the sick cat's bill of rights

When animals are sick—especially with chronic illnesses—many treatments may be given if they exhibit dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

While a dog often tolerates several different oral medications and might devour six pills hidden in a meatball, it can be tricky to give oral medication to cats as they are much more suspicious and often will not eat anything if drugs are sprinkled on or mixed in their food.

Suggestions for yummy foods where a pill can be hidden which might fool a finicky feline include Easy Cheese (canned cheese spread with a spray nozzle), peanut butter and Pill Pocket treats. Some medications can be compounded into a transdermal gel which is applied to the ear flap. Be sure you have been advised on proper ways to restrain your cat and techniques for giving pills or oral liquids if you are having difficulty.

Today, many specially formulated diets are available to help support animals with illnesses such as kidney failure, diabetes, allergies, urinary tract disease and intestinal upset. Acceptance by dogs is usually good but, again, cats may go on a hunger strike if asked to give up what they are accustomed to. Making a gradual transition by mixing small amounts of the new food with the old and adding water or slightly warming canned food may help. However, at the end of the day, if your cat is hiding under the bed hissing at you and refusing to eat and if you are nursing bandaged fingers, it may be time to put yourself in the mind of your cat and reflect on the following.

The Sick Cat Bill of Rights

  1. I, the cat, may decline any or all medications or food, no matter how good for me they may be.
  2. I may prefer to face an early death rather than submit to uncomfortable or unpleasant medications or treatments.
  3. I have the right to eat any tasty food if the healthy stuff the veterinarian suggests has been offered and rejected several times.
  4. Sometimes the only thing I want from you is love.

It is necessary to pick the most important, most likely to be successful and best tolerated treatments and make every effort to gain the cooperation of your cat.  With a dedicated and experienced caretaker and a compliant cat, multiple interventions may be tolerated and long term maintenance of disease may be achieved.

—Dr. Jessica Franklin, DVM

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.