How Does Kitty Eat With The Cone Of Shame? Tips For Feeding Your Cat Post-Surgery

Cats may need to wear a cone, also called an Elizabethan collar, for various medical reasons following procedures like surgery or injuries. The cone prevents them from licking, scratching, or biting wounds on their body that need time to heal. While necessary, the plastic cone presents challenges for everyday activities, especially eating. The collar gets in the way and makes it difficult for the cat to reach their food dish. They may also struggle drinking water and have trouble sensing where their food and water bowls are located. This can lead to reduced appetite and inadequate nutrition during recovery. However, with some adjustments owners can find ways for their cat to eat comfortably while wearing the cone. This allows healing to continue while ensuring the cat maintains proper food and water intake.


7 Cat Cone Alternatives for Recovery

Types of Cones

common cone options include plastic, inflatable, and fabric

There are several types of cones available for cats who need to prevent licking or scratching post-surgery or injury. The most common options include:

Basic Plastic Cone

The basic plastic cone, also called an Elizabethan collar, is the most widely used. It is a hard plastic cone that fits around the cat’s neck and prevents access to the body. These cones are inexpensive and readily available, but can be uncomfortable for long-term use (Source).

Inflatable Donut Collar

Inflatable donut collars are made of soft, inflatable plastic and don’t block peripheral vision as much. They allow cats to eat, drink, and sleep more comfortably. However, some cats can still lick around them. They need to be frequently re-inflated as well (Source).

Soft Fabric Collar

Soft fabric collars provide comfort while still protecting wounds. They are flexible and padded for the cat’s comfort. Some have adjustable Velcro closures. The fabric limits vision less than a plastic cone. However, some cats can still access wounds around the edges.

Feeding Difficulties

cats can have difficulty reaching food and water with cones on

Cats can have a hard time reaching their food bowl and drinking water while wearing an Elizabethan collar or cone. The rigid plastic edges get in the way and make it difficult for them to eat and drink normally.

Some of the common feeding issues include:

  • Trouble reaching food bowl – The cone can prevent cats from being able to lower their head close enough to their bowl to eat comfortably. They may end up scattering kibble all over as they attempt to get some food in their mouth.
  • Knocking over water bowl – The stiff edges of the cone can easily knock over bowls filled with water or food. Cats end up making a mess when trying to hydrate themselves.
  • Difficulty chewing – The cone may physically prevent cats from being able to chew their kibble properly. Soft or wet food is easier for them to eat.

To help cats continue to eat and drink normally while wearing a cone, pet parents need to get creative with bowls and supervision during mealtimes. Strategically placing bowls and providing assistance can make a big difference.

According to Catster, some cats refuse to eat at all with a cone on. In these cases, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about whether the cone can be removed temporarily during meals under strict supervision.

Solutions for Dry Food

There are a few solutions to make it easier for a cat to eat dry food while wearing a cone collar:

solutions include elevating bowls and using wide, shallow dishes

Raise food bowls: Elevating food bowls 2-4 inches off the ground can help a cat more easily access their food with a cone. This takes the bowl out of the cone’s path. Raised bowls or DIY options like placing the bowl on an overturned small container can work (Source).

Use wide, shallow bowls: Choosing a wide, shallow bowl versus a narrow, deep one allows a cat to get their face closer without the cone hitting the rim. Sturdy ceramic bowls work well (Source).

Spread food out on a plate: For cats that struggle with bowls, spreading dry food out on a plate provides a wider surface area to eat from. This allows getting the mouth at different angles under the cone (Source).

Solutions for Wet Food

Wet food can pose challenges for cats wearing cones as it is messy and the cone hinders them from getting their face close to the bowl. There are some solutions to make it easier for them to eat wet food.

Serve the wet food in a shallow, wide bowl or plate. This brings the food closer to their face so they don’t have to bend down as far to reach it. Choose a bowl with low sides or a plate so there is ample room for them to get their face in. You may need to experiment with different dishes to find one that works best.

Turn the wet food into meatballs or small morsels which are easier for them to pick up and eat. Break up the food into bite-sized pieces and drop them into the shallow bowl. This allows your cat to eat the pieces individually without having to bury their face in a full bowl of wet food.

According to veterinarians, serving wet food in a shallow dish and turning it into meatballs makes it simpler for cats to eat while wearing cones ( Be patient as they get used to maneuvering with the cone and make adjustments as needed for easier feeding.

Solutions for Water

It can be challenging for cats to drink water from bowls while wearing a cone collar. Here are some solutions to make it easier:

  • Use a pet water fountain. The flowing stream makes it easier for cats to lap up water without bumping the cone into the bowl. Choose a fountain with adjustable flow levels.
  • Use weighted or no-tip bowls, which are less likely to spill if bumped by the cone. Choose wide, shallow bowls.
  • Place multiple water bowls around your home so your cat always has access. Elevate bowls 2-4 inches off the ground if needed.

Providing easy access to fresh water is important to keep your cat hydrated while recovering with a cone. Try different bowl styles and placements to find what works best.

Mealtime Supervision

It’s important to stay with your cat during mealtimes when they are wearing a cone collar. The cone can make it very difficult for them to eat and drink comfortably on their own. You may need to gently reposition their head or the cone so they can access their food bowls more easily. According to the American Kennel Club, “Be prepared to hold your pet’s head at just the right angle so he can reach his food and water bowls.”

You can also consider hand feeding your cat small portions of food while they adjust to the cone. The cone limits their field of vision so they may have trouble seeing where their food is located. Hand feeding allows you to bring the food right up to their mouth. Just be sure to only provide small bites they can handle at a time. This will prevent them from gulping down large amounts too quickly.

With your supervision and assistance, mealtimes with a cone don’t have to be a struggle for your cat. A little patience and guidance from you will help them adapt and get the nutrition they need.

Appetite Stimulants

Cats with cones may experience a decrease in appetite. This can lead to weight loss and other health issues. Here are some tips to help stimulate your cat’s appetite while wearing the cone:

Warming food slightly can help release more aroma, which entices cats to eat. Microwave wet food for 5-10 seconds or warm dry food at low heat in the oven for 1-2 minutes. Let it cool before serving to your cat 1.

Try feeding nutritional gel supplements or high-calorie nutritional pastes. The soft texture and palatability makes them appetizing. Talk to your vet about recommended products 2.

Discuss using an appetite stimulant medication like cyproheptadine or mirtazapine with your veterinarian. These drugs can temporarily increase appetite in cats. Follow prescribed dosages carefully.

Preventing Weight Loss

prevent weight loss by feeding calorie-dense wet or kitten food

It’s important to prevent weight loss in cats wearing cones, as they may have difficulty accessing food and water. Here are some tips:

Feed calorie-dense food during recovery – Wet food or dry kitten food with higher fat and calorie content can help maintain weight. Offer small frequent meals. According to this source, hand feeding high calorie wet food can be an effective solution.

Offer food on a schedule – Feeding cats on a schedule with multiple smaller meals per day can ensure they get adequate nutrition. Make food easily accessible by placing shallow bowls close to where your cat rests.

Track daily calorie intake – Keeping a log of how much food is consumed each day can help monitor if your cat is getting enough calories. A sudden drop may require checking with your vet. According to this source, contacting your vet if your cat refuses to eat is recommended.

When to Seek Help

If your cat is unable to adjust to the cone collar and stops eating for 12 hours or more, it’s important to seek veterinary help. Prolonged lack of food can quickly lead to liver problems and detrimental health effects in cats. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you should contact your vet if your cat goes 12 hours without eating while wearing a cone.

Additionally, if your cat seems weak, lethargic, or has lost significant weight after wearing the cone, contact your vet right away. These can be signs of malnutrition or that the cone is preventing your cat from eating enough. As stated by Quora, prolonged lack of nutrition can jeopardize your cat’s recovery from any illness or procedure.

Your veterinarian may be able to provide an alternate option to the cone, provide appetite stimulants, or give recommendations on helping your cat adjust. Don’t wait too long before seeking veterinary advice if your cat refuses to eat with the cone.

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