Categories: Cat Health

Kitten with Severe Anemia and Low Temp

Hi,I just today had to put my 5 month old kitten to sleep. He had been tested early on for HIV and leukemia and came back negative; also negative for parasites. The past five days he had been progressively become more lethargic and stopped eating. I brought him to the vet today and there were barely any red blood cells in his body his gums were almost clear and his body temperature was low.

They checked him for parasites in the blood and nothing came back. Know one could figure out what happened. I still question whether or not I did the right thing. The vet said he probably had another couple of days to live.

The only thing that I noticed in the time that we had him is that his heart rate seemed a little high. And the week that he started showing symptoms was when I changed the litter brand to the pearl type litter.

This kitten was found in the wild at about 5 or 6 weeks so I don’t know the health of his family.
I am still second guessing my decision and feel very sad. If any one has any idea what could have happened I would appreciate it.

Kitten with Severe Anemia and Low Temp

My answer:

Hi, I am not going to pretend that I know the answer but I can tell you what the cause might have been from reading some books that I have. But I don’t refer to treatments here as that is the domain of the vet. I do believe though that a well informed cat keeper is a benefit to the cat provided the knowledge is used sensibly. Note that I use the USA spelling of anemia and derivative words except on one occasion.

First, I am sorry to hear of your loss. It must have been a very difficult decision.

Feline Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells. Therefore anemia is caused by blood loss or low red cell production. The signs of heart disease can be confused with those for anemia.

Drs Carlson and Giffin (Cat Owner’s Veterinary Handbook) make these points on the question of anemia and cats/kittens (this is highly summarised):

  • Iron deficiency — mother was anemic and low iron in the mother’s milk. This seems not to apply as your kitten was 5 months old but I am not sure.
  • Intestinal parasites – hook worm or coccidia infestation — cause chronic blood loss through intestinal tract. More common in older kittens and adults.
  • Intestinal tract – ulcer or tumor causing blood loss.
  • Red blood cell destroyed prematurely — disease called hemolysis – Feline infectious anemia (FIA) and feline cytauxzoon are two diseases that cause blood hemolysis.
  • Decreased red blood cell production — most common cause of feline anemia. This can be caused by diets low in iron. But most often caused by chronic blood loss. Also toxic “agents” and diseases interfere with production namely, feline leukemia, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and drugs. Many illnesses affect the bone marrow, where red blood cells are produced.
  • External parasites — flea infestation? (my thought)
  • See Feline Anemia (an earlier article on a blogger site)
  • Feline porphyria — rare disease. Affects the formation of red blood cells. Causes brownish discoloration of teeth and brown urine.

The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms says:

  • a deficiency in Vitamin K because of ingesting the poison Warfarin or liver disease causes anemia and bleeding
  • trauma, rat poison or tumor causing bleeding into abdomen resulting in the symptom of a distended stomach
  • with symptoms of depressed appetite the possible condition would be they say: FeLV, FIV, cancer, kidney disease, drug ingestion, rat poison, “immune mediated disease”, severe bacterial infection.

The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopaedia of Cat Health and Care says this:

  • nutritional anaemia – mother anemic passing this on to the offspring
  • intestinal parasites causing chronic blood loss.
  • Feline Infectious Anemia (FIA) – the bacteria responsible is Hemobartonella felis. Attaches to surface of red blood cells. A weakened immune system allows the bacteria to attack the red blood cells. This causes the condition FIA. Can be transmitted by bite from another cat or possibly a flea.

The Natural Health Cat Care Manual confirms the above and nothing new.

Cat with Feline Infectious Anemia. This cat and person is not associated with the author of the question. The author of the photo says that the disease was caused by the cat’s immune system attacking the red blood cells having detected an abnormality in them. Photo taken Dec. 2008: by Fenchurch! (creative commons license). I hope the cat got well.

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Kitten with Severe Anemia and Low Temp

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Sep 20, 2011 JOEY
by: Anonymous

My cat was severely anemic and had pleural effusions and pulmonary edema. He was eight years old. I had to put him to sleep. He was a beautiful rescued persian. I will miss him!


Sep 07, 2011 Terribly sorry.
by: Niko

Hi there,
I am in the same boat as you. I had to put my 5 month old kitten down 2 days ago because of anemia. I also have no idea what caused it. He was getting more and more lethargic over the weekend until on monday his just fell over and wet himself. We rushed him to a 24hr Vet Emergency Clinic and his red blood cell count was only 6% the vet as well had no idea, he came back negative on all test including lukemia, and Feline HIV. I am so sorry for your lose, ours was also a rescue kitten and we miss ours so much right now. Please know that you are not the only one dealing with a situation such as this.
Take care.


Oct 12, 2010 Anemic Cat
by: Anonymous

First,I am so sorry for the loss of your kitty.
I know how you feel,I had to let my 6 year old go today.His body temp was 10 degrees lower than it should have been and like yours he had severe anemia.
He was lethargic and just laying around.
The vet told me he may not even make it through the night.So I did what I had to do so he wouldn’t suffer.
I am really heartbroken over this as I am sure you already know,they become a part of your family and not just a pet.I have no children so my pets are my children.
GOD bless you and take care


May 28, 2010 Anemia
by: Alyssa

Scott, don’t beat yourself up. We just lost two kittens to FelV (leukemia) and what got them was anemia. They were both feral rescues and for the first few days were OK and then went downhill fast. In hindsight I think we kept them alive for a day too long. They just seemed so uncomfortable at the end. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t find a comfy spot to lie down. Wobbly. But we wanted to give them every chance to make it. And although some kittens can shake FelV and some kittens can grown into FelV positive cats….most succumb. No matter what you do. I’m very sorry for your loss. We went through the same heart-wrenching decisions. It sucks.


Apr 28, 2010 Severe anemia and decrease in body temp
by: Scott

We had the exact same thing happen, however, ours was instantly.
We had Ginger for 28 days. She was a beautiful little Calico that we adopted from the pound when she was about 12 weeks. Like yours, she was found in the wild. For 27 days she bounced off the walls and played like a happy little kitten should. On Sunday she was acting a little lethargic and not as playful, but seemed fine for the most part. We just figured she needed a nap. We had recently detected a few fleas, so we went ahead and gave her a bath, her 2nd. We immediately noticed a sharp decline in her responses. We dried her and kept her wrapped in a blanket while I held her. I guessed possible shock, but it was her 2nd bath. After 1 hour of this, we noticed that she began drooling as well, so off to the vet.
The diagnosis was grim: severe anemia, low temp by 2 degrees, possible kidney failure (they were small and hard), and a light positive for FIV, and Leukemia was a possibility. Her red cell count was some incredibly low number like 1.5.
I had to make the hard call and put her down to end her suffering. Now, I regret not trying something else. It all happened so fast on Sunday that I am not sure I did enough. I still think, 90%, that I made the right call, but I can’t help but think about the what if. Could the test have been misleading? Was there something simple that was the real problem that hydration and a transfusion would have corrected?
The vet, who has seen this thousands of times, was relieved when I made the decision. That, however, does not bring any comfort.
-Scott


Apr 16, 2010 Kitty
by: Mandii

Yeah i have a bout to be 5mnths tomarrow kitten that the vet thinks it has anemia, and ive been doing everything i gave him a bath with dawn dish soap and i have been bottle feeding him, i dont know what to do and i dont want to loose my kitten if anybody has at home remedys please let me know. 🙁


Nov 13, 2009 sudden anemia
by: Kathryn

When I brought Independence home from the S.P.C.A., she had an upper repiratory infection, which I began treating immediately. She seemed to be improving but took a sudden turn for the worse. My vet opened her mouth and discovered the severe anemia. It was so bad that we did not have time to take blood samples and get the results back before she would die. After some hurried research on the internet, I came back with hemobartenellosis (excuse the spelling). We started treament that afternoon. 48 hours later, she came around. We took a long shot, and an educated guess, and we won. Can’t say that this would have solved your problem, but don’t be afraid to take chances when there are only hours remaining. My deepest sympathies on your loss!


Oct 20, 2009 poor kitty
by: kathy

SI too had a similar experience with a bengal kitten that i bought. She had the same symptoms your kitty had. She was ill when i bought her form a bengal breeder whos name we shall not mention. She was tested for parasites and she had what they call spinners in her system. I was told they can come from them drinking stagnant water. She became better but she eventually exhibited the same signs as your kitty and i too had to have her put to sleep. Needless to say i was devestated.


Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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