Medical Care at Home
There will be times when there is something wrong with your cat. Signs of trouble can range from dramatic such as accidental injury or quite subtle. Accidental injury is usually easy to recognize, while early signs of illness may not be. The sooner you recognize the problem the easier and less costly it will be to treat successfully. I urge you to peruse these pages now, while you have time. This way you will be better able to recognize and avoid problems in the future when time may not be on your side. Cats are notoriously quite silent about illness, so it's up to you to be alert to what subtle changes mean. In the case of accidents and sudden onset dramatic symptoms the faster you react the better.
The following link is to the Winn Foundation site's health list of veterinary health sites. This is an excellent place to start. It's a wealth of information for many of the everyday and emergency needs that can crop up in life with your cats. The Cornell Vet School site even has how to videos on some basic topics. Here you will also find links to the animal poison control site and many others. http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/Library/Links.html
Taking a Cats Temperature
If you suspect your cat is not well, the first thing you may want to do is take his temperature. If you call the vet tell him you took the temp and what it is. Normal temperature for a cat is about 100 to 102.5 If it is lower or higher it's time to see the vet. Remember that stress will cause the temp to rise. This holds true at the vet's office too, that's another reason to take it at home, when the cat is calm. The stress of the vet's office can easily raise a temp a degree or more. If you know before you go it may save you having to put kitty on antibiotics.
Ideally this is a two-person job, however if that is not possible, hold the cat so that his head is under your arm facing your back. This will make it easier to approach his anus and you can use the hand from the securing arm to hold his tail out of the way.
Always use K Y jelly or Vaseline to lubricate the tip before inserting it. The TOP hole is the anus. Regardless of the sex of the cat.
If there ARE two of you, have one person scruf the neck of the cat, or if he is very calm, just hold him across your lap, speak softly and reassuringly and then the other person can hold the tail and insert the thermometer.
You will do yourself a huge favor if you get a flexible shaft, rubber type FAST read. Thermometers are not very expensive and you don't need to worry about the little plastic sleeves. Simply wipe the tip with alcohol after each use. The plastic protectors usually end up stuck in the cat's behind.
If your cat is a highly excitable cat, you may want to invest in an ear thermometer. While some vets don't trust the readings, they are reasonably accurate and fast. Remember an unstressed temp is the best temp. Once you've chased the cat around the living room the temp you get will not be indicative of his true condition.
Some people find their cats respond better to liquid than pills. Others find a pill faster and less messy. In addition, some medications that are liquid must be refrigerated and have a shorter shelf life. You may or may not be given a choice. Discuss this with your vet when he offers a medication.
Liquids can be flavored with Flavorx http://www.flavorx.com/vet/ .
They offer several flavors. My cats prefer bacon. I don't like the fish flavor as it can really smell up your hands and I don't give fish to my cats so it's not a treat to them. Almost any pill can be ground up and formulated to give as a liquid this way. If this is your choice you will be given a syringe to use, and measure the dose.
A new addition to the Falvorx line is a bitterness reducer for such medicines as flagyl/metronidizol, both of which would curl your tongue. Many times vets will add a sweetened flavor that is used for dogs, but since cats don't have sweetness receptor taste buds this will simply be an additional tasteless substance and not reduce their resistance to taking these drugs. The sad irony is that if one needs these drugs it is usually a serious condition where compliance is not optional if a cure is sought. Ask your vet to call the vet at flavorx if they have questions. Dr. Joel Ehrenzweig is a wonderful man and more than willing to help. In the case of very bitter medications, especially if your cat is resistant, the bitterness may cause him to foam and balk at taking the drug. They can also leave an unpleasant lasting taste in the mouth so that his appetite may be affected. Discuss this with your vet.
Scruff the cat at the neck, and try to get the liquid in the side of the mouth. If you can, dose it slowly allowing the cat to swallow in between. You may find that once they are not afraid of it they will like it.
I find it easier sometimes to hold the cat facing forward, and go in from the top of the head down or to the side. For some reason they are less apt to put up their paws in a defensive stance from this angle. Hold him close to your body with one arm, and use the other hand to get the medication in. For cats who are resistant, somehow not having a dive bomber coming at his face is less threatening.
There have been many internet jokes about this subject, but getting the medication in on time is a crucial part of the care package your vet has formulated. If you are still having diffculty, consult your vet. Do not just stop the medication. Chances are one of the vet techs can give you some pointers as to a better method for your cat.
I even have my L Lysine flavored when I have to be sure I get 500 mg into them twice a day and know that they got it. For this purpose you can purchase bulk pharmaceutical grade L Lysine at http://store.thecatalog.com/0240.html Buying it in this bulk package saves money, however the powder is somewhat grainy and some cats may object to the texture and not eat their food if you use this for dry food. If you plan to mix it in wet food it will not make a difference. I have actually taste/tongue tested both this and the Solgar veggie cap powder and there is no discernable taste difference, however the texture is slightly different to my larger tongue. Both taste like salt to me. This may have the side benefit of making the cats a bit thirsty, which in the case of a sick cat can't hurt.
Sub Cutaneous Fluids
There may be a time where your vet will want you to bring your cat in for fluid replacement treatments. It is not only less costly to do this at home, but it is also much less stressful for your cat. While it is intimidating at first, and I suggest you try it with your vet present the first time if you have never done this, don't forget that the vets' office is not the most tranquil environment for your cat. If your vet wants you to do this, practice a few times using the tubes and needles your vet has given you. NEVER give sub cu fluids without consulting your vet first. Proper procedures and amounts are important.
For an excellent site with illustrations of how to administer sub cu fluids check out http://www.felinecrf.org/giving_sub-qs_giving_set.htm, I have not tried this method, but I believe with a relatively calm cat this will work, and what she says about this being an opportunity for you to spend quality time with your cat she is right on that score. Frequently this treatment is advised for terminally ill cats, though not always, but in such cases we always want to 'do something' and feel helpless. Fluid replacement is something you CAN do and it will add to the comfort and quality of your cat's life, and in many cases extends its life. Learn to do it. The hardest part is the anticipation. Once you get over that you will both be fine, and better off.
Your cat may be dehydrated without showing any obvious symptoms. In a younger cat you can do the skin pull test. If a pinch of skin on the back pops back down right away, you are probably ok. To double check push back the side of the mouth and press gently in on the gum line. If the soft pink color blanches out to white and the pink comes back in a second you're fine. If not, your cat may be dehydrated. The skin pull 'test' is not as accurate for older cats as the skin loses some elasticity, as the cat gets older. This is one other 'test' you can do at home and prepare your vet for a visit. If you see either of the two, skin or gums, get to a vet as soon as you possibly can. Your cat may be dehydrated.
Restraining your cat at home, some tips.
When In Doubt, Isolate and Observe
Whenever you think your cat may be sick, it's best to isolate him in a small-contained area. If you have multiple cats this can help you to isolate any illness as early as possible from contagion, as well as allow you to observer what and how much your cat is eating, drinking and eliminating. If you see your cat straining to go the bathroom, or he seems to be going frequently, if it's a male, go immediately to the nearest vet. If he IS urinating there is a little more time. If he is spraying, that counts. Use crystal litter or white paper, or a white cloth, or anything torn up so that you can see if there is a change in the color of the urine. Normal feline urine is some shade of yellow. Any tinge of red, brown, rust, is quite probably blood.
In the case of a sick cat it is not cruel to isolate him. He will likely want to be left alone to some extent and find comfort in having his needs met in a more quiet and closed area. This way he can rest and you can observe his behavior without any intrusions. Many cats will isolate themselves when they are not feeling well. This way you are doing it for them, only you can then observe their activity more clearly. It is also easier to medicate a cat when you don't have to find him first.
Here is a photo of an isolation cage fitted out with fluid therapy equipment and other niceties. I have a small refrigerator for medications, food and water bowls, plenty of clean blankets and bedding, a sink nearby, and all my supplies in one room. If you don't have this type of space a small quiet bathroom will do.