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9 Signs of a Sick Kitten - And What to Do

If Your Kitten Is Feeling Under the Weather...

By October 09, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian


9 Signs of a Sick Kitten - And What to Do

Kittens, just like anyone else, get sick. Sometimes when they do, it can be hard to tell. Kittens feeling sick can exhibit a number of symptoms, some of which might point to more than one thing. Learn how to decode your kitten's symptoms and what you can do to restore them back to health.

Having a sick kitten on your hands is never fun. Often times it's something that can be dealt with at home, but sometimes an issue can be serious, and when you're dealing with something as helpless as a kitten, it pays to know what you’re looking for, and what each symptom might mean. Depending on your kitty's lifestyle (i.e., indoor or outdoor) and their typical behavior, it can sometimes be tough to decipher whether or not their symptoms are serious.

Here are nine common warning signs of a sick kitten, what they might mean, and a few helpful tips for dealing with each.

1. Eye Gunk

Anyone who has owned a cat knows that they get eye crusties just like the rest of us. However, sometimes the goop in their tear ducts can be a sign of a sickness on the horizon. If your cat has a clear, tear-like discharge, or a thick, yellow discharge coming out of their eye, these could be signs of an eye infection, allergies, eye trauma, or irritation.

When dealing with your kitten's eye gunk, first try wiping it away from the eye with a damp towel and see how long it takes to return. If the problem keeps coming back, or if you notice that it is starting to obstruct your kitten’s vision, take them to the vet.

2. White gums

If you notice that your kitten’s gums are white, take them to the vet immediately, as this is most likely a sign of anemia, which is a condition that requires medical treatment. Healthy kitten gums are a light pink.

3. Swollen stomach

If you notice that your kitten’s stomach is starting to form a visible bulge, start by more closely moderating your kitten’s meals, as this could be a symptom of over eating.

Try giving them more frequent, smaller meals at routine intervals throughout the day, rather than a large breakfast and dinner. If that does not produce results, consider the possibility that your kitten has intestinal worms.

While the thought of worms inside your precious kitty is disgusting, the treatment for them is fairly simple if caught early enough. You can talk to your vet about getting a dewormer.

4. Lethargy

Kittens are supposed to be inquisitive and constantly bouncing around. While they also require a lot of sleep, there is a noticeable difference between a kitten who is tired and a kitten that is lethargic: a lethargic kitten sleeps the whole day away, and when they aren’t sleeping, they are disinterested in playing or anything that isn’t looking for another place to fall asleep.

If you suspect your kitten is lethargic, make an appointment with your vet, as it can be difficult to find the specific cause of your kitten's lackluster behavior.

5. Diarrhea

Loose stool is a condition that plagues us all sometimes, kittens included. If you notice your litter box filling up with this nasty stuff, first consider the fact that it could be a dietary thing. Have they been put on a new cat food? Have their meal times changed? If you answered yes to either of those questions, give it some time and see if they get used to the changes.

Diarrhea can be the result of a dietary deficiency, intestinal worms, anxiety, or a number of other causes, making it tough to pin down. If it becomes a growing concern, take them to the vet, as it could potentially be something serious.

6. Loss of appetite

Kittens can be picky eaters, but they should still be eaters. If you notice your kitten is not eating anything you put out for them, this could be a sign of something wrong. It could just be an upset tummy, in which case try giving them some boiled chicken or something else mild (unseasoned rice is ok too) to help get them eating again. Again, if nothing is working, take your kitten to the vet.

7. Vomiting

If you notice that your precious kitten is having trouble keeping their food down, first consider giving them smaller portions, as the primary cause of vomiting in kittens is eating too much too fast. Spread their meals out across the day, and see if that helps.

If the vomiting persists, consider changing their diet. If all else fails, head to the vet, as vomiting (especially if they are vomiting blood) could be a sign of something more serious.

8. Coughing, Sneezing, Panting, Wheezing

If your cat is panting occasionally or coughing, it could be that they are either overheated or overexerting themselves, which can be dealt with fairly simply at home by calming them down and cooling them off.

If they are sneezing, wheezing, or repeatedly coughing, you should see your vet as soon as possible, as it could be a problem with their respiratory tract or something else that might require immediate medical attention.

9. Trouble Urinating

If you notice that your kitty is making frequent trips to the litter box with little to show for it, it could be that they have a block in their urinary tract, and should be taken to the vet.

If your kitten is urinating, but the color if the urine is darker than normal, verging on orange, red, or even brown, this could be a problem with their kidneys, or possibly that they are dehydrated. They should be taken to a vet immediately, as this might be a serious complication.

While it may sound like the answer to dealing with most of these symptoms is a trip to the vet, keep in mind that it generally helps to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Don't fall into the trap of being an alarmist, but remember that you're dealing with a pet who cannot tell you specifically what is wrong. It could very well be nothing more than an upset tummy, or a mild case of the sniffles, but why chance it? If you suspect something is wrong with your kitty, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your vet, if for nothing else but the peace of mind that comes with it.

More on Sick Kittens

Tips To Avoid Your Cat's Stomach Upsets
When To Take a Cat to the Vet
How Much Do Cats Sleep?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.


We have a 5 week old kitten seems like after she urinated she becomes totally week really concerned we found kitten and are bottle feeding her please help.gotten really attached to her


What should I do my five day old kitten is not wanting to eat at all I feed him at 10:30 he woke up at 2am so I try to feed him and he would eat at all and still hasn't I've rub his tummy burped him he in a box with heated pad an towel and blanket with him he was perfectly fine at his 10:30pm feeding now he looks like he dieing idk what to do it's 5am no one is open or up at this time. Note this is dose have a broth defect of his back legs they are twisted in towards his tummy I work with his right leg it came along well.


We have a 7 week old and last night heart rate slowed way down as well as h3r breathing. All she is doing is sleeping and doesnt eat or drink. Bottle feeding her and still nothing. Also she had a very bad smell coming from her.


My 4 month old kitten is lethargic, stumbles and falls over. He won't eat or drink. I thought it was an ear infection but there is no redness or drainage. In fact he likes when I scratch his chin. Any ideas what is wrong


I just rescued 4-5 week old kittens on Monday. They were left in a dirty bucket in the rain. My boyfriend took them to the vet and she said that they both are anemic but gave us iron vitamins and killed all of the fleas. Well today the one kitten is active and eating great but my other is very lethargic, Everytime I wake him up he falls right back to sleep and literally his whole body drops in a limp state. He's breathing still he just sleeping a ton. The doc also said that both kittens have clear hearts and throats. I just took then back to the vet last night and he gave me antibiotics for the kitten that keeps sleeping. Idk what else to do tho, I've never seen him like this. It's scaring me. Anyone have any ideas or tips to get the sleeping kitten more active and alert like his brother?


He might have worms or he is just getting use to you do you bottle feed him I have 3 of them before there eyes even open


I have a rescue kitten, he is about 4 weeks old. Found him at 3 weeks, this morning he's not eating an not wanting to do anything. What should I do????


Does anemia cause lethargy in a kitten? Six weeks old.


Take it to a vet. Take it to a vet. Take it to a vet. Take it to a vet. What was the point of this whole thing except to advertise vets?


Give your kitty a nutritional supplements. Its powder you mix with water.


I'm sorry but I can't help you. I would try a professional. Or really anyone else. I just don't have experience with these types of issues.


my kitten has been sleeping excessively today. since 6:30am he's been awake fully for only about 30mins-1hr. im really worried about him since its 3:00pm and hes still sleeping. if i try to wake him, he's very lethargic and falls back asleep within 30secs. is this normal? I sprayed some raid yesterday, but we got him out of the house for at least five hours to try to let the raid become not toxic. also i sprayed it after he was outside of the house.


I have a 13 month old kitty who has greatly decreased her food/water intake over the past week. I brought her to the vet where they ran a blood test which showed slight elevation in HCT and phosphorus but all other kidney functions came back clear. They did an Xray two days later to see that she was constipated, which they administered an enema for her which was successful. That night I gave her her perscribed mirtazipine and she ate and drank OK, not great. The next few days her appetite seemed to dissapear again. I gave her her next dose of Mirtazipine and she ate and drank again within 45 minutes of it however that was 24 hours ago and she doesn't show any more interest in eating. i was able to get her to eat about 2 tablespoons of wet food from my hand after much coaxing. I am very stressed about this and not sure what the next step is. Money is a concern and i have already spent almost $400 on her with no real results.


I have a 8 week old kitten who sneezes and has bad eye gook. He dont play as often as his brother witch is fine. I have no money to take to a vet is there anything I can try at home ?


My new kitty all he want to do is sleep put sometime
He play


My cat has been displaying some of these signs and it has me worried. I just moved to a new state and don't have a trusted vet yet. I plan on spending all night researching different facilities in the area so that I can find the best one possible. I want my cat to receive great care.


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