It can be really difficult to deal with a sick or elderly cat that is struggling to get enough nutrition. Loss of teeth, neurological issues, jaw problems, and a variety of other issues may cause your cat to require a liquid diet. Liquid diets can be difficult to come by, though, and may be costly.
It’s important to understand the nutritional needs of your cat before switching to a liquid diet as well since just offering things like broth, cat milk, goat’s milk, and other liquids isn’t going to provide your cat with adequate nutrition.
Why Would a Cat Need a Liquid Diet?
There are multiple reasons that a cat may require a liquid diet, and there are benefits to these diets. Liquid diets can be used to provide comprehensive nutrition to cats who are struggling to eat or metabolize traditional foods, like those with cancer, oral tumors, kidney or liver problems, and dental and mouth problems, and can even be used to support the needs of cats recovering from major surgeries or cats that are comatose.
What Are the Benefits of Liquid Diets?
Liquid diets are typically much more easily digested than regular food, which means that they don’t put as much strain on the digestive system and don’t stress the body through normal digestive and metabolic functions. Normal food can put stress on multiple organs, including the stomach, intestines, kidneys, and liver.
These foods are also less likely to cause constipation since they have a lower bulk without sacrificing nutrients. There are multiple reasons you would need to provide this to a cat, like if your cat has experienced a major abdominal or colorectal surgery. This is also important for comatose cats that will not be able to actively work to poop. Liquid diets can provide adequate nutrition to comatose cats that are completely unable to eat.
How Are Liquid Diets Fed?
How your cat will need to be fed with a liquid diet will be dependent on what is causing your cat to need a liquid diet. Comatose cats will need to have a feeding tube in place, and the food is administered through the feeding tube at set intervals. Under most circumstances, you will not be caring for a comatose cat at home.
There are other reasons a cat may have a feeding tube. Feeding tubes are commonly used to provide nutrition to cats who have a poor appetite related to medical conditions, like cancer and hepatic lipidosis. They may also be used for kittens and elderly cats with failure to thrive, as well as cats with jaw injuries and severe mouth pain.
In some cases, you may be providing your cat with a liquid diet at home. If your cat has any difficulty eating on their own, then you may be responsible for syringe feeding your cat. Your vet will teach you how to safely do this at home to prevent aspiration and choking. You may also feed a liquid diet to a cat or kitten via a temporary feeding tube that is put in place at the time of feeding and then removed immediately after.
If your cat is able to eat on their own but is struggling to eat food with texture, then a liquid diet is a good way to make it easier for your cat to feed itself and get nutrition in a safer way that reduces the risk of choking. Cats struggling to eat may have great difficulty getting enough nutrition, and a liquid diet can make it easier for them to receive adequate nutrition that they can consume on their own.
Downsides of Liquid Diets
While liquid diets are a fantastic option for many cats, most of them are not intended for long-term use. This means that they should not serve as a permanent solution for your cat. Some liquid diets can be used long-term in conjunction with other diets that are more nutritionally complete, but you may have to work with a veterinary nutritionist or get creative to find ways to make normal foods more accessible if your cat is having long-term medical issues.
Liquid diets can be a lifesaver for cats experiencing severe debility or chronic illness. Most liquid diets should be used under the guidance of your veterinarian and are not formulated for long-term or permanent use. If your cat will require a liquid diet for a long period, then a veterinary nutritionist will be your best bet for ensuring your cat receives all necessary nutrients to keep them healthy for a long time and to support healing.
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