A sick kitten with a thermometer in their mouth.

How to Care for a Sick Kitten at Home

Having a sick kitten can make any cat lover feel helpless and scared. One of the first things they want to know is how to care for a sick kitten at home.

To care for a young cat that’s under the weather, it is critical to know how to identify if they’re sick, how (and what) to feed them, and finally what kind of general care you can provide at home. In this article, we will help you understand all of these points, so let’s start with how you can tell if your kitten is sick.

How to Tell If Your Kitten Is Sick

Kittens can become ill very quickly and for a wide variety of reasons. These reasons include parasites, low blood sugar, and respiratory infections, just to name a few.

Common signs of a sick kitten include: lethargy, weakness, decreased or lack of appetite, less interest in playing, sleeping more, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, trouble walking, and less interest in their owners, companions, and toys.

The very first sign many sick kittens show is inappetence. If you have several cats, it may be difficult to tell who is eating and who isn’t. For this reason, many veterinarians recommend that owners offer their sick kitten a small canned meal. Almost all cats love this kind of food, and it’s typically a good sign that something is wrong if your kitten doesn’t respond to it. This way, you will know something is wrong much sooner than if you free feed and offer dry food all the time (and you can’t tell who is eating what).

It is also common for sick kittens to be lethargic. Signs can be subtle, but you might notice that your kitten will be slower to respond and not want to play as much. They might ignore their toys or sleep much more than usual.

The diagnosis of sick kittens can be very challenging because kittens frequently get sick very quickly. It is not uncommon to hear about a kitten that ran around, playing, eating, and drinking normally in the morning, but became horribly sick just 4 to 6 hours later. In adult cats, this kind of rapid development of symptoms would be uncommon, but it happens regularly with young kittens.

If you have a kitten that you believe is sick, the best and safest thing to do is to call your veterinarian to ask for their recommendations and to make an appointment to evaluate your kitten. If you’re concerned about costs related to unexpected vet visits, click here to learn more about how pet insurance may be able to help.

What to Feed a Sick Kitten

Depending on the age of the kitten, you can offer a milk replacement product or a high-quality canned or dry kitten food. Remember to always offer plenty of fresh clean water in a clean bowl. Sometimes, providing extra water bowls can encourage a sick kitten to drink, so provide several spots to drink if you can.

The specifics of what you should feed a sick kitten depend on their age, so here are guidelines for every kitten life stage.

Tips for Feeding a Sick Kitten

When kittens feel sick and lethargic, convincing them to eat can be a challenge.

Here is common, age-based protocol used by many vets when a kitten won’t eat:

More Feeding Tips:

Be especially aware of your kitten’s whereabouts while they are sick and don’t allow them to go outside until you know they are completely well again.

Kitten Home Care Tips

Caring for a sick kitten can be a real challenge. They may need your attention and love for many things; if the kitten is very young, they may or may not be able to regulate their temperature or even stimulate their own bowel movements. Here are some tips for caring for a sick kitten depending on their age: