How to care for a sick cat at home

If your cat is ill or injured, they’ll need a little more special attention than normal. From monitoring their food and drink intake to keeping them warm or administering medication, find out how to care for a sick cat at home.

Our cats are curious creatures and that sometimes results in them getting hurt. Three of the most common cat ailments include eating something they shouldn’t, being involved in a road accident, or injuring their paws, tails and legs. They may also develop an illness like diabetes, kidney failure or skin allergies

Knowing how to care for your cat when they’re sick or injured will help them feel as comfortable as possible as they get back to full strength. While each medical condition will require specific treatment, there’s some general advice you can follow while your cat is on the road to recovery.

How to recognise if your cat is sick

Cats that are in pain from illness or injury will often behave differently to when they’re feeling their best. You may notice changes in appetite, unusual body postures like crouching, or that your cat hides away and is reluctant to interact. Knowing what’s normal for your cat will help you pick up on the subtle signs that they’re not feeling happy . You know your cat best, so if their behaviour ever gives you cause for concern, don’t hesitate to ask your vet for advice. 

Develop a care plan in conjunction with your vet

Once your vet has assessed your cat, they’ll develop a care plan. This may include wound treatment, medication or surgery.

Caring for a sick cat at home

When your cat isn’t feeling well, it’s a good idea to create a quiet place for them to convalesce. You may decide to move their bed into a spare room, or a peaceful corner where they’re less likely to be disturbed. Some cats may benefit from a to keep them comfortable. It’s also a good idea to keep your cat indoors, even if they usually go outside. Cats often hide when they’re unwell, and if they go missing while sick it can be a very stressful experience. 

If your cat’s mobility is affected, make sure their litter tray, food and water are all within easy reach (although make sure they’re not too close to one another). A shallow litter box may be easier for them to access as well. Speak to your vet if your cat’s toileting habits change, for example, if they develop diarrhoea that lasts for longer than 24 hours, or you don’t notice them pooping at all.

Sick cats sometimes don’t groom themselves as thoroughly as normal. If you notice your cat’s coat starting to look dull, give them a gentle grooming session with a soft brush. You might also want to check if their eyes look clean and bright before cleaning them if necessary.

Food and drink

If your cat is sick they may not eat or drink as much as usual, so it’s important to keep an eye on this. If your cat doesn’t seem interested in their food, switching to something more palatable may help. Some cats will turn their nose up at dry cat food when they’re unwell, but will eat wet cat food. You could also see if they’d eat a teaspoonful of tuna, pilchards, or boiled chicken. Gently heating your cat’s food until it’s around body temperature can also tempt fussy eaters. Be sure to remove any uneaten food so it doesn’t go off.

To see how much your cat is drinking, you may need to keep them separated from other pets. Most cats should drink around one cup of water per day, but some of this liquid may come from their wet food. If you’re concerned your cat isn’t drinking enough, check for dehydration by gently pulling up the skin between their shoulder blades. It should ‘pop’ back into place quickly. If it doesn’t, speak to your vet about whether your cat needs additional fluids.

How to give a cat medication

Often, our sick cats will need some kind of medication to help them feel better. Unfortunately, cats aren’t always the easiest of patients! The types of medication you may need to administer at home include:

  • Ear medication
  • Eye drops or ointment
  • Injections
  • Liquid medicine
  • Tablets

Check out our tips for administering medication to your cat, or ask your vet for advice if you’re not confident. They’ll be able to demonstrate how to give your cat their medicine with the minimum of stress.

Link to signs of an unhappy cat from batch 1

Note: This article is being updated to have a new URL.

Caring for a sick cat can feel stressful and take up more of your time than normal. If you’ve recently had to care for your injured or unwell cat at home, we’d love to hear your advice. Share it on social media using #PethoodStories.

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