May 02 2017

Why Is My Cat Yellow?

Cat on Knitted blanket

Did you know that for a short time dogs can fast, people can fast and Bears fast REALLY well, but cats cannot fast. Hepatic lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease) is a common severe liver disease in cat. The liver has many jobs, but one important job is its role in the metabolism of fat. Normally when a body is undernourished or starved, it will use stored fat reserves for energy by sending the fat to the liver to be converted into lipoproteins. The problem is that a cat’s liver is not designed to handle the conversion of large amount of fat into lipoproteins. So when a cat is undernourished, the fat that is released to the liver is not processed efficiently, resulting in a fat and poorly functioning liver. If not treated promptly this can become a fatal condition.

A diet low in protein, the release of hormones associated with long term stress, a profound lack of appetite which can be seen with illness, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer, can all affect fat metabolism and result in Hepatic Lipidosis. But we have also seen it develop with aggressive weight loss attempts, owners being away and a cat being stressed and not eating or when a cat gets lost.

Why is My Cat Yellow imageWell that was Moses’s problem. See Moses is a nervous cat and the poor boy ended up homeless and moved from shelter to shelter before being adopted by Marion, and of course being shy even at Marion’s he took a few weeks to settle in. When the boy was in in his various temporary homes, other cats bullied him, and so he tended to hide and not eat very well. The undernourishment and hormonal changes due to Moses’s stressful lifestyle resulted in large volumes of fat reserve being sent to his liver making his liver “sick”. Moses came in glowing yellow (jaundice), vomiting and not wanting to eat. We did some diagnostic tests including some lab tests and an ultrasound to see if there was an underlying disease that was creating his liver disease but all was normal except for his large fatty liver. So how did we treat? Well he needed to eat. But that is the catch 22 here – to cure his liver he needed to eat but his sick liver made him nauseous and thus he did not want to eat. We can do assisted feeding short term but cats quickly hate it and they will actually become even more averse to eating. So we put in a feeding tube that allowed us at the hospital, and then Marion once Moses went home, to feed and medicate Moses without having to force anything into his mouth. With the tube in, he was still able to eat on his own, and gradually as his liver healed he started to eat his daily calories on his own, allowing us to remove the tube.


Moses had a tough start when he moved into Marion’s but he was lucky to have found a forever home, who was committed to him even though he had only been there a month. It was through Marion’s dedication and nursing care that this shy guy is now 100% and back to being a happy, healthy cat.


jluca | Life behind the exam room doors

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