If you’ve noticed that your cat looks a little on the yellow side and you’re fairly certain that you aren’t in an episode of The Simpsons, then your four-legged friend is probably suffering from a case of jaundice. Also known as yellow jaundice, or the medical name icterus, the condition occurs when there is too much of a yellow pigment called bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cells when they are broken down.

Jaundice is a sign that your cat has an underlying medical condition that you might not be aware of yet. It’s time for you to make an appointment with your vet.

Let me explain why.


  1. Can Cats Get Jaundice
  2. Symptoms of Jaundice in Cats
  3. What Causes Jaundice in Cats
  4. How to Treat Jaundice in Cats
  5. Prognosis for Cats with Jaundice
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

Can Cats Get Jaundice

Yes, cats can get jaundice, and they often do when they’re suffering from underlying conditions that affect (as you might have guessed) the liver.

Certain circumstances can mean that one cat is at a higher risk of developing jaundice over another, such as eating or digestion problems, a positive test for FeLV, a flea problem, living in high-tick areas, and testing positive for FIP.

Symptoms of Jaundice in Cats

You will most likely see the yellowing discoloration of skin associated with jaundice on areas where there isn’t fur, so take a closer look at your cat’s eyes (the whites), ear flaps (also known as pinnae), and gums.

You should also monitor your cat’s behavior, checking over pet or home camera footage for changes to mobility, eating, drinking, vocal noises, or anything else. If anything looks out of the ordinary, something out of the ordinary is probably going on.

Eating issues, especially, can lead to liver problems and jaundice in cats. When cats don’t eat enough or experience a period of anorexia, the liver starts working on the fat around the body, breaking it down into nutrients, leading to an overload of the organ. The Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine also reinforces the importance of seeking veterinary advice as soon as you notice any of the common symptoms associated with jaundice.

Alongside yellowing, you may also spot:

  • Increased tiredness;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Vomiting;
  • No interest in food or treats;
  • Increased or decreased water consumption;
  • Obvious weight loss;
  • Signs of pain, such as vocal noises and snappy behavior.

What Causes Jaundice in Cats

Jaundice is a symptom that indicates a high level of bilirubin, known medically as hyperbilirubinemia, but it can have several different causes.,Veterinary studies show that there are three main ‘types’ of jaundice, known as:


Also known as intrahepatic, hepatic conditions refer to the liver, as in, the organ itself. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) can cause hepatic hyperbilirubinemia and, in turn, jaundice, as can certain human medications (including acetaminophen), sepsis, amyloidosis, cholangitis (inflammation of the bile duct), triaditis, inflammatory bowel disease, and many others.


As the name suggests, prehepatic jaundice, hyperbilirubinemia, and other conditions refer to the parts of the body just before the liver or products enter the liver. The liver can’t handle the increased level of bilirubin and other waste byproducts in the blood.

Causes of pre-hepatic jaundice and liver conditions include:

  • Consumption of toxic ingredients, such as garlic, onions, or medications;
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV);
  • Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections;
  • Infectious diseases;
  • Negative reaction to blood transfusions;
  • Tick-borne diseases;
  • And others.

It is important to monitor your feline friends, especially when they spend periods at home alone. You can use gadgets like the Petcube Cam to keep an eye on them and ensure they aren’t eating toxic food and medications. Recording devices also give you clear evidence of what is happening with your precious pet, enabling a quicker diagnosis when you get to the vet.


Jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) which is classified as post-hepatic refers to the parts of the body exiting the liver, or at the end of the liver. Pre- and post-hepatic jaundice are often categorized together as extra-hepatic.

Some causes of this type of jaundice in cats, according to research, include:

  • Tick-borne diseases;
  • Benign and cancerous tumors;
  • Fatty liver;
  • Gall stones.

As a general rule, jaundice in cats is most often caused by hemolysis, which is the destruction of red blood cells, causing anemia; diseases of the liver or any condition that damages the cells of the liver; or issues and blockages of the bile ducts.

How to Treat Jaundice in Cats

The treatment of jaundice in cats will very much depend on the underlying cause and potential complications. In some cases, your cat may need a blood transfusion with or without medication. If your pet is dehydrated or malnourished due to not eating or drinking, intravenous fluids and nutrients are necessary.

Nausea and diarrhea require anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medication, especially if they are ongoing or severe. Infections will need the appropriate treatment, too, such as antibiotics. Some experts also suggest vitamin K injections, but each case is different. Your vet will devise a plan that deals with every aspect of your cat’s condition.

They can’t do anything, though, without you first making an appointment!

Prognosis for Cats with Jaundice

With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, your cat will probably not experience long-lasting effects as a result of jaundice. Once again, the prognosis will depend on underlying causes and conditions, along with potential side effects or complications.

In cases of hepatic lipidosis, your feline friend will require a stay in a veterinary hospital, usually around one or two weeks. Blocked bile ducts, on the other hand, often require surgery and much longer recovery times, and full recovery might not be possible.

The first step is, of course, to have a chat with a vet, and you can get in touch with one of Petcube’s licensed and qualified vets at the touch of a button with the Petcube Emergency Fund. A simple alternative to regular pet insurance, the Emergency Fund provides you with up to $3,000 of emergency medical assistance for up to six pets for just $29 per month, and you get access to vets around the clock, any time of the day or night.

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Does liver failure cause jaundice in cats?

Yes, liver failure can cause jaundice in cats, but it’s usually a symptom associated with the later stages of the disease, according to vet Sharon A. Center at MSD Veterinary Manual. It is usually around stage 3 of the disease that the liver experiences blood flow issues due to scar tissue and other problems, known as cirrhosis.

Can cats get jaundice from not eating?

Yes, they can. When cats don’t eat enough, the body essentially starts eating itself. The liver uses body fat rather than food to create energy, which overloads the liver. In turn, jaundice can occur.


Jaundice is a relatively obvious symptom of underlying diseases, which is a lot more than you get with many other conditions. You should note the yellowing and seek urgent medical advice, just as with any changes to your cat’s appearance, behavior, or mobility.

Ignoring the yellowing of your cat’s skin puts their life in danger, so get it checked out.

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