Eye Discharge, Lethargy & Weakness in Felines

Your cat's eyes are one of the most important signs of how he's feeling.
Image Credit: Sally Anscombe/DigitalVision/GettyImages

If your kitten is lethargic and walking funny, it's quite possible that there is a problem with her eyes. There can be a few reasons for a cat or kitten being lethargic and not being able to find her way around very well, but if these symptoms are accompanied by eye discharge and weakness or possibly other symptoms, her eyes may need a checkup.

Cat conjunctivitis infection

Watery eyes or other eye discharge can be a sign that your cat has an eye infection. Cats can get conjunctivitis, which is the most common eye infection in felines, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that lines the inner surface of a cat's eyelids and the outer surface of the eyeball. Humans have a conjunctiva also and can also get this infection.

Conjunctivitis is so common in felines that many cats will have the infection at least mildly at some point in their lives. This infection may cause dried, crusty eye discharge around the eye and may also cause pain. You will also likely notice your cat squinting or blinking frequently and the eye area generally looking swollen and red. Luckily, conjunctivitis is not a serious infection, and it often goes away on its own with no treatment necessary.

Signs of cat flu

A cat with watery eyes who is not eating may have more than an eye infection occurring. Cat flu causes sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes, according to Academy Animal Hospital. Other common symptoms are very much like what humans experience when they get the flu: lethargy, not eating, fever, and runny nose.

A cat who is lethargic and not eating with eye discharge has some of the classic symptoms of cat flu. According to VCA Hospitals, cats will often hide signs of their illness, so sometimes, the signs that a cat is sick are subtle. If a cat has not eaten for 24 hours, take him to the veterinarian.

A cat who has not eaten is in danger of developing a condition called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. This may completely suppress a cat's appetite for weeks and requires extensive medical care for recovery.

Cat with watery eyes and not eating

Feline calicivirus is common in domestic and wild cats. It's not usually serious, although occasionally, a rare virus mutation can cause it to become deadly, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Calicivirus in cats is common in environments where there are many cats, such as a shelter, pet store, or cat breeder. Infected cats' eyes can have discharge and be watery.

Most cats develop an upper respiratory tract infection. If the virus travels into the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Symptoms can vary depending on which strain is affecting the cat, but if your cat is lethargic and not eating with eye discharge, it could be calicivirus.

A basic set of symptoms appears like a cold: sneezing, nasal congestion, fever, sometimes drooling, and discharge from the eyes and nose. More severe infections can result in ulcers in the mouth along with lethargy and lack of appetite.

Sick, lethargic kitten

A kitten who is lethargic and walking funny could be falling victim to something called "fading kitten syndrome." Austin Pets Alive says sometimes, kittens just "crash" and start to fade. If this happens, they need medical care immediately. Fading kitten syndrome can occur at any age but is more common in kittens under three weeks old and/or kittens who are or were recently sick.

Often, the symptoms start as eating poorly or not gaining weight. Kittens may exhibit signs of lethargy, a cool body, trouble breathing, or meowing in distress. If you see this, call your veterinarian right away and do your best to keep the kitten warm. See if she will eat something that provides immediate calories and energy, like sugar syrup.

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