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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat had hepatic lipidosis about 8 months ago and successfully recovered. The last few days I’ve noticed that he isn’t eating very much. Last night I started force feeding him with some Hill’s a/d food I had from when he was sick. He is still eating some dry food though. My question is, can a cat that recovered from lipidosis, get it again?

~ Janet

A cat being treated for hepatic lipidosis

This cat is suffering from feline hepatic lipidosis. Force feeding of a nutrient-rich slurry via an esophegeal tube is part of the treatment. Photo by A. Garren via Wikimedia Commons, released into the public domain.

Siouxsie: Yes, a cat can get hepatic lipidosis more than once. But even if your kitty doesn’t have lipidosis this time, it’s very important that you get him to a vet right away. Any time a cat has a change in appetite, it’s a sign that he’s not feeling well.

Thomas: Hepatic lipidosis is most likely to occur in overweight cats, so keeping your kitty fit and trim is a great way to prevent this problem.

Dahlia: Although most cases of the disease are idiopathic — that is, veterinarians don’t know what causes it — stress seems to be a trigger.

Siouxsie: We cats can be very sensitive to stress. Moving house, a new pet or a new baby, an illness or infection, or changes in diet are among the things that can cause tension in cats.

Thomas: The disease starts when a cat stops eating. Since there’s no food for the cat’s digestive system to turn into fuel, the body starts sending fat to the liver, and the fat cells are turned into lipoproteins to fuel the body.

Dahlia: The trouble is that cats’ livers aren’t very good at metabolizing fat, so instead of being burned for energy, the fat stays in the cells of the liver.

Siouxsie: When liver cells are clogged with fat, they stop being able to do their job. If a cat with hepatic lipidosis isn’t treated, the liver eventually fails and the cat dies.

Thomas: But the good news is, hepatic lipidosis is reversible if it’s caught early. Jackie, you obviously figured out what was going on in time to get your cat treated.

A tortoiseshell cat with jaundice

This cat is suffering from jaundice. Notice the yellow skin on the inside of her ear flaps. Photo by Sabar, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Dahlia: For those of you wondering how you can tell if your cat has developed hepatic lipidosis, the most common sign is a decrease in appetite and/or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). The cat may also vomit.

Siouxsie: Hepatic lipidosis is not a disease you can treat at home! You must take your cat to a veterinarian if you suspect he’s suffering from this condition.

Thomas: Of course, lack of appetite, vomiting, and even jaundice can be signs of other illnesses, too. The only way to know for sure what’s going on with your cat is to get medical attention.

Dahlia: Most vets take it seriously when we call and say, “You know, Fluffy just doesn’t seem to be herself.” In fact, I know a vet or two who say that ADR (Ain’t Doin’ Right) is one of the most common things they hear from cat caretakers. And 99% of the time, those caretakers are right — something is wrong.

Siouxsie: The great thing is, you may actually be able to prevent him from developing the disease again if you get him to the vet and figure out what’s going on.

About.com ReadersThomas: And in other news, we’re still scratching for votes in the About.com Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Website About Cats. We’re in second place now, and we’re gaining ground. Please help us to get the award by voting every day. All you have to do is click this link and it’ll take you right where you need to go.

Dahlia: Purrs and thank you!