As a cat doctor, I love to see you bringing in your cat for a visit with me, either for the all-important annual wellness check-up or when your cat needs my help to feel better. That said, there are situations when you can find the help your cat needs for simple problems in your medicine cabinet.
First of all a warning: certain over-the-counter non prescription human medications are deadly to cats. The worst is probably acetaminophen-(Tylenol)-even one can kill a cat by damaging their red blood cells, causing a severe anemia and kidney or liver damage. So, please, the following remedies are generally safe, but use common sense and please don't play veterinarian. If your cat is losing weight, has changes in appetite or thirst or severe respiratory signs, don't reach for a home remedy, call a veterinarian!
Let's start with a simple amino acid, L-Lysine. L-Lysine, like other amino acids is a protein building block, not a drug. If your cat is a feline herpes carrier (and more than half of all cats are) ¼ tsp. (500 mg) of L-Lysine powder added to your cat's canned food can help your cat avoid flare-ups that can occur during times of stress. The powder is easily ordered on the internet. We use L-Lysine to fool your cat's herpes virus into self-destructing by using L-Lysine, instead of another amino acid Arginine, when making new copies of itself. This decreases the amount of herpes virus in your cat's body and hopefully eliminates clinical signs such as sneezing or squinting one eye and reddish brown discharge. Green or yellow discharge from your cat's eye or nose is probably not feline herpes and deserves a veterinary visit.
If your cat seems to feel fine, but both his eyes are watering with a clear discharge and he is sneezing either dry or wet sneezes with no colored discharge, he or she may be experiencing some allergies. If you are feeding fish, try switching to poultry (chicken or turkey). If you have a deodorized cat litter, try switching to an unscented dust free litter and an uncovered litter box.
Chlorpheniramine (also known as Chlortrimeton) , is an over-the-counter antihistamine that can really help many cats with pollen or dust allergies. Use ¼ to ½ of a 4 mg tablet once or twice a day; if it's going to help, it should work within 24 hours. Rare side effects include sleepiness (how are you going to tell?) and very rarely, diarrhea, in which case stop using chlorpheniramine. Chlorpheniramine is not for cats who are acting sick.
While almost all cats vomit now and then, I will often see an interesting pattern in senior cats. They will vomit almost nightly, either in the early morning hours or when you first feed them in the morning. As cats age, their gastroesophageal sphincter gets a little lazy and they can experience nighttime "heart burn" ( acid reflux esophagitis). Giving them ¼ of a 10 mg. famotidine tablet (Pepcid AC) at night or a bedtime snack can help stop this. Obviously, if your senior cat is vomiting repeatedly or is losing weight, don't try this remedy - call your veterinarian!