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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Health > Anemia in Cats

Anemia in Cats

Anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells in the circulation can be life-threatening to your cat. Red blood cells bear importance carrying oxygen and nutrients to the cat’s body. Unlike the white blood cells (the warriors) defending against foreign invaders, the red blood cells arm the body against an invasion. If this armor isn’t distributed correctly, your cat will ultimately suffer.

If your cat is diagnosed with anemia, this is a secondary disorder; there’s something else working. In order to determine what type of anemia your cat has, blood work needs to be done.

The most obvious signs of anemia are bleached and pale gums and weakness. Other signs include:

  • over-grooming
  • scratching
  • loss of appetite
  • pale, washed out gums
  • yellowing of the eyes, ears or gums
  • depression
  • hypothermia
  • rapid mouth breathing
  • fever
  • faded or dull coat
  • vomiting
  • third eyelid
  • blood in stool or urine
  • pale footpads
  • sudden weight loss

If kitty’s gums look pale, try this test. Lift your kitty’s lip. Take your finger and gently press it against the gum line, release immediately. The gum should pink-up within seconds. If the gum stays white, call your vet!  Another way to check is to gently move the kitty’s eyelid down to expose the mucous membranes underneath. The tissue on a healthy cat is pink and happy. On an anemic cat the tissue will appear washed out.

Causes of anemia:

  • heavy parasite load
  • improper diet
  • wounds
  • toxic exposure
  • FeLV
  • FIV
  • blood loss
  • kidney failure
  • genetic or congenital defects
  • iron deficiency (seen in kittens)
  • fading kitten Syndrome
  • drug induced anemia
  • cancer
  • renal failure
  • mosquito bites
  • cat bites
  • heart murmurs
  • stress
  • chemotherapy
  • chronic heart failure
  • recent surgery
  • tylenol
  • bleeding ulcers
  • swallowing zinc (pennies)
  • malnutrition
  • severe cat-flu
  • lice (rare in the United States)

Diagnosis and treatment:

The best diagnosis is a CBC. A CBC paints a clear picture for your vet, because it  also detects; bacterial infections, potential viral infections, inflammation and electrolyte imbalances.

The experts advise that when a new kitten arrives in your home, hold off running any blood work (unless kitty is sick) until the kitten is a year or two old. Then have a CBC done creating an accurate baseline for any future problems.


Depending on the type of anemia and the cause will determine treatment. In mild cases, changing the diet to iron-enriched food (such as liver) can be beneficial.  Limiting exercise, treating parasites (under your vet’s careful guidance) is advised. Offering quality cat food. Talk to your vet about adding one of the following to the meal; cooked green vegetables, kelp powder or vitamin C powder. Graduating to a higher grade cat food, your cat’s body will work less at digesting her meal.

With severe anemia, blood transfusions may be needed. Immediate veterinary intervention is crucial in cases of severe shock or sudden blood loss.  If your kitten is fading, on the way to the vet, give kitty a small amount of Karo Syrup (light) or honey on her tongue. Kitties can suffer from low blood sugar through trauma, shock, exposure to low temperatures, sometimes, the sugar holds the answer. But even if kitty revives, you still need to see your vet. In older cats, if the anemia is a result of kidney failure, the vet may prescribe Epogen or another similar drug.

Your cat’s health lies in your hands. Provide your cat with monthly treatments for fleas and ticks; all purchased from your local vet clinic. Feed wisely, research, and ask questions remembering cats are obligate carnivores. In order to survive, they need meat- not veggies, grains or fillers. For optimum health, neutering reduces cat fights, problem pregnancies and blood diseases. Knowing your cat’s normal behavior and acting quickly when she seems off may save her life.

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