I have a 20 year old calico. How long can a cat go without eating or drinking? No bowel movements for five days. You will see the vet only if he is in pain. no howling, just lethargic.
She’s going to pass away, but how many more days? there is no water, he just dips his nose in it and is startled. help!
People who have terminally ill cats often ask me if their pet is in pain. In many cases, such as this one, it is not possible to determine if the cat is in pain. but it’s not relevant either. the question to ask is not if the cat is in pain, but if the cat is in pain.
Pain, of course, always causes suffering. but you don’t need to have pain to suffer. severe nausea is not painful, but it is absolutely miserable. emotional distress is not painful, but unpleasant nonetheless. constipation and dehydration can be painful without necessarily causing pain.
The person who asked the question is probably right that their cat is going to die. there are many possible causes, but the cat’s age and symptoms are more consistent with end-stage renal failure.
In its early stages, kidney failure causes increased thirst combined with weight loss. however, as the disease progresses, it can lead to a crisis in which the affected cat becomes profoundly lethargic because it feels too sick to move. the cat may lose interest in food and water because of nausea (the head hanging over the bowl of water is a classic sign of kidney failure; cats with the syndrome appear to be nauseated and thirsty at the same time). their intestines don’t move because they don’t eat food, and dehydration makes existing stool impassable hard.
If nothing is done, cats with end-stage renal disease can develop very painful ulcers in their mouths and intestines. they may begin to have seizures as toxins build up in the bloodstream and then act on the nervous system. it is common for cats to suffer several days of these progressive symptoms before they expire naturally.
Think about it: Your cat feels too sick to move, is thirsty and nauseated at the same time, may be constipated, and may have dying ulcers. there’s room for debate as to whether he’s in pain (although I think he probably is), but it’s abundantly clear that, pain or not, he’s in pain.
I’m pretty sure the cat in question is suffering, even if she doesn’t have end-stage renal disease. other syndromes are possible, but any condition that causes the symptoms described also causes suffering.
leaving a cat to suffer through a situation like this without any help is inhumane. this cat needs to see a vet for euthanasia, treatment, or hospice.
I have a question for dr. boats? ask our vet in the comments below and he may be featured in an upcoming column. (note that if you have an emergency situation, see your own vet right away!)