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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Health > Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Feline Hepatic Lipidosis is potentially dangerous for your cat. If not treated promptly, your cat can die. When your cat turns away from her food bowl repeatedly, it is time for a vet visit. If you’re thinking your cat will eat when she gets hungry, you might be sadly mistaken. By refusing food, cats become caught up in a cycle of kitty anorexia. Your vet can confirm by running blood tests (high liver enzyme numbers indicated FHL). X-rays, ultrasounds, or even a biopsy can confirm diagnosis.   If the cat is jaundiced and the Bilirubin is high, your options will be slim, but the disease is not unbeatable, if you act quickly.

A cat who stops eating, or just picks at her food is robbing her body of much-needed nutrients. In response, her body sends out a message; an internal SOS. This message activates fat stores sending them on their way to the liver. Unable to break down these fat stores, the liver begins to plug with fat. The bile duct becomes blocked, throwing the cat into liver failure. Your cat begins to lose both body weight and mass. This upheaval causes the body to start feeding on itself in order to survive. Your cat feels “full” therefore, she won’t eat.  Males are not immune to Feline Hepatic Lipidosis but it is seen more often in females.

My cat won’t eat!

Ignoring her hunger strike, or tossing her a few treats daily isn’t going to solve the problem. Cats stop eating for a number of reasons. When they are stressed, they go off their food. Cats coming out of a rescue facility, placed in a loving home often won’t eat for 24 hours. Their system is trying to adjust to the changes and get used to the many new smells and sounds. But for any cat, even the smallest change can be upsetting.

She could be ill, suffering from abscessed teeth or gingivitis. Rodent ulcers make eating difficult. If you let your cat play with string or thread unsupervised, the foreign object could get caught around her tongue or get lodged in her throat. 
In contact with other cats, your cat could have been in a fight. If she got outside accidentally and has been gone awhile, she needs to see a vet quickly. 

Cats can develop what is known as "idiopathic" HL meaning they may not look or act sick, but they are in the beginning stages of FHL. This is the most common form of this disease listed as FHL due to "unknown causes."
When a littermate passes, one of the siblings can go into a mourning and stop eating. A traumatic injury can affect a cat’s eating habits. Upper Respiratory Infections stop a cat from eating. Newborn kittens with FHL will simply fade. But, if you act quickly, the young adults and the older cats can survive.


  • Refusing to eat
  • Drooling
  • Weight Loss
  • Reclusive behavior
  • Vomiting (bile or foam)
  • Dehydration/fever
  • Jaundice: gums, ears, roof of the mouth, eyes
  • Enlarged liver
  • Lethargy
  • Seizure
  • Death

An obese cat needs to lose weight slowly or she can find herself with FHL. Draw up a good feeding program with your vet’s help, exercise your cat several times daily. Make her work for her dinner, serve her dinner inside treat balls.

If a cat is diagnosed with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, you will have to faithfully perform force feedings. This feeding is a mixture of prescription cat food and nutritional supplements mixed with water. Your options are to feed by food syringe or have the vet put a feeding tube in your cat. No novice should ever attempt to put a feeding tube in. Your veterinarian can show you how to place the tube, or he can insert a temporary tube for you. The longer care tubes must be placed by a qualified veterinarian. Failure to seek professional help with this procedure can result in permanent damage to your cat or even death.

Feeding Measures
A tube that travels down the nostril and into the esophagus is called a nasal gastric tube .

A feeding tube with a long catheter on the end can be gently inserted into the esophagus. The food is fed through the syringe slowly so as not to cause the cat to aspirate or vomit.

The PEG Tube or Percutaneous EndoGastric is for long term care. This is a surgical procedure. The surgeon will pass a tube from the inside wall of the stomach to the outside. The potential for an infection is high with this procedure, because of the placement of the tube.

The vet passes a tube from the left side of the neck into the far end of the esophagus this is called an Esophagotomy Tube. The tube will be pre-measured to be sure it does not go into the stomach. Feedings into this tube needs to be done slowly so the cat won't vomit. Unlike the PEG tube this procedure doesn’t require a general anesthetic. You are looking at four to fourteen weeks of feedings, 5-8 times a day.

Feeding tubes make it easy for you to give your cat food and medicine without adding to her stress, or yours!  Should she try and pull her tube out or rub against something to dislodge it, an Elizabethian collar will help.

Author of  Cat Wrangling (due out Dec 2007) Dusty Rainbolt is a qualified feline foster mom. She has encountered FHL twice. Both times, she was successful in overcoming it.

Sunny a shelter kitty became upset by out-of-town company and hid. She thought he was coming out at night to eat, but when he finally did appear (four days later) she saw immediately he was in trouble and she rushed him to the vet. He was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis.
She force fed him eight times a day while giving him supportive fluids.  Sunny received kitty-sized doses of Milk Thistle, Chloestreinum as well as amino acids including L-Methionine, L-Cysteine, L-Glutathione, and L-Arginine.  Because he needed round-the-clock-care, Sunny left with Dusty and hubby on their four-day vacation. She gave him his feedings on a routine schedule never missing a beat. Sunny lived.

How to get a cat to eat

  • Warm the canned cat food in the microwave.
  • Give the cat a small pinch of appetite stimulant (catnip) before feeding.
  • Sprinkle grated cheese or cream cheese over the food.
  • Check for crusty noses. Cats won't eat what they can't smell.
  • Break an Acidophilus capsules open, wet your finger, dip it in the powder, rub your cat’s gums with your finger.
  • Give them forced fluids (either subcutaneous or syringed liquid (Pedialyte) an hour before meals.
  • If you have a pet mouse, put the cage near the cat to stimulate the prey response.
  • www.miceonice.com  works well

Ask your vet about Cyproheptadine, an antihistamine (works like an appetite stimulant). it works quickly so be sure you are home to feed the cat.

If your cat stops eating for 48 hours, don't gamble with her life that she will start up again. With early veterinary intervention, the prognosis for recovery against this disease can be increased.

Grateful thanks to Dusty Rainbolt for her help.

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