How to get a sick cat to eat & drink

Updated February 21, 2017

Cats that are ill tend to be lethargic and may sit huddled for hours without moving or engaging in normal activities. It is important to keep your cat's strength up when she is ill, but forcing your cat to eat or drink will only add to your cat's stress, which may hinder the healing process. An average intake between 30 and 35 calories for each lb. of your cat's body weight is optimal, according to Tanya's Feline Chronic Renal Failure Information Centre.

Combine food and water. A sick cat may not drink plain water, but offering wet food increases your cat's water intake with each bite he eats. Adding additional water to wet food can increase this benefit, but don't add so much that it dilutes the taste and smell or your cat may not be tempted to eat.

Warm the food, recommends the Amber Foundation. Your cat's hunger can be stimulated by her sense of smell, and warm food smells stronger than cold food.

Keep the food fresh. If your cat eats a bite or two when fresh food is presented but ignores it afterward, buy smaller cans so you can offer him fresh food with each feeding.

Add garlic powder to your cat's food to increase the flavour, suggests a report from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

Offer baby food to your cat, either plain or mixed with meat or egg for extra protein. Baby food blended with liver meat can be a tasty and nutritious treat for your cat. Avoid any foods with onion, notes the WSAVA report.

Place fresh food directly in front of your cat and pet her. Talk to her gently and make her feel safe and relaxed as much as possible. Sick cats will often attempt to eat when they are receiving attention.

Put a small amount of food on your cat's lips or paws. This generally stimulates the desire to lick it off, and if the cat finds the flavour pleasing, he may continue eating if the food is nearby.

Set up a running water dish. Available in most pet stores, waterers that circulate and filter the water keep it fresher and cooler than regular water bowls, which may encourage your cat to drink.

Change foods if your cat is on medication that nauseates him. He may associate the medicine-induced nausea with the food and avoid it for fear of feeling sick again. Finding food that smells and tastes completely different (such as changing from chicken to tuna) may help him avoid negative associations.

Things You'll Need

  • Wet cat food
  • Garlic powder
  • Baby food
  • Circulating waterer
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About the Author

Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.