Categories: Cat Health

My Cat Has Lost Appetite and Weight with Labored Breathing

I certainly could use some advice from you fine people. I have read a lot of the articles provided on this website, but much of it was too generalized for my specific questions.

Anyhow on to my issue. In the past week I have noticed some changes going on with my 15 year old cat Holly.

1. She was going to the cat box regularly, but her feces was coming out rather small and thin.(Not to mention a bit hard). In the last few days I have been watching her closely, and rarely see her visiting the box. After daily inspections, I am noticing very little to no business done.

2. The past 2-3 days she hasn’t been eating much at all (due to current finances, we could only afford dry food). We did get some wet food for her yesterday, but she barely touched it.

3. She hasn’t been drinking water as much as she usually does. This concerns me because it has been very warm and humid here.(80+ degrees Fahrenheit.)

4. When you own a cat for 15 years you tend to notice where they go when they don’t feel good. Lately Holly has been going to that place in the house, behind the tv stand.

5. She has lost some weight, and I also noticed her breathing has changed. It has become shallow and labored.

6. She has become unresponsive when I call her. This is out of the ordinary for her, because she is a cat that loves attention. The only thing that she has been doing that IS normal, is sunning herself near the patio door.

I am inclined to think it is hairballs, because she has been off her weekly regimen of hairball prevention for almost a month now.(Due to finances) But I fear that it is something worse, like anemia.

So, with all that information, can anyone advise me on what is going on with my kitty?

Hi… thanks for visiting and asking. It seems to me that the bottom line symptoms are a loss of appetite and loss of desire to drink plus labored breathing. Not going to the litter is, it seems, a consequence of loss of appetite. Her loss of weight also seems to be a consequence of that.

A loss of appetite is a generalised symptom. It is a symptom of an ill cat just as we lose our appetite when we feel ill. Unfortunately it is a sign that does not direct us conclusively to a single cause.

One other factor that might be significant is that she is 15 years of age. A good age and an old age for a cat.

All I can do, I feel, is to see, if I can link age with lose of appetite and a likely illness.

One obvious possibility is mouth disease but this should be noticeable when the mouth is opened. Old cats are more likely to have mouth disease. I feel that this is not the cause, however.

“Weight loss is serious in the aging cat”1. It can be caused by kidney disease, cancers, periodontal disease (mentioned above) and loss of smell plus other causes.

The advise from a good vet is that weight loss is an “indication for a veterinary checkup.”1 Compounding that advice, labored breath also indicates a vet’s attention. These are two symptoms that are considered “danger signals in the elderly cat”.

Sorry if this is upsetting.

Kidney failure is not uncommon in elderly cats. The first signs are increased voiding and drinking so this may not be the cause although apathy, sluggishness and loss of appetite and weight are symptoms as are brownish discoloration of the tongue and dry hair coat.

Heart disease is another possibility. These are speculative. One thing definite is indicated however, which is this might be serious and in which case a vet’s visit is called for and I know how much most people don’t really like that for all the usual reasons including cost which may be a factor for you.

I have been through my reference books and there are many illnesses, some serious such as Feline Infectious Peritonitis that can cause the symptoms that you have mentioned. Incidentally, a foreign object in the mouth or throat would cause coughing so is not applicable it seems to me

One last possibility is poison but this seems unlikely.

See feline weight loss.

Cat Illness Symptoms


1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin. Page 385.

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My Cat Has Lost Appetite and Weight with Labored Breathing

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Mar 10, 2011 Thank you, Holly’s Mom
by: Anonymous

Thank you, Holly’s mom for the detailed symptoms list and especially for the last update. I am sorry for your loss.

You might have been describing our cat when you listed the symptoms. We will concentrate on making our old kitty’s last days comfortable and pain free.

Feb 21, 2011 Late Update
by: HollysMom

I don’t know if anyone checks this particular topic anymore but I wanted to give another update.

It turns out the infection was worse then I thought. After taking Holly to the vet for a checkup on the 13th of August, On August 15th she passed away.

I was with her in the end and it was a very emotional time for me. I still get upset sometimes, even as I am writing this I feel very sad.
She did have a good old life and I tried to do my best for her.

I am sorry I didn’t come back sooner to update, I had a lot going on.

Aug 06, 2010 Holly
by: Ruth

Hello again Holly’s mom.I’m so glad you came back to tell us how she is and I’m happy for you that it’s a treatable illness she has.
It just shows how we can jump to conclusions when not actually seeing the poorly cat as it did sound like Holly had a growth in her tummy.
It’s always important to see a vet and not take for gospel what anyone else thinks.
I don’t envy you the month’s anibiotics, most cats are terrors to dose lol
But you’ll get through it as you sound determined and you obviously love Holly very much.
I hope she’s soon better,do let us know if you can.

Aug 04, 2010 Update
by: HollysMom

Well, 500 dollars later I have good news on Holly’s condition.

The vet just called me today about her blood test and it turns out she has a lung infection. Thankfully it is treatable and all of her other organs are in good shape.

The vet was speculating on cancer so the last few days have been very emotional. But with the blood test being negative for cancer its all well and good.

Holly will have to be on antibiotics for at least a month, but I would rather force feed her antibiotics every day then to put her down.

She is going to be eating special food until her appetite comes back. The vet also has her on vitamins and Pedialyte because she is slightly dehydrated.

Thank you Ruth for your responses, thoughts and prayers.

With a lot of work and some time, hopefully Holly will be back on her feet and back to normal.

Jul 26, 2010 To Holly’s mom
by: Ruth

Hello again, it’s good news Holly’s gums aren’t pale.
I’m so glad you are taking her to the vets,if you can’t borrow the money explain that to them and they may agree you can pay so much at a time.
I will be thinking of you and Holly and hoping and praying it’s nothing serious !
Sorry if I scared you but I know from experience the longer you leave a poorly cat untreated the longer they take to recover.
PLEASE let us know.

Jul 26, 2010 Thanks
by: HollysMom

Thank you for the quick response and posting of my issue with Holly.

@ Ruth: I just checked her gums a few minutes ago and they look normal.

I will be following up on this by taking her to the vet, even if I have to beg family members for a loan.

Thank you again for the quick responses. I will update you guys as soon as I know something.

Jul 25, 2010 Holly
by: Ruth

Only a vet can diagnose Holly’s illness but I’m very much afraid it sounds like she has a growth in her insides.This would cause her bowel movements to come out thin and then hard and eventually she will have a total blockage. She is probably bleeding internally which will be causing the shallow laboured breathing.
Cats also tend to hide away when they are ill,they withdraw from you and don’t respond as they used to.
Look at her gums,if they are very pale she is definately bleeding internally
I’m really sorry but you do need to get her to a vet quickly because the longer you leave it, the less chance they will be able to help her.
I hope I’m wrong that it’s a growth,it could just be an impacted hairball…I hope so…. but PLEASE do get her seen to.
(retired vet nurse)

Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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