what killed my cat?
February 28, 2005 6:49 AM   Subscribe

My cat died. Quite suddenly. Web searches don't show up anything which matches the symptoms or suddenness. I'd like some idea of what caused it, especially if it might be contagious (as there are two more cats to worry about).

On saturday night, he vomited (twice, but this is not that unusual). Sunday, he was lethargic, but drank a bit of water. This morning, he was still lethargic: no visible improvement. The earliest vet appointment I could get was 11.40am, but when I got back from an errand at 9.50 he was dead. What could this be?
posted by handee to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
Well, you have a vet appointment in two hours, which will probably be your best source of information. I'm really sorry to hear what happened though, and I'm sure you must be freaking out a little bit.

Lethargy & not eating/drinking can be very dangerous in cats, especially overweight ones - liver failure is a common cause of death and is sort of self-perpetuating (ie, if they stop eating, they start processing fat through their liver, which makes them not hungry and lethargic, meaning they have to process more fat through their liver... etc. My cat was (very expensively) treated for this some years ago, and a friend of mine lost a cat (at the vet's office) to the same disorder.

Anyway, condolences, and good luck.
posted by mdn at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2005

Don't discount the idea that he may have been poisoned. Have the vet do an autopsy.
posted by lilboo at 7:14 AM on February 28, 2005

Heart trouble leading up to cardiac arrest might be one of the possibilities.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:14 AM on February 28, 2005

I had a cat do this. Ends up, he drank some spilled antifreeze. Any chance that's what happened to yours?
posted by crunchland at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2005

Sorry, I should have made this clear - I telephoned the vets soon after discovering the cat and cancelled the appointment. This might have been a mistake, but I was not sure I could face the idea of two taxi rides, a wait in the vets and a consultation fee for a cat which will only ever emerge dead.

No antifreeze around, not in the house anyway. Upon reflection I think some sort of poisoning is most likely though, as he was not overweight or showing any sign of illness or discomfort.
posted by handee at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2005

When it's performed on an animal it's a necropsy, and should probably happen in this case. Do you have any poisonous houseplants?
posted by norm at 7:35 AM on February 28, 2005

He may have eaten some string or something else that clogged his trachea (a marble? lego?). This would trigger vomit, not drinking or eating, which would lead to lethargy... possibly he tried to hack it up and it got caught in his airway?
posted by blackkar at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2005

You don't say how old he is (I'm guessing not over 10) or where he can wander to (I'm guessing he does get outdoors), but if my guesses are right I would think the chances are split between poisoning and sudden freak heart attack/stroke thing. Cats are pretty good about avoiding poisons (better than dogs) though it does happen. Cats sometimes have heart defects or other problems that pop up in their middle adulthood just like some people do. The thing about diseases, they usually don't kill quite this quickly. Though I would watch your other cats hawklike for symptoms, just in case, and certainly keep them indoors for a bit. It might be worth a two taxi ride trip to the vet for them to make sure shots are updated.
posted by dness2 at 7:40 AM on February 28, 2005

Take a look around, it may not be specifically anti-freeze since there are a lot of household items that could cause these types of problems.

The colour and type of the vomit is usually a good indicator of what the problem could be. Check Vetinfo (found via Google after my cat was suffering from similar symptoms) for more information.

For safety's sake (for the other cats) remove any shared food dishes, clean and change any litter boxes (regardless if they are shared or not) and put away any toys that the sick cat may have recently used.
posted by purephase at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2005

I had a kitten die - off to the vet. See if a local vet school is wiling to do an autopsy for less money/free
posted by filmgeek at 8:52 AM on February 28, 2005

Tylenol is *extremely* toxic to cats as well -- any chance a pill got crushed on the bathroom floor?

Will the frustration and expense of getting the vet to determine cause of death outweigh your desire to know what happened? Tough call, either way. Good luck.
posted by desuetude at 9:31 AM on February 28, 2005

Poinsettas are toxic to cats as well. You cat may have had FIV (the feline version of HIV).

How old was the cat? It may have had a kidney infection as well.

As many have said, I'm sad this has happened to you.
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2005

you = your
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2005

My 6 year old cat died of a heart attack a year ago and it was extremely traumatic, obvious and very painful and not at all what you are describing here. He was fine until it hit and then it was pretty intensely terrible. So I thnk you can rule that one out. My guess would be liver/kidneys.

I'm sorry. Having gone through the one day healthy, next day dead thing, I know how awful it is. My heart goes out to you. It's tough.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2005

Having a necropsy is probably the only way to go. I hope you find out the reason, I would hate to be left wondering if I were in your shoes
posted by mabelcolby at 2:43 PM on February 28, 2005

handee, I am so sorry to hear about your cat. I posted here about a month ago when my cat fell suddenly, mysteriously, ill. He lasted a couple of days before passing away. I had the chance to get him to the vet a couple of times before he died, and although my cat's illness/death had the vet stumped, your cat's sudden demise sounds a lot like the symptoms my vet described for antifreeze poisoning. This is possible to discover with a blood test.

Regardless of the cause, I know that awful missing-piece feeling that takes over when one of our furry friends vanishes, and I sympathize with your loss.
posted by omphale27 at 3:28 PM on February 28, 2005

I'm sorry about your cat. For the sake of the other cats, I second (third?) getting a necropsy done. At very least I'd have the vet see if s/he can run a couple of tests for infectious diseases (Feline Infectious Peritonitis at least). And if you let your cats out, I would stop, at least for the time being. It's entirely possible that this cat died because of something it picked up outside and if you must let your cats out (that's another discussion), I would at least keep them in for a week or two.
posted by biscotti at 5:05 PM on February 28, 2005

I'm sorry to hear about your cat's passing. If you're truly concerned, it may be wise to have a vet determine the cause of death. My own cat is sitting next to me purring as I type these words. My parents recently suffered a loss of their cat; a few months later, they felt they could adopt once more. I hope your heart heals similarly.
posted by WCityMike at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2005

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