When cats fall sick they commonly lose their appetites and become difficult to feed and maintain; they soon lose weight, become lethargic and suffer associated ailments. Liver failure due to not eating is a real risk, so it's vital to know what foods to feed a sick cat and stimulate its appetite.
Why Sick Cats Must Eat
A sick cat has to eat at least a little, not only to maintain body weight but to keep organs functioning. The liver suffers if a cat doesn't eat; its body starts breaking down stored fat, and the liver cannot cope. The situation becomes serious if a cat refuses to eat for more than 36 hours, and cats must continue drinking.
Sick Cats Need Special Foods
When cats stop eating, their appetites need stimulation but their bodies can't cope with digestive stress. Their metabolism has slowed due to inactivity, and the liver and intestinal tract--vital for healthy digestion--have been insufficiently stimulated recently to cope with their usual feeds, and may be too weak to feed normally and need foods that are easier to eat.
Veterinary Foods for Sick Cats
Several manufacturers make feline prescription foods; depending on your cat's precise illness, your veterinarian can prescribe a special diet. A veterinary diet that's bland--meaning, using selected proteins for easier digestion--is often better tolerated by sick cats so vets often prescribe this food, commonly called "intestinal diet."
Range of Veterinary Foods
Veterinary diets are made for lots of specific problems including kidney and urinary tract disease, liver failure, sensitive stomachs, and skin and allergic complaints, as well as diets for cats in recovery from major surgery. These are usually available dry or wet.
Home-Made Foods for Sick Cats
Nobody knows your cat better than you; try all combinations of its favourite foods. If it usually likes prawn-based foods, try fresh cooked prawn broth. If it likes chicken-based foods, try fresh chicken. Poultry is more easily digested; feed this if you can. Rice is safe as a mixer. Food for sick cats should have no additives like salt or flavourings; never feed human foods. Steam or simmer meats before feeding. Mushing wet canned or fresh foods to a fine paste with a fork helps; keep mushing until it is wet, almost a drinkable consistency, and fill a syringe with it to hand feed your sick kitty.
Sit with your cat and hand feed with gentle encouragement. Mix wet feeds with stock from simmered chicken or turkey, and gently rub mushed food around your cat's mouth; it'll have to lick it. Once cats taste food this can "kick-start" the appetite.