How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids to A Cat


Last updated January 19, 2018

Cats with chronic kidney disease pass large amounts of urine and become easily dehydrated. Dehydration can be prevented by feeding canned or raw food, and by encouraging cats to drink. A fountain can be a good option for this. However, frequently, these cats don’t feel well enough to eat or drink enough to combat dehydration, and your veterinarian may prescribe fluid therapy. Fluid therapy also aids in flushing waste products through the kidneys.

Your vet will determine the type of fluid your cat will receive. A veterinary staff member will show you how to administer the fluids to your cat, and you will be able to do this at home. Most cats will tolerate receiving fluids from their guardians. The frequency of fluid administration will be determined by how advanced your cat’s renal disease is and can range from once a week to several times a week.

You will need a fluid bag, tubing, and needles. Fluids are administered under the cat’s skin. The fluids will pool in a little “lump” and will be gradually absorbed by your cat’s body over the course of a few hours.

The following video from the Cornell Feline Health Center provides a comprehensive overview of how to administer subcutaneous fluids, with step-by-step instructions:

The following tips will help make fluid therapy easier for you and your cat:

  • Always warm the fluids before giving them to your cat. The best way to do this is by putting the bag of fluids into a sink filled with warm water. Microwaving the bag is not recommended, as the fluids may get too hot.
  • Vary the injection site slightly each time.
  • Never reuse a needle. Always put a fresh, sterile needle on the end of the tubing prior to giving fluids.
  • Follow each fluid administration with your cat’s favorite treat.
  • Remain calm! If you feel anxious about administering fluids, your cat will pick up on your anxiety.

The photos in this post were provided by Robin A.F. Olson, founder and president of Kitten Associates, a small rescue group on Newtown, CT and author of Covered in Cat Hair. They show Nicky receiving fluids from Sam Moore, Vice President of Kitten Associates. Nicky is 13 years old and is in chronic renal failure. He has been getting fluids for 1 ½ years. He currently gets 150 cc of fluids every other day. “We treat fluid administration like Nicky’s Spa Day,” says Robin. “We have a very soft blanket for Nicky to sit on, he gets special food, which we elevate so he sits up, making the needle insertion easier and the needle stays put. We also try to be very very quiet during the time he gets his fluids.”

Fluid therapy can make a dramatic difference in cats in renal failure and extend quality of life.

Do you have any tips for giving subcutaneous fluids to your cat? Share them in a comment!

All photos ©Robin A.F. Olson, used with permission.

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