If your cat is lethargic (listless), it may be low on iron, or even anemic. A trip to the vet will tell you if your cat is anemic, meaning it has a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells, and the red blood cells it does have are small in size. Since red blood cells carry oxygen, this lack of oxygen equals a lack of energy. Learning which foods are high in iron will help to increase the number and size of your cat's red blood cells.
Symptoms That Require a Vet Visit
Take your cat to the vet whenever it displays abnormal behavior, as this is the first sign your cat has a health problem. Refusing to eat or play; pale gums, eyes and ears; depression; irregular breathing and heartbeat; ceasing to groom itself; vomiting and/or constipation are all signs your cat may be low on iron or anemic; kittens are especially at risk for anemia if they're infested with fleas or worms.
Only Your Vet Can Properly Diagnose
Tell the vet all the cat's symptoms in order to help her determine the proper course of action. Drawing blood is a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that will indicate an anemic condition; a urinalysis and fecal exam may also be required. Treat anemia immediately, because anemia can be a sign of a serious illness, such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency or blood parasites.
Foods That Contain Iron
Ensure your cat gets enough iron if it's found to be anemic. Choose dry food based on the iron content on the label; as a mineral, iron combines with copper and protein to make hemoglobin, the molecule that is responsible for carrying oxygen in red blood cells, producing energy. Feeding your cat foods that are high in iron, such as fish, legumes, lean meat, liver, leafy greens and whole grains, also produces enzymes necessary for the cat's normal body function.
Possible Treatment Plans
Treating your cat my include transfusions or prescriptions for iron supplements. Follow your vet's advice, including follow-up blood tests to ensure your cat has the proper amount of red blood cells and enzymes needed for good health. Ensure your cat receives 36.4 mg of iron each day for every pound of dry food it eats; the iron should not be in the form of iron oxide or iron carbonate. Eating foods rich in iron gives your cat's body a constant supply of red blood cells, which only live about three to four months.