Kittens are usually bundles of energy! They love exploring their new world taking in as many new sights, smells, and experiences as possible. Therefore, whenever my kitten is weak and sleepy I immediately panic. What is wrong with my kitten? Is she sick? How can I help?
As a pet owner, I’m sure I’m not the only one with questions like this running through my head. Their wellbeing is so important to us and we want to make sure they are always healthy. Although kittens are extremely playful, they do spend a large portion of the day sleeping. However, weakness and lethargy in kittens can indicate an underlying medical condition and you may need to contact a vet.
In this article, I look at all the common reasons why my kitten is weak and sleepy and advise on when you need to call a vet. I’ll also run through some tips on how to care for a sick kitten. With a little love and care, your kitten should fight off their illness and be back to their playful selves in no time!
Why is My Kitten Weak & Sleepy?
If your kitten is weak and sleepy, you should call your veterinarian right away. Weakness and lethargy are two of the most common symptoms linked to a huge number of different medical conditions. As kittens are only small and still pretty vulnerable to illnesses and infections, any medical condition will likely cause more adverse symptoms in kittens when compared to adult cats.
For this reason, your kitten must get the diagnosis and treatment they need before their condition deteriorates. Below are some of the most common illnesses in kittens which can cause lethargy and weakness. However, this is by no means exhaustive!
1. Intestinal Worm Infestations
Worms are one of the most common infections that kittens pick up. In fact, worms can infect cats of any age and can make an adult cat suddenly lethargic and weak as well. However, as kittens are smaller and more vulnerable, they tend to have more severe symptoms and are more likely to develop complications.
So, what are intestinal worms? Intestinal worms are a form of internal parasite that lives inside your cat’s intestines. Roundworms are the most easily contracted and can be passed to whole litters of kittens through larvae found in their mother’s milk. Other types of worms include tapeworms and hookworms which are more commonly passed by ingesting fleas.
Worm infestations can cause kittens to become weak and sleepy as the parasites feed on their bodily fluids and nutrients. This takes away nutrients that your kitten needs to grow into a strong and healthy adult cat.
Other symptoms of intestinal worms in kittens include:
- Diarrhea or bloody stools
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Rice-shaped pieces in your kitten’s feces
- Bloated abdominal area
If you think your kitten has worms, you will need to take it to the vet for deworming. Although deworming medications are available over the counter, you should always get advice from a vet. Some of these treatments are unsuitable for kittens.
Note that worms are highly infectious and you need to keep the infected kitten away from other cats in your household. The reverse is also true and worms can be contracted after kittens leave their Mom if another cat in your home is infected.
2. Severe Dehydration
Severe dehydration is another possible reason why my kitten is weak and sleepy. Their bodies rely on water to carry out physiological processes. A dehydrated kitten will have a reduced blood volume and poor circulation, causing less blood to flow to their muscles and brain. This causes weakness and feelings of sleepiness, respectively.
A whole range of things can lead to dehydration. Many kittens simply don’t drink enough out of choice or are unable to locate their water. However, if your cat is hiding and acting weird it could indicate an underlying condition such as kidney disease. Although more common in seniors, kittens can be born with kidney problems or contract kidney infections.
Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to dehydration. More water is being lost from the body than it should be through either regurgitation or loose stools. Your kitten may have eaten something it shouldn’t or they could have an intestinal worm infestation.
3. Bacterial or Viral Infections
Bacterial or viral infections can cause kittens to act weak and sleepy as well. As their bodies are working hard to fight off the infection, they become weak, lose energy, and have little interest in playing. They will usually also show other signs of infection which will vary depending on the precise infection they have contracted.
Common viral infections include the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and the Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (FURI). If your kitten has had their vaccinations, then the chance of picking these up is low. However, come kittens can contract FeLV in utero or through an infected mother’s milk.
On the other hand, kittens contract bacterial infections through ingesting or inhaling bad bacteria which will infect them internally. Alternatively, bacterial infections can result from bacterium entering open wounds on your kitten’s body or through broken teeth for more localized inflammation and infection. It can also enter via their urinary tract to cause a UTI.
General symptoms of bacterial and viral infections are lethargy and weakness, loss of appetite, and a fever. The other symptoms will vary depending on the type of infection and area of the body that the infection is localized. Some examples include:
- Skin abscesses and infected skin lesions
- Coughing and a runny nose for respiratory infections
- Red eyes and eye discharge
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Frequent and painful urination for UTIs
4. Gastrointestinal Problems
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems can cause kittens to act weak and sleepy. The upset caused to their GI tract typically causes a loss of appetite and may also impair the ability of their intestine to absorb nutrients from the food they do eat. Without receiving the nutrients they need from their diet, they become tired and weak.
There is a huge range of gastrointestinal problems that can affect cats, including intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, and constipation. These can be the result of internal infections, swallowing non-food items, or intolerances or allergies to food.
It is important to feed your kitten a healthy diet to help promote good digestive health. Young kittens need wet food as their small teeth make it hard for your cat to chew and digest dry kibble. It is important to always monitor kittens when they play as well and keep toxic non-food substances away from their curious little paws!
What Are The Other Signs of Sickness in Kittens?
Happy and healthy kittens will be full of energy and love to play, sleeping for long periods in between to regain their energy. However, when a kitten is showing signs of excessive sleepiness, weakness, and no interest in playing, you should be concerned. A weak and sleepy kitten is likely a sick kitten.
Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between a healthy amount of sleep and lethargy in kittens. Therefore, here are some other common signs of sickness that you can look out for. See any of these in combination and you almost definitely have a sick kitty on your hands:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Coughing and breathing difficulties
- Discharge from the eyes and nose
- White or overly pale gums
- Difficulty passing urine
You should take note of any symptoms or behavioral changes in your kitten and talk to your vet about them. As kittens are more vulnerable and their health can rapidly deteriorate, they need to receive treatment quickly.
How Do I Care for Sick Kittens at Home?
If your kitten is weak and sleepy, you need to take them to the vet so they can determine what is wrong with them. Kittens are still growing and so are much more vulnerable to illnesses. They need prompt treatment for even minor conditions so that their health doesn’t deteriorate. Be sure to follow any treatment they prescribe and advice they give.
I understand that caring for a sick kitten – especially if you’re a new pet parent – can be daunting. You want to make sure you do everything in your power to help your cat recover quickly! Here is some general nursing advice on how to care for sick kittens at home.
1. Monitor Food and Water Intake
If your kitten is feeling weak and sleepy, there is a high chance they aren’t getting the nutrients and/or fluids they need. Providing your cat with these essentials can give the body the energy it requires for a speedy recovery. Therefore, you need to monitor their food and water intake each day.
If your kitten isn’t eating or drinking enough, there are a few things you can do to help encourage them. Hand-feeding your cat is one option; they’re more likely to eat and drink when it is given to them directly as it reminds them of feeding from their mother. You can also feed your kitten wet food which is more easily digestible and has higher water content. Small and regular portions are also best.
Moreover, it is crucial the diet you are feeding your kitten is appropriate for them. This can not only help with recovery but also strengthen their immune system to help prevent future sickness. Speak to your vet for advice on the best diet to feed them.
2. Help Your Kitten with Grooming
Sometimes, cats and kittens that are sick stop grooming themselves. Therefore, you can help your kitten out by brushing their coat daily to help keep them clean. This helps to prevent dirt and bacteria accumulating on their coat which could make them sicker. If your kitten has any discharge running from its eyes, nose, and mouth, you also need to wipe these away with a warm damp cloth.
While grooming is important if you notice your kitten looks a little worse for wear, try to not handle them too much. It can exacerbate some conditions. Always wash your hands before and after touching them to try and limit the spread of disease and prevent any more infections.
3. Setup a Comfortable Sleeping Spot
Rest is paramount to a quick recovery! If your cat is acting weak and sleepy, let them have the rest that they need and try not to disturb them too much. They don’t have the energy to be doing much else and need to focus on getting better. Depending on what is wrong with them, it might be a good idea to keep your kitten quarantined from the rest of the house.
If you’re wondering “Where should kittens sleep at night when they are sick?” the most basic answer is somewhere comfortable and cozy. Don’t let your kitten sleep in bed with you! Set them up in a private area that is soft and warm. I recommend lining it with towels or blankets so if your sick kitten has an upset stomach you can wash them clean.
4. Keep Your Home Clean
Keeping your home clean is a must when you have a sick kitten. This is particularly true if your cat has a parasitic infection such as worms or fleas. The parasites need to be contained and removed to prevent reinfection and the spread of the parasites to other animals or people.
Additionally, a clean home can help to prevent your kitten from getting sick again in the future. Removing dirt and bacteria from your house means it is less likely to cause your kitten harm. Make sure you never use phenol-based disinfectants when cleaning as these are toxic to cats and kittens. All cleaning products need to be kept safely out of reach.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
When noticing my kitten is weak and sleepy, it is hard not to panic! This is nearly always a sign that your kitten isn’t well. However, go to the vet and follow whatever treatment and advice they give you and your kitten should soon make a quick recovery. You can follow my home care tips too to further promote a speedy recovery and prevent future illnesses and infections.