Feline Anemia Explained

Feline anemia is a common problem. It can seriously affect your cat’s health, but with the right treatment, your cat will recover and enjoy a normal quality of life again. There are many treatments for anemia and there are also preventative measures you can take to protect your cat against the condition.

What Is Feline Anemia?

Feline anaemia occurs when your cat has a low count of red blood cells. These cells absorb iron and transport it around the body. Without enough red blood cells, other cells in your cat’s body can’t get enough iron. This can cause serious health issues.

Cats are more prone to anemia than other animals. Their red blood cells have a shorter life span compared to other species: 70 days compared to 110-120 days. Therefore, cats are more likely to develop an iron deficiency. Since the cells do not survive for long, cats can also develop anemia over a short period of time, so it's important to keep an eye on its behaviour and look out for any warning signs.

There are two types of anemia that can affect cats, regenerative anemia and non-regenerative anemia. Regenerative anemia occurs when the bone marrow starts producing more red blood cells to make up for the loss. Non-regenerative anemia occurs when the bone marrow isn’t producing enough red blood cells. The majority of cats suffer from non-regenerative anemia. In rare cases, some animals can suffer from both types.

Although anemia can be a genetic disorder or the result of a dietary problem, it can also be a symptom of a more serious health problem. Both the feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia can cause anemia, so if your cat is presenting signs, your vet will probably test for these conditions too.


The symptoms of feline anemia are as follows:

  • Paleness of mucous membranes (for instance, pale gums or the inside of the bottom eyelids)
  • Fatigue
  • Higher respiratory and heart rate
  • Pica, strange food cravings (such as licking concrete, eating cat litter or soil)
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney failure
  • Signs of feline infectious peritonitis

Although together these symptoms are a sign of possible anemia, individually they can also be linked to other underlying conditions. If you are unsure about your cat’s level of health, seek the advice of a vet immediately.

Feline Anemia Treatment

If you think your cat has signs of anemia, your vet will carry out blood tests. These will determine whether the red blood cell count is lower than usual. They will also show whether the anemia is regenerative or non-regenerative.

The treatment will depend on the underlying condition. Your cat might need antibiotics to treat an infection. If it is your cat’s own immune system that's destroying red blood cells, an immunosuppressant such as corticosteroids will help the condition.

In more serious cases, your vet might give your cat a blood transfusion. This is rare, but it can be an effective way of treating anemia.

To minimize your cat’s chances of becoming anemic, it's important to make sure that he has a good diet and a healthy lifestyle. All of hiss vaccinations should be up to date. Anemia is curable, but it needs to be caught quickly. If you spot any of the above symptoms in your cat, seek advice from your vet immediately.