Should you abandon your sick cat? The surprising truth.

Assessing Your Cat’s Condition

When your cat is sick, the first step is to watch for any changes from their normal behavior. Look for indications your cat is feeling under the weather like lethargy, hiding, loss of appetite, and neglecting grooming. Any of these could signify illness. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, you’ll want to note symptoms like coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, and evidence of pain.[1] Hillcrest Animal Hospital advises monitoring your cat’s food and water intake as well. A decrease can indicate a health issue. Watch for sudden weight loss or weight gain as well.[2] Fever, though more difficult to detect in cats, can be a symptom. Feel their ears and paw pads for unusual warmth. Ultimately, assessing changes in behavior, appetite, and energy level compared to your cat’s normal state is key to identifying potential sickness.


Providing Comfort and Care

When a cat is sick, it’s important to ensure they are as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips for providing comfort and care to your ailing feline:

Offer easy access to food, water, and the litter box. Place these essentials in easy-to-reach spots that don’t require your cat to move around much. Consider setting up multiple stations around your home.

Brush and groom your cat if they allow it. Keeping their coat free of knots and tangles can provide comfort. But don’t force grooming if your cat seems resistant.

Make sure their bedding is clean, dry, and warm. Wash any blankets or towels, and consider a heating pad under their bed on low setting. The warmth can help soothe body aches.

Pet or brush your cat gently if they respond positively to touch. But be sure to avoid areas that are sore or tender.

Use cat-safe heating pads or microwavable heating discs to provide soothing warmth. Always supervise to ensure safe temperatures.

Speak to your cat in soft, comforting tones. The familiar sound of your voice can be very reassuring.

Consider using synthetic feline pheromone products like Feliway to help induce calmness and relaxation.

Keep noise levels low and minimize disruptions from other pets or household activities.

Make vet visits stress-free. Use calming aids like Feliway spray, and request no dogs in the waiting room. VCA Animal Hospitals

Know When to Call the Vet

Certain symptoms require an urgent vet visit, such as seizures, inability to walk or extreme lethargy where your cat cannot lift their head. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, emergency symptoms that warrant immediate evaluation include unconsciousness or collapsing, continuous crying or howling in pain, difficulty breathing, vomiting large amounts of blood, seizures or muscle tremors, loss of control over urine or bowel movements, and sudden inability to use the hind legs.

For other persistent issues, routine vet visits are advisable. The ASPCA recommends seeing a vet if your cat has a decreased appetite for over 2 days, significant weight loss, repeated vomiting or diarrhea lasting over 24 hours, lameness lasting more than 48 hours, or obvious pain, swelling, or discomfort. Additionally, take your cat to the vet if their urine output decreases or if you notice blood in their urine or stools. Your vet can assess non-emergency symptoms and provide tailored treatment and advice.

According to 7 Signs Your Cat May Be Sick That Warrant a Call to the Vet, other potential reasons to seek vet care include excessive vocalization, anti-social behavior, excessive thirst, refusal to eat, and unexplained weight loss.

Adjusting Interactions

When a cat is sick, it’s important not to overwhelm them with too much affection or interaction. Some sick cats may want more attention and comforting, while others prefer to be left alone. Look for signs from your cat on whether they want to snuggle or would rather have some personal space.

Indications a sick cat wants to be left alone include hiding, avoiding being held or petted, growling or swiping when approached, and keeping their distance from you. It’s best not to force interactions in these cases. Let your cat rest undisturbed in a comfortable, peaceful area. You can still check on them periodically and talk softly to provide reassurance.

On the other hand, if your cat solicits petting, purrs, rubs against you, or sits in your lap, they are signaling they want compassion and gentle affection. Pet or hold your cat if they desire, but avoid overstimulation. Keep sessions brief and allow them to rest when needed. With very ill cats,interact carefully and stop if they seem distressed.

While giving a sick cat space when they need it, also ensure they don’t become too isolated. Loneliness can worsen their recovery. Find a middle ground of being available yet not overbearing. Adjust as their health and mood dictates. With care and attentiveness, you can meet their individual needs.

Keeping Your Cat Hydrated

Keeping your sick cat hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to help them recover. Dehydration can quickly become dangerous in cats.

Switching from dry food to wet canned food can help increase your cat’s fluid intake. You can also try adding some low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth to their water to encourage drinking. According to WebMD, “Add a small amount of chicken broth or tuna juice to their water.”

Using a cat water fountain can also help, as the moving water encourages cats to drink more. The Preventive Vet recommends trying room temperature or warm water as well if your cat isn’t drinking their usual amount.

If your cat still isn’t getting enough fluids, your vet may recommend administering subcutaneous fluids under the skin. VCA Animal Hospitals says “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.”

Helping Your Cat Eat

If your cat is off their food when sick, there are some tricks you can try to encourage eating:

– Warm up wet food to body temperature or slightly warmer to make the scent more appealing. Tap into your cat’s senses by enhancing the aroma and flavor of the food.

– Offer small, frequent meals of their favorite foods like tuna, chicken, or seafood. A sick cat may find big meals overwhelming but be motivated to nibble.

– Place food just out of reach to stimulate interest. Cats feel more secure eating close to the ground, so put bowls on the floor.

– Hand feed small pieces or treats. The connection helps reassure a stressed cat.

– Supplement with nutritional gel treats that can stimulate appetite. Ask your vet for recommendations.

In some cases, you may need to resort to force feeding to get critical nutrition and liquids into your ill feline if they haven’t eaten for more than 2 days:

– Ask your vet to demonstrate proper force feeding technique.

– Use an oral syringe loaded with recovery food supplement or blended wet cat food. Gently squirt into the mouth just inside the cheek.

– Go slow and give your cat time to swallow between small portions. Don’t force too much at once.

– Make each session brief to avoid stress. Do multiple small feedings over the day.

While force feeding should be a last resort, your vet can advise if it becomes essential for your cat’s health.

Providing a Quiet Space

When a cat is sick, it is important to provide them with a calm, quiet space where they can rest and recover. Limiting noise and activity can help reduce stress levels and allow the cat’s body to focus its energy on healing. According to experts at Rover Resort, a quiet space gives sick cats “a peaceful place to relax without being disturbed.”

The best way to create a quiet space is to set up a separate “sick room” for the cat. This could be a spare bedroom, bathroom, or other enclosed area where the cat can be comfortably confined. Make sure to remove other pets and children from the room so the sick cat is not overwhelmed. The space should contain all of the cat’s necessities – food, water, litter box, bedding, toys, etc. The room should also be warm, quiet, and darkened if possible.

Allowing the sick cat undisturbed rest and isolation from the bustle of everyday life will help them preserve their energy for recovering. As Rover Resort states, “rest and sleep are some of the best medicines” for a sick feline. Be sure to check on the cat and provide affection, but limit cuddling or play time that could overstimulate them. With plenty of rest in their own quiet space, the cat is more likely to return to good health.

Maintaining Litter Box Habits

It’s important to maintain your cat’s normal litter box habits when they are sick. A clean litter box will help encourage them to continue using it. Be sure to scoop the litter box at least twice a day, or more if your cat uses it frequently. Remove all solid waste and clumps to keep odors at bay.

Also use a cat-friendly, low-dust litter that will be gentle on your cat’s paws if they are sensitive or painful. Avoid scented litters or litters with perfumes that could further irritate your cat. Look for a litter made specifically for senior cats that is extra soft and easy to dig in. Shallow, low-entry litter boxes without high walls are ideal for cats with mobility issues.

Refer to this product for an example of a senior-friendly litter box that can help sick cats.

Monitoring Other Pets

It’s important to isolate your sick cat from other pets in the home if needed, to prevent the spread of illness. Set up a separate quiet space for your sick cat with their own food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys. Be sure to wash your hands after handling the sick cat before interacting with other pets. This helps stop contagious illnesses from spreading.

Keep a close eye on any other pets in the home for signs of illness. Look for symptoms like lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, eye/nasal discharge or skin problems. Call your vet right away if you notice these signs in other pets, as prompt treatment is key. Some viral illnesses like panleukopenia can spread rapidly between cats in a home.1 Isolating the sick cat helps keep the other pets healthy.

Practicing Self-Care

Caring for a sick pet can be stressful and tiring. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself as well. Ask friends or family for help with pet duties like walking, feeding, or playing if you need a break. Consider hiring a pet sitter for a few hours to give yourself some time to rest and recharge. Self-care will allow you to be in the best state to provide care for your cat.

Don’t forget about your own needs while nursing your cat back to health. Make time to eat well, exercise, and get adequate sleep. Take breaks from your cat periodically throughout the day. Spend time doing an enjoyable activity to give your mind a rest. Stay connected with loved ones for moral support. Knowing when to ask for help and focusing on your own health is key to avoid burnout while caring for an ill pet.

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