Very long story, as short as possible (intro first, questions at bottom):

Two cats. In mid-February cat C (female, indoor, 3 yr, spayed), presented with:

  • Thick, excessive drooling.
  • Mild appetite loss.
  • Constipation (somewhere between moderate and severe).

Cat C also has a lifetime history of snoring / noisy breathing from the sinus area, mild eye discharge, and heavy water consumption, but generally appears healthy and active.

Around that same time cat V had a very, very small, odd, brown discharge from the corner of his mouth (he was always prone to drooling, having an overbite), which at first I thought was a bit of food but it kept returning after cleaning (however, he was also due for dental work and was exhibiting signs of dental problems, eating from the side in particular). Cats were isolated, cat V appeared to recover, with the discharge discontinuing within a week. Cat C was taken in for dental worth, signs of mild gum infection noticed, teeth cleaned, given antibiotics for 2 weeks. Condition cleared up, cause of constipation remained a mystery.

Also starting around that time cat V (male, indoor, 16 yr, neutered):

  • Appetite began decreasing, slowly at first. Then stopped eating entirely about 2.5 weeks ago.
  • About 2 weeks ago presented with symptoms highly resembling lymphoma:
    • Enlarged lymph node (3.5 cm)
    • Slightly enlarged spleen.
    • Severe anemia (lack of rbc production determined).
    • Unusual (but inconclusive) size distribution of lymphocytes.
  • V became jaundiced then his calcium levels suddenly plummeted last week and, sadly, there were no remaining options and we decided to put him down.
  • We were never able to get a positive lab confirmation of a cancer (three lymphatic samples and a spleen sample via needle aspirate + lots of bloodwork, V was not stable enough for a biopsy) although it remained high on our theory list.

Cat V has a history of IBD since January, but otherwise healthy with no signs of liver or kidney problems, no signs of pancreatitis, no signs of diabetes. He had a mild heart murmor and mild HCM since birth, inconsequential. V had become severely hypokalemic and had a benign but rare aldosterone-secreting adrenal tumor successfully removed in January and made a full recovery, we determined his IBD had been masked by the tumor's released hormones. His liver was slightly enlarged but recovered after the tumor was removed. He was on 5mg prednisolone daily and biweekly B12 injections since. V also had poor coat regrowth since last August (possibly explained by tumor or vitamin deficiencies) and his black coat was turning orange since December (which we explained through salivary staining but could have other factors). We were 99.99999% confident that his lymphoma[-like] illness, even if cancer, was not directly related to the previous adrenal tumor.

Now, Cat C's appetite has fluctuated greatly in the past 2 weeks (mild - moderate appetite loss) as has her activity level (ranging from mild lethargy to normal), but there are too many variables to know if it is significant: Loss of other cat, the weather has been significantly warmer (and the presence of potentially disease-carrying flying insects adds more potential complications to this whole thing as well), my own stress/anxiety/depression regarding loss of other pet, etc. I do not know if it is cause for concern or not.

Both cats received yearly rabies and feline distemper vaccines, and C was negative for FIV in 2014. Both cats are indoor and have not been outside in at least 3 years.

Additionally, around March, I began noticing water quality problems in my apartment (sharp rise in amount of unknown sediment in water), but it's highly possible, especially after talking to neighbors, that the water here has never been that great. Inaccurate home test kits revealed no interesting info except for a slightly elevated copper level that was still well below the EPA guidelines for humans. I switched both cats (and myself) to bottled water.

I am leaving out a lot for brevity.

My concern now is for both the safety of cat C as well as any other cats that I may bring into the house in the future. I have no idea if C's mystery illness was linked to V's mystery illness, and I have no idea if water quality is related to any of this, and I have no idea what is relevant vs. noise. It's a complete mystery all around. The dots are not connected.

What this all boils down to is:


  1. Communicable Diseases: C is going to the vet this week to get tested to see if she is a carrier for FeLV, FIV, FIP, and feline distemper. Given her mystery illness and the two month timeline and hypothesizing that there is a link to V's condition, what else should I have her tested for? Is there any communicable disease that could cause drooling, appetite loss, and constipation on initial infection, with the potential to become asymptomatic in some cats, that can also lead to anemia / severe inflammatory response, or greatly increase the risk of a cancer?

  2. Chronic Toxicity: I haven't sent my water to a proper lab. Ignoring C's illness, given V's decline, and hypothesizing that chronic exposure to something in the water over a period of up to 3 years is linked to V's condition, what could do this and what should I test for? Are there signs of exposure I can look for in C? From my research, copper, zinc, aluminum seem to be on the top of my list. Unfortunately we never took any samples from V's liver since it wasn't showing any signs of inflammation and the bile ducts were clear on ultrasound, so it's not possible to know if he was accumulating any minerals or heavy metals. It's my understanding that we can also take hair samples from C to look for accumulation of toxic substances. Note, however, that it has been almost 2 months since I took both cats off the tap water. However, long term exposure, or V's sensitivity due to his age or perhaps his IBD, could have made him more sensitive, or it was too late to prevent any damage.

The whole situation has been incredibly complicated, with many factors whose relations, if any, remain unclear, and many occurrences with multiple reasonable explanations.

1 Answer 1


I don't have any 100% answers to this, and a lot of my original question was written out of grief-related anxiety, but it's been over a year so here is the (happy) follow-up info:

  • Unfortunately, we never did an autopsy on V, so the precise nature of his illness was never found.
  • I did have C tested for every possible communicable feline disease we could think of. She was negative on everything except for signs of a past FHV infection. This surely happened before I found her (I rescued her from a trash can at ~4 weeks old), and neatly explains the tear duct and sinus problems she has had her entire life (permanent damage from FHV).
  • The discharge problems appeared unrelated. Worth noting that V tested negative for FHV.
  • I also had C tested for various metals due to water quality issues but everything was in normal range. I have been using a water filter since which has completely resolved quality problems.

C is doing fine, completely healthy. I believe a lot of her immediate issues following V's passing were due to loss of V, who, along with me, had essentially been raising her since she was 4 weeks old.

I have since brought another cat into the family, and everybody is healthy now.

Despite the fact that there was ultimately no connection, I believe that testing for communicable diseases and water quality problems, and keeping C and V isolated in the presence of the unknown, were good decisions and would do the same again if a similar situation arose. So, that is my advice to others here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.