Often a truly wretched little thing will appear in your yard and you will become instantly depressed with no idea what to do next. Once a big tomcat showed up with a scary deep gash on the side of his neck but then he disappeared. By the time we saw him again it had healed. Sometimes they will heal on their own, sometimes not. These gashes can become abscesses and without antibiotics, they can recur and kill a cat. It's best to try to get them treated. Sometimes a cat will be sick from fleas and parasites. Common parasitic infections are roundworm, tapeworm, and giardia. Below is a before and after picture of a cat who came to us with giarda and a devastating flea infestation. Her stomach was black with fleas and she had diarrhea, fever, hair loss, and malnutrition. Giarda is a persistent parasitic infection that is difficult to cure, and may leave a cat with digestive sensitivities even after the infection is cured. Diagnosing parasitic conditions is very difficult. Parasites go through various cycles in the digestive tract and can be difficult to detect, depending if they are shedding eggs, etc. It took 3 stool samples to finally find the giarda, and numerous other visits to cure it. Tree House will analyze stool samples on Mondays for a fraction of the fee a vet would charge you, just bring it in a ziplock and they'll send it to the lab, and then call you. After months of care here with us, and then being miraculously adopted by her current guardian, she is now the fluffy beauty you see below. The transformation really amazed all who knew her when she was one of our "yardies."
Also, in the winter, upper respiratory infections can run rampant through populations of outdoor cats. Antibiotics in powder form added to a cat's food is the usual treatment, but you can also try adding Lysine and nutritional supplement gel to wet food if you can't get the cat to a vet. Look for sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and discharge from the eyes. Hopefully, these "colds" run their course in about 10 days, sometimes less, but if they don't get better after a week, they could have pneumonia.