Supportive Care For Cats

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  • What is supportive care?

    Supportive care is care provided to your cat to assist him when he is sick or injured, the aim is to help reduce pain, keep fluids and nutrition when a cat is too sick to eat and drink on his own, provide necessary care, such as medications, change dressings, and keep your cat comfortable while he recovers.

    It is very common for a sick or recuperating cat to lose his appetite and drink fewer fluids. Dehydration is life-threatening and anorexic (cats who are not eating) cats are very susceptible to hepatic lipidosis (or fatty liver disease). This occurs as the body uses fat stores as fuel, which is sent to the liver to process and can overwhelm it and its ability to function properly.

    Other effects of a loss of appetite include metabolic disturbances due to mineral deficiencies including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hypokalemia (low blood potassium) and hypocalcemia (low blood calcium).

    What situations occur where a cat requires supportive care?

    Surgery, chemotherapy, palliative care, severe infection, poisoning, kidney disease, liver disease to name a few.

    Antibiotics are a class of drug used to treat bacterial infections. It can take a few days for them to kill off the infection. It is not possible to treat most viral infection with medications and is the role of the cat’s own immune system to fight the infection. This can take some time, and supportive care is necessary for many instances to help your cat while his own immune system fights the disease.

    Surgery may be required in the event of an accident (hit by a car, a fall etc), to treat a congenital disorder, remove a tumour, abscess, dental extraction, remove stones (bladder, kidney), repair broken bones, spaying, and neutering, remove blockages. Some surgeries are minor and won’t require a great deal of supportive care. The age and condition of your cat are also factors. A younger, healthy cat will bounce back much quicker than an older or very young kitten.

    What treatments will my cat receive?

    This depends on the underlying condition and how sick he is. In some cases, rest is all that your cat will need. Such as a simple spay or neuter surgery or a minor injury. More severe cases may require some or all of the following:

    • Medications – Antibiotics, antivirals, anti-nausea medications, laxatives, painkillers, cortisone and other types of medication to relieve symptoms.
    • Nutritional support – This may include hand-feeding, feeding a highly palatable diet or where necessary, tube feeding.
    • Fluids to maintain hydration – In the veterinarian’s practise, this will usually be via an IV drip.
    • Blood transfusion – A severely anemic cat may require a blood transfusion during treatment.
    • Wound cleaning and dressing.
    • Ensure comfort by keeping the temperature at a comfortable level and providing clean and soft bedding.
    • Love and support.

    Does supportive care always happen at the veterinary surgery?

    Not always, in some cases, your cat can be cared for at home. This may vary depending on the level of confidence the cat owner has your family set up. Things such as if are you out of the house for long periods of time? Is it a busy house that may be disruptive to a recuperating cat?

    Your cat may need some basic medical procedures such as changing feeding tubes, maintaining hydration levels (by injecting fluids under the skin), giving medications either orally or by injection, syringe feeding the anorexic cats. If you are out of the house for long periods of time, it may be necessary to keep your cat in hospital a little longer so it can receive care.

    Your veterinarian will provide you with instructions on how to provide supportive care upon discharge.

    Does supportive care always work?

    Not always, sometimes a cat is too sick to recover. In other cases, supportive care is offered to an older cat to keep him comfortable in his final days (palliative care).

    The level of supportive care varies depending on his sickness. Acute supportive care is necessary for medical emergencies. In other situations, a cat may have a long-standing disorder that will eventually lead to his passing. He will need support with this condition which can prolong life and keep your cat as comfortable as possible.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio