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How to Comfort a Sick Cat: 12 Vet Approved Tips

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a sick siberian cat being carried by owner

How to Comfort a Sick Cat: 12 Vet Approved Tips


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

It’s very hard for cat owners to see their usually affectionate and playful cat moping around the house, but that can happen when your pet is feeling under the weather. While we turn to chicken soup and Netflix binge sessions on the couch when we’re sick, we obviously can’t do the same for our cats. However, there are some things you can do to comfort your cat when they’re ill. Read on to find 12 tips for caring for a sick cat.

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The 12 Tips on How to Comfort a Sick Cat:

1. Don’t Wait to See the Vet

female veterinarian carrying a white cat
Image Credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

The best thing you can do for your sick cat is to take them to the vet for an evaluation as soon as possible. Cats hide their signs of illness until it’s impossible to hide them anymore, so it may be that your pet’s been sick for days or weeks before they finally start showing signs of being unwell. The faster they’re seen, the quicker they can get nursed back to health.

2. Keep Essentials Nearby

The last thing your sick cat feels like doing is walking upstairs or across the house to get a drink of water or use the litter box. Keep these essentials nearby so they’re more likely to drink and use the litter box knowing they don’t need to traverse across the house first. Instead of feeding them in their usual spot, consider offering them their next meal close to their resting spot to save them the effort and steps.

3. Keep Them Warm


Think of how cozy and comforting it is for us when we crawl underneath a comfy blanket on a chilly winter evening. Warmth is also a psychological comfort for cats that provides them with a sense of security and well-being. Provide your sick pet with a cozy place to rest that’s warm, peaceful, and quiet. You may consider adding a second heat source, like a heating pad on a low setting. However, if your cat is unable to get around by themselves, you shouldn’t use a heating pad under them as they won’t be able to move away if they get too hot and could get burned.

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4. Consider a New Litter Box

man cleaning low entry cat litter box while cat watches
Image credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Sick cats may not have the energy required to jump into top-entry litter boxes or even step into one if it has high sides. Consider buying a low-entry litter box to help them get in and out with ease. If it’s not in your budget to buy a new box right now, you can cut down the sides of a cardboard box or even their high-sided litter box to make entry easy.

5. Wipe Away Discharge

If your cat is suffering from an upper respiratory infection, they may get a runny nose and have eye discharge. Wipe away any discharge using a clean washcloth damp with warm salt water or a cat-safe wipe.

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6. Groom Them

Many cats enjoy grooming sessions, and if yours is part of this demographic, don’t skip a brushing because they’re sick. They may enjoy the attention, which will help them feel as if their routine isn’t upended because of their illness. Additionally, brushing your cat can provide you with the opportunity to monitor their skin and fur for any further signs of sickness.

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7. Honor Their Wishes

domestic striped kitten with a sad face feels sick
Image Credit: Julia Cherk, Shutterstock

Sick cats sometimes want nothing more than to be left alone to heal. If your cat isn’t interested in cuddling or getting pets, respect their wishes and leave them be. However, you should still keep an eye on them to keep tabs on their condition and ensure they’re improving.

8. Give Medication as Prescribed

If your veterinarian has put your cat on medication to treat their illness, make sure you’re following the instructions to a T. It’s important to keep up with medication in the proper dosage at the right intervals to ensure your cat is getting the dose your vet has deemed necessary to treat them. Do not stop giving the medicine if you feel your cat has recovered from their sickness unless the vet has instructed you to do so.

9. Tempt Them to Eat

picky cat not eating
Image Credit: Alexandra Morosanu, Shutterstock

Cats need to eat even if they’re sick, but it is often the last thing a cat who’s feeling unwell wants to do. If cats refuse to eat for more than a day or two, they are at risk of a potentially life-threatening condition known as hepatic lipidosis. Encourage your cat to eat small, frequent meals consisting of highly palatable and digestible food.

If your vet gives you the go-ahead, you can tempt your sick cat to eat by:
  • Offering strong-smelling foods like chicken
  • Warming wet cat food to release its scent
  • Blending wet food if they have problems swallowing
  • Offering small bits of food by hand
  • Dabbing a small amount of wet food on their lips
  • Adding a small amount of fish oil or tuna juice (the spring water that tuna comes in, not the brine) to the food

If your cat is still refusing food, your vet may recommend hospitalizing them to give them a feeding tube or prescribe an appetite stimulant.

10. Follow Veterinary Advice

Follow the advice from your veterinary team, as they know exactly what is necessary to get your cat back to feeling like themselves again. For example, your vet may recommend a bland diet if your cat is vomiting or an e-collar if they have sores or wounds.

11. Go to Follow-Ups

male veterinarian with stethoscope holding striped cat
Image credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

Following up with your veterinary team is essential in nursing your cat back to health. A follow-up appointment will allow your vet to examine your pet to ensure the treatments they’ve recommended are working.

12. Stay Calm

It is completely normal to feel anxious about your cat’s illness, but you must try to remain calm. Cats can pick up on your feelings of anxiety and stress, which can upset them and even cause them to feel anxious and stressed themselves. Take care of yourself at the same time you care for your cat. Try to set aside a small window of time daily to do something to take your mind off of things and ease some of your stress.

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Final Thoughts

As you nurse your cat back to health, take note of any developing signs of illness or changes in behavior. Keep your veterinary team in the know of such changes so they can make notes and offer other treatment options if necessary.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself at the same time you care for your cat. You won’t be of much help to your pet if you fall ill yourself.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock

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