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Managing the Sick Cat

When your cat is being treated for an illness, it is very important that you follow your veterinarian's advice and instructions precisely. Take your cat for re-examination if and when requested. If your cat's condition worsens unexpectedly, contact your veterinarian for advice.

During its convalescence, your cat should be in a location that is warm, dry, peaceful and quiet. There should be sufficient light for you to observe him or her. It may be necessary to provide an additional heat source such as a heating pad set on a low setting, a heat lamp or a hot water bottle. These should be used with care to avoid burns or overheating. A litter tray should be provided within easy walking distance of your cat's bed. It is often necessary to have a litter box with low sides to make access easier for an ailing cat. You may improvise a litter box by cutting down the sides of a cardboard box, or by using a shallow baking pan and lining it with a plastic bag to contain the litter.


Feeding your cat
In order to recover, your sick cat needs to have both food and water. When cats are ill they will often stop eating and drinking. Thus, it is important to monitor your cat's intake so that you know when intervention is necessary.

Fresh water should be available at all times. Healthy cats that eat canned food often drink very little because the food contains a high proportion of water. If your cat stops eating, he or she will need to have additional fluids. Fluids can be administered by mouth using a syringe. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how much and how often to administer fluids. If it is not possible for your cat to be given fluids by mouth, your veterinarian will hospitalize your cat to provide the necessary supportive care.

"Your veterinarian will advise you if there are any foods that you should not offer."

Encourage your cat to eat small, frequent meals of a palatable, high energy, highly digestible food. Warming food to body temperature often makes it more appealing. Some sick cats can be encouraged to eat more by hand feeding. Your veterinarian will advise you if there are any foods that you should not offer. If your cat cannot be tempted to eat voluntarily, your veterinarian may suggest giving liquid food via a syringe. An alternative is to hospitalize the cat and feed it via a feeding tube.


Grooming and cleaning your cat
Many sick cats will stop grooming themselves. It is important that you help your cat by brushing or combing at least twice daily. Any discharges from the eyes, nose or mouth should be gently wiped away frequently using warm, wet cotton balls.


Giving medicines
managing_the_sick_cat-2Give your cat any medication at the dose and frequency prescribed by your veterinarian, and complete the full course of treatment. Separate handouts are available that describe how to administer medications. If you are having difficulty giving tablets to your cat, you may be able to crush them and mix them with a little water so that they can be given by syringe. If this does not work, contact your veterinarian to see if a liquid formulation can be prescribed.

Do not give your cat any drugs other than those prescribed by your veterinarian. Never give your cat aspirin unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian, who will tell you the exact dose needed by your cat.


Do not use any phenol-based disinfectants in the room that your cat is in as these are toxic to cats. Talk to your veterinarian about any cleaning agents you would like to use in your home, near your cat or on your cat during its convalescence.


Monitoring your cat
Keep a close eye on your cat and note how much he is eating and drinking, whether he is urinating and defecating, and whether he develops any new or abnormal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, sneezing or coughing. Any changes should be reported to your veterinarian.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM

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