Fatty liver or hepatic lipidosis[1] is a deadly dangerous condition in cats, brought on by not eating for over 24 hours. It is most likely and most dangerous in overweight cats. Hepatic lipidosis occurs in other species[2][3][4][5], but generally is a result of poor diet or other imbalances. An excellent illustration of fatty liver or hepatic lipidosis is the food foie gras (French for "fatty liver") where ducks and geese are force-fed to literally create the medical condition for profit[6]

Toy breeds of dogs seem to share the same causation of a form of hepatic lipidosis with cats; they can suffer the same problems from not eating or fasting[7].

Idiopathic[8] fatty liver can occur sometimes in older cats for unknown reasons[9]. The "discovery" of idiopathic hepatic lipidosis is fairly recent; the first clinical case was described in 1977[10]. Today it is one of the most common liver disorders in cats, at least in North America[11]. The Teaching Hospital at University of Illinois stresses that hepatic lipidosis is not just a "fat cat" problem but that any cat losing a lot of weight quickly is at risk for this disease[12].

Diabetes can be a factor in development of hepatic lipidosis in all species; the liver is unable to process the mobilized fat which then becomes stored in the liver[13]. When hepatic lipidosis is caused by diabetes or any other illness or disfunction, it's referred to as a secondary condition, meaning the primary one (diabetes, in our example), caused the second one, or secondary illness, to occur. In cases where an illness like diabetes has been the cause of the hepatic lipidosis, treatment of the primary disease can resolve the liver problems[14].

In catsEdit

According to this 1993 study[15], cats with hepatic lipidosis are also prone to acute pancreatitis.

The basics of the condition are:

  • A previously overweight cat stops eating for whatever reason
  • Lacking food, the body starts sending fat cells to the liver to process into lipoproteins for fuel.
  • Cats' livers are not terribly efficient at processing fat, and are overwhelmed by the overweight cat's abundance of fat to process.
  • Left untreated, eventually the liver fails and the cat dies. The survival and recovery rate is almost 90%--with necessary nutritional support[16].

Obviously, the possibility of this condition means that any overweight cat should not be allowed to stop eating for very long. If for any reason any cat stops eating for more than 12 hours, especially an overweight one, small amounts of food should be fed every day, even force-fed if necessary[17].

Some people want to avoid the use of any type of feeding tube[18][19]. Force feeding can work but only if the prescribed amount is successfully fed appropriately[20]. See inappetance for more details.

Further ReadingEdit



  1. Hepatic Lipidosis
  2. Avian Hepatic Lipidosis
  3. Hepatic Lipidosis in Dairy Cattle
  4. Hepatic Lipidosis in Reptiles
  5. Wikipedia:Fatty Liver in Humans
  6. The Cruelty of Foie Gras
  7. Long Beach Animal Hospital--Hepatic Lipidosis in Dogs--Toy Breeds
  8. Feline Idiopathic Hepatic Lipidosis
  9. Spontaneous Hepatic Lipidosis in a Group of Laboratory Cats
  10. Serum Lipoprotein Profiles: Health Cats & Indiopathic Hepatic Lipidosis Patients
  11. Feline Hepatobiliary Disease-WSAVA 2001
  12. Hepatic Lipidosis: Not Just a Disease of the Obese Cat
  13. Hepatic Lipidosis, Pancreatitis & Diabetes--Purdue University
  14. Hepatic Lipidosis as a Secondary Disease
  15. Acute Pancreatitis in Cats With Hepatic Lipidosis
  16. Survival & Recovery Approaches 90%--With Nutritional Support
  17. Rules for Nutritional Support--Forced and Tube Feeding
  18. Photo of a PEG (Percutaneous EndoGastric) Tube
  19. Photo of Esophagotomy Tube
  20. Hepatic Lipidosis--Feeding To Recovery
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