What to Feed a Sick Cat

By Tammy Dray

Eating is essential to keeping your cat strong during an illness, but you might need to resort to some trickery to make the food attractive so your cat can't resist it. If your cat has not eaten anything for more than 24 hours, bring him to your veterinarian immediately, as this can lead to hepatic lipidosis, a liver condition that can be fatal.

Make Food Attractive

If you cat is sick, she may have lost her appetite, especially if she has a congested nose and can't perceive smells properly. One way to deal with this is to make the food as palatable as possible. For example, if you're feeding your sick cat wet food, you can try warming it to bring out the aromas. You can try adding a tablespoon of fish oil, chopped pieces of fresh fish or chicken broth to make it more appetizing.

Supplement His Diet

If your cat is still eating but in smaller quantities, you might want to add a feline vitamin supplement gel to his diet. These gels can be fed directly as they are available in appetizing flavors such as fish or chicken. Many cats will lick it off your finger or you can mix it into your cat's food.

Try a Liquid Diet

Liquid diets such as CliniCare RF are formulated for cats with specific medical conditions. For example, liquid diets are often recommended for cats with kidney disease and are low in protein so they are easy to digest but still provide all the nutritional needs of your cat. Liquid diets also are available for cats who need additional nutrition when recuperating from an illness.

Liquid diets can be administered in a number of ways, including freely -- such as putting it in a bowl and allowing your cat to lick it -- or via a syringe. Very sick cats can be fitted with a feeding tube by your veterinarian and fed a liquid diet through it.

Bland diets, which consist of low-fiber, soft or pureed foods, also can help if your cat is feeling nauseous or sick.

Prescription Diets

Certain long-term illnesses, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic renal failure, might require feeding a prescription veterinary diet. The same is true for cats with certain medical conditions, such as obesity or urinary blockage. These diets must be obtained through your veterinarian and must be fed exclusively, meaning you can't offer additional foods or treats to your cat while he's on a prescription diet program. Several different companies -- Royal Canin, Purina and others -- make variations of these diets. If you have a finicky cat, you might need to switch brands or flavors to find one that best suits him.