Sick kitties are often smarter than humans -- when sick, they don't eat. But not eating for more than a day or two can be detrimental to a cat's overall health. That's why it's vital to coax a sick cat to eat. Calorie-intensive supplements can come to the rescue.
The Skinny on Fasting
Supplements can fill the bill if your cat refuses to eat -- or hasn't eaten for a few days but seems to want to try. Sick cats are picky because their stomachs have actually shrunk as a result of fasting. Large masses of food, even if a cat can get them down, don't always stay down. Quick calories in a condensed serving help to expand the stomach and kick-start the metabolism.
Soft Is Good -- And Tasty
Calorie-intensive gels, obtained through a veterinarian's office or in most pet stores, provide necessary fats, vitamins, and proteins for sick or finicky cats. Gels come in tasty flavors (tuna is a kitty favorite) in an easy-to-administer corn-syrup paste. Typically, feed 1 to 2 teaspoons per 10 pounds of body weight per day or double if the gel is the principle energy source. Paste can be administered directly into the cat's mouth or on its paws.
Special commercially produced canned foods also provide intensive calories and nutrition for sick cats, but they can only be obtained through a veterinarian's office. While these supplements have a strong, smelly taste (sick cats need extra-strength "stink factor" to activate their sense of smell), not every cat will lap up this highly digestible paste. And as a rather "expensive" ration -- think: gourmet price -- it's probably best to start out with only a few cans at first.
When to Consult Your Veterinarian
Some sick cats should not be given high-calorie supplementation. Gels and special canned foods require at least a minimum appetite and may have no effect on seriously ill kitties. Also, cats diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis, a dangerous condition where too much fat has accumulated in the liver, require the intensive nutritional support only a qualified veterinarian can provide. Force-feeding these cats may actually do more harm than good, stressing the animal.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.