Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 29, 2023 by Crystal Uys


When your cat is recovering from a serious illness, surgery or an accident, she may require extended nursing care when she returns from the veterinary hospital. Providing nursing care can seem overwhelming, but most cats will recover more quickly if they’re at home in their familiar environment with the person they love.

The following tips can help take the stress out of caring for your cat after an illness or accident.

Provide a safe and quiet place for her to recuperate

Your cat’s personality, and the severity of the illness, will determine the right approach. If your cat seems to do better if she can access all her familiar places, than by all means, let her do so. But if she seems to want to just stay in one place, make the area as comfortable as you can for her. Provide plenty of blankets and soft bedding, and make sure that she has easy access to a litter box and fresh water.

Encourage your cat to eat

Try using flat dishes or paper plates. Slightly warm her food, and/or add the juice from a can of tuna or some chicken broth to enhance flavor. Feed small meals more frequently. Remove any uneaten food; leaving it sitting out may cause an aversion to all food.

Cat not eating food
Image Credit: Kitirinya, Shutterstock

Giving medications

Unless your cat is eating well, I do not recommend mixing medications with food. If your cat is already finicky, this may increase her food aversion.

Never force your cat to take medication. Don’t drag her out of hiding places to administer pills. If you can’t medicate your cat, talk to your veterinarian about alternate options. Some medications can be compounded into flavored liquids or transdermal gels that are applied to the ear. Pill Pockets may be a good option for many cats. Please refer to Dr. Lisa Pierson’s guide on how to properly administer Pill Pockets in order to avoid esophageal erosion.

Follow giving medication with positive reinforcement, such as treats, brushing, or cuddling.

Special considerations for cats recovering from surgery

If your cat is recovering from surgery, even something as routine as a spay or neuter procedure, there are some special considerations, such as keeping an eye on the incision site and monitoring for post operative pain. Refer to Caring for Your Cat After Surgery for more information.

Your veterinarian is your partner as you care for your sick cat at home. If you have any questions or doubts about what you’re doing, call your veterinary clinic.

veterinary doctor puts the bandage on the cat after surgery
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

Remain calm

Most importantly, try to remain calm. Cats are sensitive creatures who pick up on our emotions, and they will pick up on our anxiety and worry. Stress slows down healing.

Don’t forget to spend quiet time with your cat while she recovers. You don’t want every single interaction with you to be about taking medication or forcing her to eat. Never underestimate the healing power of love.

Featured Image Credit: Sophie McAulay, Shutterstock

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8 Comments on Nursing Care for Your Cat

  1. Ingrid, that is a nice collar you are showing in the picture. My Torri slipped her hard cone collar off in her cat carrier after her surgery on Monday and would not let me put it back on. I even tried the soft pro collar and that didn’t work either. I am keeping an watchful eye on her so that she doesn’t bother the incision 🙂


  2. In the photo, is this some kind of “reverse cone?” I’ve never seen one and I think that kitty would be much happier with something like this after surgery or to keep them from worrying at a sore spot. Can you tell me more about it? When is it used, and can it be used instead of the traditional “cone of shame?”

    • Christy, this is the Trimline collar. It’s a soft e-collar that is more comfortable than the hard plastic cone collars,and it’s just as effective as the traditional cone collars.

  3. I’ve used the Catnip as well! I have one cat that heals very slow and is a picky eater to begin with, so forget about when she is recuperating. The nip works like magic everytime!

  4. One tip we’ve learned over the years of fostering–if a cat is congested, try elevating the bowl (we flip one bowl upside down and put a plate on top of it). This helps our Persian & Exotic Shorthair cats too! I agree–slightly warming stinky wet food helps quite a bit! I’ve even sprinkled cat nip on the food to make it more enticing. We run a vaporizer for them too. Love your suggestions!

    • Elevating the food bowl is a great suggestion, Laura. I’ve never tried using catnip to entice a cat to eat, but if they’re generally responsive to it, I could see where that would work.

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