Pet Cat Illnesses
Upper respiratory infections (URI’s)
These are very similar to human colds. The cat is often congested and cannot smell its food. Tempting your
pet cat with smelly canned cat food, Hills A/D food (purchased at a veterinarian’s office), baby food (no onions
in ingredients, please), chicken broth, or even tuna in water (last resort as too much can cause diarrhea) will
often get them eating again. You may have to coax them to eat by using your fingers, and even smearing it on
their lips or nose. If your pet cat has not eaten for more than two days, force-feeding with a syringe may be
necessary. If you don’t know how to do this, we can describe this or show you how. Nutracal is a calorie and
nutrient-packed supplement that even sick cats will often accept when not otherwise eating. This can be picked
up at the rescue. Steam from a vaporizer or hot shower often helps clear the nasal passages. Keep the nose
and eyes clear of discharge with warm, damp cotton balls. A cat that doesn’t feel well appreciates some extra
petting and quiet time in your lap. If you can coax your pet cat to eat, and its drinking water, the infection will
usually run its course, and no additional treatment is necessary.
Dehydration is a serious concern.
Watch carefully to see if your pet cat is drinking water. You may have to carefully watch the level of the water
bowl, and keep track of litter box activity. You can check for dehydration by pulling the skin up just a little lower
than the back of the neck. It should be taut and snap back down. If it stands up or takes some time to go back
down, the cat may be dehydrated. A lethargic cat is often dehydrated. If your cat is dehydrated, subcutaneous
fluids may be necessary. This is a good skill to learn and you can be buddied up with an experienced pet
parent who can teach you. There are several pet parents experienced with this and willing to make home visits
to hydrate your cat. This may help a cat feel better sooner and will save money by not having to go to a vet.
Please contact us right away if you think your cat is dehydrated. We may arrange a home visit, direct you to
the rescue for fluids, or as a last resort, to one of the local veterinarians that bill the rescue directly. If your pet
cat is extremely lethargic, it may be dehydrated, have a fever (over 103 degrees F, rectally, constitutes a
fever), and/or a bacterial infection, and we would probably direct you to veterinary care. If nasal discharge is
thick and yellowish-green (vs. clear and watery), this may be an indication that a bacterial infection has set in,
and antibiotics may be necessary. In this case, we will direct you to take your pet cat to the vet.
Other things to watch for that may require additional care or a vet visit:
• Loose stool or diarrhea – usually caused by parasites that may or may not be visible in feces. Depending
upon the parasite, this can be treated with wormer picked up at the rescue or a vet visit.
• Continual vomiting or occasional vomiting that lasts more than a day or two.
• Extreme lethargy for more than 2-3 days.
• Eyes that are red and inflamed or have an extreme amount of discharge and swelling, vs. small amounts of
discharge, usually in both eyes that is common with a URI. This can often be treated with eye ointment picked
up at the rescue, but may need a vet visit if the infection doesn’t respond within a couple of days.
• Any crumbly wax-like substance in the ears (possible ear mites). Ear mite medicine can be picked up at the
• Fleas or flea dirt (black pepper-like substance in the fur). Advantage is usually applied if fleas are noticed at
the rescue. If you see flea dirt, we will find out if Advantage was already applied. One application lasts 30 days.
If it hasn’t or if you find live fleas, please bring your pet cat to the rescue for Advantage to be applied.
MEDICAL AND HEALTH ISSUES
It is important that pet parents be able to interpret changes in an animal’s appearance, bodily functions, and
behavior in order to quickly note signs of illness. A pet parent must always be attentive, familiarizing
themselves with the animal’s habits so unusual changes in behavior can be recognized. Like people, animals
sometimes have symptoms so severe it is obvious they require quick professional treatment.
Here is a short list of some symptoms that require immediate attention:
25. General Labored breathing, excessive panting, or incessant coughing
26. Vomiting of blood or bile
27. Severe diarrhea, especially if accompanied by vomiting
28. Pronounced limping or paralysis
29. Unconsciousness, seizures, or fainting
Keep your pet animals’ eyes clean of any discharge. Large, daily discharge can indicate infection of the eye or
illness in the animal.
It is best to have the veterinarian check the ears for infection prior to bringing the animal home. Mites, bacteria,
or plain old dirt can accumulate in the ears of animals that have been stray or unkempt; each of these requires
a different treatment therapy.
Be aware of signs of ear problems: a foul odor, persistent shaking his/her head, rubbing it against the floor,
holding it tilted to one side, or scratching his/her ears. Infections can settle deep into the ear canal, so don’t be
misled if you can’t see any dirt or inflammation inside the ear. If signs are neglected, it can be painful and lead
to long, involved treatment. See your pet care veterinarian.
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