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Can Cats Drink Ensure? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

bottle feeding a tabby kitten

Vet approved

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats sometimes get ill and don’t feel like eating the wet or dry food you would typically offer them at mealtime. Going a day without eating won’t be life-threatening to your cat; however, make sure you contact your vet if your cat’s appetite is not back soon. With regards to drinking water, cats are a bit special. The cat is believed to have evolved as a desert animal and has a weak thirst drive. This means that if your cat eats wet food, you probably won’t see them drinking much. Of course, this does not apply if they are only fed dry food. An average 10-pound cat should consume about 1 cup of water per day.
So, what should we do if our pet cats feel ill and stop eating and drinking water all of a sudden?

Some people feel that giving their cats Ensure will help them get through an illness or period of fasting more easily. The one toxic ingredient for your cat in Ensure is cocoa powder (chocolate). Therefore, other than the chocolate flavor, cats can consume a small amount of Ensure without any problems.

In this article, you will learn more about offering your cat Ensure if they fall ill or decide for some reason to refrain from food and water.

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Is Ensure Healthy for Cats?

Ensure is a ready-to-drink shake with a variety of vitamins and minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The amounts of protein, fat, and sugar vary slightly depending on the flavor of the shake. Ensure is designed as a supplemental product to be consumed during medical recovery or when extra nutrition is required, not as a general lifestyle product. It is formulated for human consumption, so all of the recommendations are based on people’s particular needs. Cats are much smaller and cannot digest all of the ingredients in the same way.

A very important point here is to know that most Ensure nutrition shakes do not contain any ingredients that are toxic to cats. The major exception is the chocolate flavor, which contains cocoa powder. Chocolate can poison your cat and cause severe digestive, cardiovascular, and neurological signs. If your cat consumes too much of the non-chocolate Ensure, there are still some risks since they can develop problems from the over-consumption of vitamin D and vitamin A, both of which are included in this nutritional shake.

Your cat should never consume Ensure as their main source of calories and nutrition. Here we are only considering one-off use, and your veterinarian will let you know if the necessity arises.

When to Offer Ensure to Your Cat

The only time you should be offering your cat a small amount of Ensure (remember, always the non-chocolate option) is during a critical situation, to temporarily give them a source of water and nutrients to fight off an illness. However, there are safer alternatives that are likely much more appealing to your cat.

If your cat stops eating, do not wait too long to contact your veterinarian. Cats may develop a dangerous condition called fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). This has been reported to happen in cats after a period of 2-7 days of little or no eating. It occurs when excessive amounts of fat move to the liver from storage areas throughout the body to compensate for the loss of fat that would normally be consumed via food.

Other Options to Consider

There are better options than Ensure that you can give your cat while they are recovering from an illness or major surgery. Like us humans, sometimes cats do not feel well and lose their appetite for a period of time.

Here are some hydrating and nutritious options that you should consider before giving Ensure:
  • Bone broth (no seasoning or salt)
  • Homemade chicken or beef broth (no seasoning or salt)

As you can see from the list, do not add seasonings, herbs, or salt to the broths. Those ingredients could cause digestive issues in your cat. In addition, do not add garlic or onions as those are toxic to cats, especially in powdered form.

You can always purchase a liquid cat diet which has been formulated to meet their requirements and to be as appetizing as possible.

If you are not sure what to offer your kitty, your veterinarian should be able to point you in the right direction.

homemade organic beef bone broth in a bowl
Image Credit: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

Making Homemade Nutritional Broth for Sick Cats

If you want to make a homemade broth for your cat to drink while recovering from an illness or injury, the process is not hard. You can follow the steps here or check out recipes online.

  1. Start by filling a stockpot with water, chicken or beef, veggies like carrots, celery, and kale, and even a little commercial cat food.
  2. After bringing the water to a boil, turn the heat down and let the water simmer for about an hour.
  3. Once the simmering session is complete, use a cheesecloth or fine strainer to separate the solid ingredients from the liquid. All that should be left is the broth flavored with animal protein and infused with lots of nutrients.
  4. You can offer the cooled broth to your cat once or twice a day.

Remember to use a recipe that is cat-specific. Broths and soups for humans will have ingredients that are harmful or even toxic for cats. Make sure the broth has cooled before giving it to your cat. Hot broth can hurt their mouth.

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Some Final Thoughts

Cats can have a sip or two of Ensure in emergencies, as long as you remember not to use the chocolate type! However, the drink is not a replacement for real food and water. Always make sure to consult with your veterinarian if your cat stops eating or drinking since this can be a sign that they are not feeling great and they need your help more than ever.

Have you ever fed your cat Ensure before? We would love to hear all about your experiences with this product. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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Featured Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Authored by

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens. She is an artist at heart and loves...Read more

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