Very often, when a cat or kitten is sick, the first symptom is loss of appetite.
According to a medical expert employed in a large, well-known animal hospital, more cats die of malnutrition or starvation during illness than from the illness itself, especially if suffering from an upper respiratory infection(URI).
Even if it has just a mild URI, many cats quit eating simply because they can not smell the food — and what they can not smell, they will not eat.
The Sick Kitty Who Won't Eat
At one time or another we have all had to deal with a situation in which we could not get a cat or kitten to eat no matter how hard we tried or what type of food was offerred.
If the invalid will lick baby food off of your finger - fine - but if that does not work?
You have probably tried "a good, smelly cat food - tuna" on the advice of your veterinarian. For some reason veterinarians seem to think that no cat can resist fish no matter how sick he may be.
After failing with baby food and fish, you will resort to force feeding. If a cat really does not want to eat, even spooning baby food between those tightly clenched teeth will not work.
You may have tried force-feeding with chunks of beef or bits of cut-up chicken heart. If the patient has a sore throat, that will be next to impossible.
To complicate matters, when a cat is not well, the digestive system is not working properly . . . and so the chunks of meat may be vomited, undigested, as long as 24 hours after feeding.
The other disadvantage to forced feeding is that no matter how sick and lethargic a cat may be, the invalid will seem to have super strength when it comes to resisting attempts to force feed it. At the very least you may end up with fingers full of tooth marks.
Many people depend on the high-calorie supplements in a tube, such as Nutrical. While they are one possible option, you may want to consider a more typical food rather than a supplement.
I have had very good luck with something my mother used when she was breeding dogs many years ago. It is simple to make, store and keep readily available: Concentrated Beef Broth.
This is NOT the canned broth purchased in the super market nor is it made by boiling a quantity of meat such as you would do in making soup.
My home-made beef broth can be frozen and stored for long periods and it is simple to make.
Beef Broth Recipe
Begin by buying LEAN beef:
Cut the beef into cubes no more than an inch in size.
Place the cubes in a large jam or mayonnaise jar or something similar without a cardboard liner in the top
Do not pack the cubes in the jar too tightly.
Screw the top on loosely; not as tightly as you would for storage.
Put the jar in a pan of water and try to keep the level of water approximately the height of the meat in the jar.
Bring the water to a low boil or simmer and eventually you will see broth in the jar;
Pour it off and continue the process (which may take two to three hours) after loosening the meat a bit. Keep doing this until no more broth can be poured off.
I prefer to pour it through a strainer.
What you have left is a dry looking, useless meat (to be thrown away) and the concentrated broth. As you can see, there will be a great deal of nourishment in a very small quantity.
Fat - Yes or No?
After the broth cools, you can skim off any accumulated fat on the top. Depending on the illness of the cat, you may or may not want any fat left. A little is fine if diarrhea is not a problem. If the cat's stool are loose, don't give it any fat as it will make the problem worse.
Because the cat needs so little of the broth for it to be effective, you may be able to give it by dropper in the side of the mouth. You need to give only a few droppers worth at one time.
A cat can be maintained this way for long periods of time.
Some years ago, a cat of mine was "drugged" (I use that word advisedly because the poisoning attempt was not successful) at a show. He was maintained for three weeks with the concentrated broth and occasionally, some Esbilac.
Another advantage of the broth is that most cats do like the taste and frequently, when they begin to eat on their own, it is the broth they choose.
You may say that this is fine for nourishment during illness, but what about that all-important fluid intake?
Sick animals are usually as unwilling to drink as they are to eat. It is much easier to give fluids sub-cutaneously in the quantities needed than it is to force fluids by mouth.
Cats usually do not object to fluid therapy IF you warm the container of fluid before use. For complete instructions and photos on how to administer fluid therapy read our article, Sub-Q Fluids
For a long time I have been a proponent of tube-feeding in supplementing large litters of kittens, raising babies from mothers with no milk or nourishing sick animals, etc.
Since the tube must be small enough in diameter to to insert in either a tiny throat, a sore throat or a violently protesting cat, the choice of what to feed is small.
Even diluted baby meat will clog the openings of the tube and a milk substitute, depending on the illness involved, may cause diarrhea. If you have had the experience of a cat or kitten biting through the feeding tube, here is a suggestion. Cut off the closed end of a needle cover (from a syringe used for injections) and slip the tube through the cover. Position the cover so the cat/kitten bites it instead of the tube.
I often prefer to tube-feed a cat rather than using a dropper to feed it if the cat is resisting the feeding routine.
Photos and details on how to tube feed cats and kittens are available in the article titled Tube-Feeding .Conclusion
You may find other uses for this "high protein" pick-me-up. Anytime you want to jump-start your cat's appetite, the concentrated beef broth seems to work like magic. Give it a try!