for felines to have bladder or urinary tract infections. As well, they may succumb to eye or skin infections. 

Kidney or Liver Disease

In addition to slowing down, pets with kidney or liver disease may develop appetite loss, diarrhea, or a dull coat. These are concerning indications that organ failure is possible.

Metabolic Conditions

Difficulties with the endocrine system may cause lethargy. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is one example.

Neurological Disorders

There are different afflictions involving the nervous system that may be at fault. When muscles and nerves aren’t functioning properly, it can result in weakness, loss of coordination, and other symptoms. 


If kitty isn’t as frisky as normal, parasites may be the culprit. Heart worm is a typical one that can come with labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing spells. 


Has Zoe been eating something that they shouldn’t have – like maybe that ivy plant you bought recently? Aside from house plants, other things like your medication or certain foods can be toxic, resulting in listlessness and vomiting. 


If your pussycat is not responding with much enthusiasm and you’re not sure when they were last vaccinated against rabies, don’t rule out this infection.   

When to See a Vet

Considering the potential severity of some of the health problems above, a visit to the veterinarian is wise. Take note of any other symptoms that seem to have surfaced recently. Are they refusing food? Is there diarrhea in the litter box?

Look for other changes such as weight gain or loss, breathing trouble, vomiting, being less affectionate or hiding from others. These suggest that you might want to access emergency vet care.

Otherwise, give Milo or Mittens a day or two and watch them closely for any indication that they’re on the mend. Make sure they’re allowed ample opportunity to rest without other household members disturbing them. In case you need to contact the emergency vet, or get in quickly to see your regular veterinarian, it’s helpful to keep a few notes of your observations.

Diagnosing a Lethargic Cat

Here’s what to expect if you end up at the animal clinic. The vet will do a thorough physical exam of your feline. They will look up the medical history on file of the animal and ask you to explain the reason for your visit and what changes in behavior you’ve noticed. Be sure to tell them about anything in the home that’s changed recently too. 

The vet’s physical exam will cover obvious concerns like swelling, injuries, tender spots, and abscesses on the skin or in the mouth. If your pussycat flinches due to pain, or demonstrates any discomfort, it will help the veterinarian in their diagnosis. Subsequently, certain tests might be ordered to confirm your veterinarian’s suspicions. This may involve X-rays, blood work, ultrasound and, if needed, biopsies and endoscopy.

Treating Lethargy in Cats

The treatment your veterinarian suggests will, of course, vary depending on the diagnosis and the severity of symptoms. For instance, the treatment plan for issues like arthritis and asthma will include particular medication.

Addressing diabetes and endocrine issues requires medication plus a special diet. A bacterial infection will need antibiotics, while a dewormer is given for parasites. If cancer is present, treatment may involve surgery and chemotherapy.  

For certain ailments, dietary supplements, fluids, pain medicine, and oxygen therapy might also be prescribed. And, there’s always acupuncture, massage, heat packs, and other alternative supportive care therapies to incorporate into the treatment regimen. 

CBD for Cat Lethargy

If you're looking for a holistic option to help your cat with discomfort, you may want to consider CBD.

CBD is more popular than ever in the holistic wellness space, and more and more pet parents are turning to CBD every day to help support their cat's health and happiness.

CBD works by interacting with a cat’s internal endocannabinoid system, helping to support normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function. But CBD can also help with promoting relaxation in cats, helping with occasional discomfort, and even supporting mobility – just take a look at all the success stories of pet parents who've used CBD for these reasons and more.

The best part is that CBD for cats comes in an easy-to-use form: CBD oil! This makes it incredibly easy to administer CBD to your kitty – in fact, most cats look forward to their daily dose of CBD thanks to the delicious flavors CBD comes in.

How to Keep Your Cat Healthy 

Start by feeding your feline friend quality food that’s rich in protein, and hold off on giving too many treats. Regular check ups with a veterinarian are must for maintaining your pet’s health. This is where you’ll be advised on preventative measures like heartworm medication and rabies vaccines. You’ll also hear about particular illnesses to be aware of.

Remember, if your kitty is prescribed something for a particular illness, some medications are to be taken for the remainder of your pet’s life. So, it’s important to administer them properly and consistently, following the treatment recommendations. It will be critical to have follow-up appointments with your veterinarian to ensure that the treatment plan is working.

You should also keep in mind that Shadow or Simba isn’t going to live forever. It’s understandable that, as cat lovers, we’re determined to give our furry friends the best life possible. After all, they give so much in return. However, this means letting them go when they’re ready to pass on.

As cats get close to the end of their lives, you’ll likely notice that they’re sleeping much more and less interested in play and their kibble. They may also be finding more private places to nap. Cats are notorious for hiding that they don’t feel well. It’s up to us, in consultation with the veterinarian, to arrange of any supportive care and let them go when it’s their time.

Cat Lethargy: Our Final Thoughts

There is truly a laundry list of conditions responsible for lethargy in cats. That’s why it’s crucial to monitor them closely for other symptoms that may be related and point to bigger problems than your pussycat just needing a bit more down time. A visit to your veterinarian is the best course of action if listlessness persists.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my cat lethargic or just sleepy?

If your feline friend is drowsy and sleeping more than usual and there are no obvious reasons for their fatigue, these could be signs of more serious problems. You may have a lethargic cat on your hands and a trip to the veterinarian might be in order to sort out the cause.

What are the symptoms of a cat dying?

As cats get close to the end of their lives, you’ll likely notice that they’re sleeping much more and less interested in play and food. They may also be finding more private places to nap.

How can I help my cat with lethargy?

Take note of any other symptoms that seem to have surfaced recently, such as loss of appetite, weight gain or loss, breathing trouble, vomiting, diarrhea, being less affectionate, or hiding from people. These suggest that a call to your veterinarian is required.

Why is my cat throwing up and lethargic?

Vomiting and listlessness could be a sign of poisoning or parasites. Both need the speedy attention of a veterinarian.