Kitten Unresponsive But Breathing – Effective Steps Discussed to Handle the Situation




Kitten Unresponsive But Breathing


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Kittens have an inferior immune system compared to mature cats over 12 months old. This makes them more susceptible to illnesses, which can render them unresponsive. But what does it mean when a kitten is unresponsive but breathing?

Well, a kitten that is not responsive but breathing means it is alive but unconscious. This condition can occur due to the kitty being hypothermic or hypoglycemic. Other causes include head trauma or injury, viral infections, dehydration, parasitic infections, and neonatal isoerythrolysis.

So then, how do you help a kitty cat that is unresponsive but breathing? Stay here to find out as I tell you my personal experience with my now mature cat.

Kitten Is Unresponsive But Breathing- What Does It Mean?

I have a 2-year 8-month-old cat called Muezza. She is a mixed Persian breed. Around 2 years ago, when she was only 8 months old, I found her on the floor of our shower. She was just lying there, eyes open, unresponsive, and limp.

However, I could hear her breathing, meaning she was still alive. When I tried moving her, her head kind of flopped. So, I tried offering her water, but she refused to drink.

One thing I noticed while picking her up is that her paws felt cold to the touch, and her muscles were rigid. So, I just picked a towel and wrapped Muezza in it to keep her warm. Then, I took her to the vet for emergency valuation since her condition was not improving.

What To Do When A Kitten Is Unresponsive But Breathing
Kitten Muezza Is Unresponsive But Breathing

At the vet clinic, she was diagnosed with hypothermia. According to the vet, this is what was causing her to be unresponsive. So, the vet simply administered warmed intravenous fluids and a warm water enema to bring her temperature back to normal.

The following day, Muezza was doing well. So, I took her back home, having spent a night at the vet for close monitoring.

According to the vet, hypothermia is one of the few causes of unresponsiveness in kittens. Other causes include:

1. Hypoglycemia

Also known as low blood sugar, hypoglycemia is a common problem in young kittens. It occurs when your kitty does not get enough food or stays longer without food.

When a kitten has low blood sugar, this usually deprives its body and brain of energy, resulting in unresponsiveness. This is because blood sugar is the primary source of energy. Apart from being unconscious, a kitten suffering from hypoglycemia may show other signs like:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Trembling
  • Muscle twitches
  • Extreme lethargy

2. Respiratory or Viral Infections

Unlike mature cats, kittens are at a greater risk of developing viral and upper respiratory infections due to their weak immune system. These infections are usually transferred from other infected cats, and they include:

  • Intestinal viral infection
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline panleukopenia
  • Feline herpesvirus
  • Rabies

The common signs of these infections are lethargy, weakness, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. These infections cause your pet to become listless eventually.

3. Head Trauma or Injury

Kittens may develop head trauma or injuries due to falls from greater heights when playing or jumping. When this happens, your kitty cat can lose consciousness and become unresponsive despite being alive. Other signs of head trauma include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff limbs
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Bleeding from the nose or ears

4. Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NI)

Feline neonatal isoerythrolysis is a life-threatening condition in which the mother’s antibodies destroy the kitten’s red blood cells. However, it is only common where a mother cat with blood type B gives birth to kitties with blood type AB or A.

Generally, the condition occurs when kittens ingest their mother’s colostrum carrying the mother’s antibodies, causing them to be anemic.

The signs and symptoms of NI are usually noticeable within the first hours or several days after birth. They include:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Pale mucous membrane due to anemia
  • Brown or dark red urine

5. Parasitic Infections

Kittens are prone to internal and external parasites, which affect their overall health. The frequent internal parasites in kittens include:

  • Heartworms
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms and tapeworms
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Coccidia
  • Giardia

On the other hand, the common external parasites in kitties include fleas, ticks, and ear mites. If left untreated, parasitic infections can lead to anemia, dehydration, diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. Eventually, your kitty cat can become limp despite breathing.

6. Dehydration

When kittens don’t drink enough water or milk, they can develop dehydration. This condition could also be due to excessive fluid loss from prolonged overheating, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Unlike adult cats, kitty cats can properly regulate water loss. Therefore, if they become severely dehydrated, they can become weak, lethargic, and collapse, hence the unresponsiveness. Some ways to tell if your kit is suffering from dehydration include:

  • Panting
  • Sunken eyes
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Sticky or tacky gums
  • Paleness of the tongue or gums

What To Do When A Kitten Is Unresponsive But Breathing?

The best treatment depends entirely on the cause of your kitten being unresponsive. So, below, we will discuss the various treatment options available before you take your kitty to the vet.

  • Keep your Kitten Warm

If your kitty feels cold to the touch, she could be hypothermic. In this case, wrap her in a towel or blanket, leaving the face exposed. For additional heat, you can use a heating pad or water bottle containing hot water. However, don’t place the heat source directly on the kitten’s body to prevent burns.

  • Increase Their Blood Sugar

Once your kitty is warm, rub some corn, maple syrup, or honey on her gums or under her tongue.

Alternatively, you can mix equal parts of warm water and sugar and give it to your kitten using a syringe. Give the kitty this solution every 3 to 10 minutes.

  • Increase Oral Fluids

If your kitten is dehydrated, you should increase its fluid intake. For younger kittens, you can mix powdered kitten formula with Pedialyte solution rather than water. This is to supplement their mother’s milk.

However, for kits that are already weaned, you can soak kibble in water before feeding them. You could also add a splash of formula or water to their already wet food.

When To Seek Veterinary Care for Your Unresponsive Kitten?

If you delay getting in touch with a vet, your kitten could suffer irreversible organ damage and eventually die. Therefore, you should seek veterinary care immediately if your kit does not show improvement within an hour.

After all, keeping your kitty warm and increasing its blood sugar levels and fluid intake may not work in all cases. This is especially true if the cause of your kitty’s unresponsiveness is head trauma or infections.

Once you take your kitty to the vet clinic, they can examine and test her for infections, injuries, or parasites. And after proper diagnosis, the vet can prescribe antibiotics to treat infections.

However, before you even get to the clinic, you should call them first. This is because they could provide essential information to help your kit before you reach the clinic.


Before I conclude, let’s check out the commonly asked questions about kittens being unresponsive but breathing.

How do I make my unresponsive kitten that is breathing eat?

You can mush up canned food to ensure it’s soft enough. Then, pull the food into a syringe barrel and squeeze it gently into your kitty’s mouth. Alternatively, you can place small amounts of food on your finger and let your kit lick it at her own pace.

Can you prevent your kitten from becoming unresponsive?

No. However, you can minimize the chances of your kitty becoming unresponsive through various measures. These include taking your kitten for regular vet check-ups and ensuring it gets all its vaccines on time.

Can exposure to toxins cause a kitten to be unresponsive?

Yes. Depending on the type of toxin your kitten inhales or ingests, your kitty cat can quickly go into shock, become lethargic, and lose consciousness within hours.

The Bottom Line

When your kitten is unresponsive but breathing, it is normal to go into panic mode. This is because there are many causes of this condition, such as low blood sugar, hypothermia, head trauma, and infections. The good news? Each cause is usually accompanied by various symptoms, making it trouble-free to diagnose.

With that said, there are several things you can do to help your kitty cat if it becomes unconscious. However, these measures only provide temporary relief in most cases. Therefore, it is advisable to seek veterinary care immediately if your pet’s condition does not improve.

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