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Ask the Veterinarian/Indoor cat missing outside for 32 hours, now home and will not eat and is resting excessively


My 14 year-old cat got 24 hours ago for 32 hours. She is very skiddish so she was hiding in the garage and we don't think she went very far. We've had snow and below freezing temperatures (coldest being -10C) while our cat was missing.

When we found her she loudly complained and struggled, but once we brought her inside and put her down she just went into the nearest bedroom rested. We noticed her breathing was labored and she had dirt on her nose, so we cleaned it off and found a very shallow cut on the bottom of her chin. We cleaned it out and it didn't seem to bother her much, aside from having her rest her head funny while she rested. And while we were checking her out, despite her struggling when we first found her, she was incredibly limp the whole time she was held.

Worried she was dehydrated, we gave her a dropper with some water in it every 1/2 hour for the first night. At first she responded really well, starting to look up when people came near and meowing when she was held and purring when she was pet and she stopping being so limp when she was picked up.

Since the morning, instead of giving her water through the dropper, I put her in front of the food and water dish every hour and she drank on her own. She wouldn't drink for very long and when she was finished she'd walk the short distance into the living room and flop down on the floor and rest. And we would repeat this process every hour of me moving her, her drinking, and flopping down on the floor to rest. She would also sit oddly while drinking (incredibly stiff-like, but she also has arthritis). She would look at the food dish, but she never actually tried to take any.

She has done moving on her own. Her walking is kind of stiff, but has gotten noticeably better over the past 24 hours. She has, on a couple of occasions, gone over to drink by herself and she has jumped onto her old favorite napping places.

I took a brief nap earlier and I do believe she went down into the basement to use the litter box, but since I've been awake, I haven't seen her go again.

She's been inside for over 24 hours now and she still won't eat. We mixed some canned food with water and fed it to her through the dropper. We hoped the taste would encourage her to eat and unfortunately it hasn't.

She has no external injuries aside from the cut on her chin. We checked the garage for any possible toxins left open and found nothing (unless there was something under the car), but she has not been seizing, vomiting, drooling, coughing, or gagging.

Her breathing seems to be a little quick and heavy, and once in a while her nose has a whistle. She has been resting/sleeping almost the entire time she's been home. She will drink, but not eat. She has not groomed herself either.

I looked inside her mouth, but I couldn't see anything caught or unusual and she doesn't seem to have a problem with me rubbing her chin/throat. She is meowing and purring and they don't sound unusual.

She doesn't have a fever, however, her ears are really cold, but she spent most of the night wrapped in blankets.

My mother seems convinced that she's okay and just tired from being cold and scared for over a day. But I am incredibly worried about the fact that she hasn't eaten or been actively getting up to go eat/drink for herself. Do I have a reason to be worried, or is she just exhausted?

She has no known medical problems aside from her arthritis, being overweight (she is 10-15 pounds depending on her teeth), and she has dental issues which do sometimes affect her eating.

We live in a very small rural town and the nearest vet is a 3 hour drive away, so any information or advice at all would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much in advance for your help.

Hi Selina,

Your mom is probably right, however, my concern is this cat's age. Most 14 year old cats don't wander off as it is. Some of them will seek out places to die or to hide when they are feeling ill, and since she was gone for so long, I would be concerned about her kidneys, her liver and her general well being.

If this was my cat, I would have her to the vets first thing tomorrow morning. I would have her liver and kidneys tested to see what state they were in. Cat's that are overweight and don't eat for 32 hours are at high risk of developing fatty liver disease, which can become fatal.

This is really a situation, due to her age, where she needs to see your vet and have her given a real thorough examination.

So yes, you do have a real reason to be worried and you need to show your mom this answer to let her know that the cat does indeed need to see a vet asap.

I hope that she is okay. Please let me know how she does.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 35 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.

Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 550 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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