Finding Help For Sick Cats Online

Cat with red eyes, finding help for sick cats

Some friends had a terrible tragedy a couple of weeks ago. They lost one of their community cats to feline leukemia. He was one of those very special, once-in-a-lifetime cats, a gift from the universe to the people who were lucky enough to be his close friends. He touched their lives in amazing ways, and I know they will always love him and miss him.

During a life that was much too short, my friends’ cat had many health challenges. But the feline leukemia was an unexpected blow, and they were desperate for information.

When they asked me, I didn’t have much information to share because I’ve had very little experience with this dreaded disease. So I suggested my friends do the same thing I advise everyone with a very sick cat to do: “Go online and do a lot of research because the vets don’t always get it right.”

They’re Not Vets, But…

My favorite online resources for health information are the condition-specific email lists and the websites written by laypeople, not veterinarians. By the time I’ve processed the bad news that my cat is very, very sick, I’ve already heard enough vet-speak. I’ve been told the prognosis (always grim) and heard about the treatment options, none of which sound very encouraging because they’ve been explained in a language I don’t really understand. My head is spinning with information, but none of it seems to fit into neat, actionable pieces. So I go online hoping for help as I try to sort it all out only to find more of the same. And that’s where the websites written by laypeople and the email lists come in.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against vets. Well, maybe I do, but that’s not the purpose of this post. And not everyone who writes online will give you reliable, correct information. As the saying goes, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” It’s always a good idea to discuss the information you find online with your vet. I’m very fortunate that mine is open to new ideas and considering things she hadn’t thought of. If yours isn’t, I’d urge you to find someone else.

For many of the chronic health issues that plague our cats, there are laypeople who have done, and continue to do, endless research because they’re passionate about helping cats. Usually, they’re people whose cats had the disease they’re writing about. When their vets’ treatment plans didn’t work, they struck out on their own to find the solutions they needed. The result is huge bodies of knowledge gathered from many sources and sometimes after some trial and error.

Self-Made Experts

Unlike vets, who treat many species and illnesses and can’t possibly know everything there is to know about all of them, the laypeople make themselves experts on one specific condition. If you want to know about the newest treatments, you’ll might find out about them on the websites, before you hear about them in the vet’s office. These are large websites with way too many pages to read in one sitting. But chances are, your cat’s condition is going to last for a long time, so you can digest the information in bits and pieces and use it as you need it.

To put your mind at ease, there’s usually at least one vet in the background to advise and fact check. But unlike the veterinarians’ own websites, these sites are written in language we all understand and provide information in actionable pieces. Some of the sites I like best and rely on most include…

These are my go-to websites written by veterinarians.

  • Cat Look here for everything you need to know about feline nutrition. This is important information and well worth the read.
  • I just like the way this doc writes. He manages to avoid vet-speak while providing lots of information, and he usually sounds optimistic about what to do to help the cat.
  • Veterinary This site is written by the experts who contribute to the Veterinary Information Network, a veterinary database and community for vets. The articles don’t bog you down with all the teeny, tiny details, but provide all the information you need about specific conditions and treatments.
  • DVM360: DVM360 is a group of publications for veterinarians. The articles for owners are written by professional journalists and veterinarians who are experts in their specialties. There’s no vet-speak here, just articles that are well done and provide information you need and can use.
  • Little Big Cat: Holistic veterinarian Jean Hofe writes this site. Look here for alternatives to conventional medicine.

The Office Is Always Open

While I love the websites written by laypeople, the disease-specific email lists are my favorites. Like the people who write the websites, there are list members who have studied and researched and made themselves experts on the list’s topic. And over the years, they’ve seen hundreds of cats online, so what may seem unusual to your vet is common to them.

Online, the office is open 24/7, so if you have a question or need reassurance in the middle of the night, someone on the list will be there to help.

These are some of the email lists I read and use. Over the years, some of them have saved my cats’ lives.

Do you have a favorite condition-specific website or email list? Post it in the comments below, and I’ll add it to this list.

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