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Do I Need to Put My Cat on a Liquid Diet? What Does It Help With?

In most cases, cats will thrive on eating regular cat food throughout their entire lives. There are four main diets for cats that people are familiar with: dry, wet, semi-moist, and raw. Dry and raw diets are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with dry diets being the most processed and raw the least. However, sometimes your cat may need a special diet, and one such diet that few people talk about is the liquid diet. Most times a cat will be on a liquid diet when recovering from surgery.

Read on to find out more about what a liquid diet is and whether it might be something you should consider for your cat.

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What is a Liquid Diet?

As the name suggests, the key difference between a liquid diet and other types of diet is that the food requires no chewing and can be swallowed easily with little effort by a cat. The goal of a liquid diet is to provide a cat with the nutrition that it can ingest and digest easily. The food for this diet usually requires a prescription, so you’ll need to make an appointment with your vet.

shorthair tabby drinking from small bowl
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Why Would I Put My Cat on a Liquid Diet?

A healthy cat that is thriving and doing well should not require anything other than normal cat food. Your veterinarian is probably going to prescribe a liquid diet for a specific condition. The most common reason your vet will ask you to feed your feline friend a liquid diet is when they are recovering from surgery. Liquid diets for cats aren’t intended to be a long-term solution. Instead, they are used to help cats recover from a tough period so they can return to their regular diets.

Long-term liquid diets, however, may be beneficial for cats with dental issues, cancer, or kidney disease. If your cat is ill, possibly with a serious condition such as kidney or liver problems, dental or mouth issues, or cancer, then regular feeding might not be viable. It will be easier for them to consume watery food. It’s very important that you choose the right food and feed your cat according to your vet’s recommendations.

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How to Feed Liquid Foods to a Cat

When your vet puts your cat on a special diet, they will include detailed instructions on how to feed your cat. Although the food is a liquid you can’t expect your cat to drink their food like water, especially if they are ill or recovering—they will likely need your help feeding. This is normally accomplished with a syringe, although some cats may lap up the liquid from a bowl.

Eating from a syringe is not natural for your cat and they will need your help and patience. It will take plenty of time every day for you to sit with your cat and feed it. If the food is too cold it may be thicker or less palatable, in which case you can warm it gently for a few seconds in a microwave—before putting it in the syringe—and stir it through so that there are no hot spots. Be sure to check the temperature before giving it to your cat. Even though your cat is eating a diet rich in water, you should still provide your cat with access to water so they can drink more if they need it.

syringe feeding a Sphinx cat
Image Credit: Alisa Nichik, Shutterstock

Liquid Foods for Senior Cats

One reason that your vet might ask you to feed your cat a liquid for an extended period of time is when your cat is getting very old. At this point they may not be able to handle solid food anymore—it might be because they have lost all their teeth, or they have a fragile constitution and can’t digest heavy foods. If your cat is getting old and not eating, you should consult your vet on whether to switch to a liquid diet.

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What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

When your cat doesn’t eat, it can be a worrying time. There are a few things you can do to try and get them to eat.

First, check with your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t a medical reason for their lack of appetite. If there is an underlying health issue, treating that may get them back to their normal eating habits.

If there doesn’t seem to be a medical reason, try offering them small meals more often throughout the day instead of large meals. Some cats also prefer wet food over dry food, so you could try changing their diet if they are eating less than usual. You could try further diluting their wet or dry cat food with broth. While this is not a “liquid diet” it can be a way of enticing some cats to eat and stay hydrated. If your cat won’t eat from their bowl your vet may recommend syringe feeding them with liquid food.

Finally, make sure their environment is calm and stress-free. A chaotic household or too much change in their routine can lead to a loss of appetite in cats. Creating a peaceful environment may help them feel more relaxed and ready to eat.

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It takes some extra time and patience to feed a liquid diet to your cat, but often it’s an essential part of caring for your cat when they are ill, recovering from surgery, or getting on in years. You should always speak to your vet if you have any questions about the diet or your cat’s health. When a cat doesn’t eat they can become dehydrated and weak, so it’s important to give your cat the care that they need.

Feeding your cat a liquid diet should only be carried out under your vet’s supervision. A successfully administered liquid diet should allow you to give your cat the appropriate care and nutrition for their condition.

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Featured Image Credit: Gumpanat, Shutterstock