Category Archives: Cat Health – Food Related

IBD: Common in Cats



Just picture it!  Your guests are enjoying appetizers in your living room before dinner. In walks Fluffy, swishing her tail back and forth. She stops, looks around at everyone.  Just as they begin commenting on her beautiful coat or her pretty face, Fluffy begins to heave…and heave…and finally horks up a gigantic load of vomit.  There is no end to your embarrassment as you rush for cleaning supplies. We cat owners have all been there. But when does the occasional appearance of a hairball or second appearance of Fluffy’s dinner become a concern?  When it becomes a chronic situation. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)  in cats causes chronic vomiting and diarrhea.

IBD is not an actual disease but rather, is a group of disorders caused by the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract.

If the inflammation is restricted to the large intestine, it will be called colitis, but if the small intestine is involved, the term used will be enteritis. If the stomach is the source of the problem, it will be referred to as gastritis.

The cause of IBD is mostly  unknown but it is considered the result of certain kinds of bacteria, allergies, genetics, or parasites that causes cats to produce antibodies attacking their own digestive tracts. Symptoms of IBD in felines include diarrhea (not always in the litter box), vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and weight loss.  In some cats, you may only see weight loss and/or pooping outside the litter box as symptoms.

Because the symptoms of IBD mimic other diseases and conditions, a veterinarian will perform several diagnostic tests. Expect a complete blood count and chemical profile to rule out diabetes, liver disease and renal problems. A urinalysis is necessary. A fecal exam will be performed to rule out parasites.  Pancreatitis can run concurrent with IBD and other tests may be necessary to rule that out as the cause of symptoms.  The veterinarian will also need a good history of the cat’s symptoms and behavior so be sure to document incidents as they occur.

Once diagnosed, the search will begin to find the cause of the cat’s IBD and eliminate said cause.  A change in diet likely to be necessary.  In general, a low-fat diet containing a novel protein is best. A novel protein is one that the animal has not eaten previously.  If the colon is involved, a high fiber diet may be in order. Antibiotics and Prednisone may be used to treat the symptoms.

Some veterinary professionals believe that IBD is caused by ingredients in commercial cat food.  One suggests that wheat gluten is an ingredient to avoid. Wheat gluten  is a cheap source  of protein used by some manufacturers in place of real meat to save money. Some animals will react to the gluten, causing inflammation in the bowel and all the symptoms of IBD.

Another ingredient is carrageenan.  “Chronic ingestion of carrageenan has been shown to be the cause of an immune reaction that triggers inflammation, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance – precursors of diabetes.” (

Carrageenan is found in many canned cat foods (and dog foods), used as a thickening agent.  When you shop, read the labels on cat foods. Avoid any containing glutens or carrageenan.


6 Diet-Related Diseases Every Cat Owner Should Beware

What a cat eats can cause or prevent some illnesses.Cats are vulnerable to several diet-related diseases. There are consequences to feeding our feline friends the wrong diet.  With knowledge the key to prevention, perhaps knowing about these 6 diet-related medical conditions will guide you in selecting the correct food for your pet.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and Kidney Stones.

Crystals and stones occur far too often in cats, usually because they don’t consume enough liquids in their diets and live with chronic dehydration. Many felines just don’t drink water, and the only solution is to feed them a diet mostly of canned, or wet, cat food.

What Kitty eats contributes to the formation of stones. Changes in the formulation of many commercial dry cat foods have increased the acidity in a cat’s urine, adding to the problem, and renal failure occurs as a result of chronic dehydration. Avoid this with a diet of canned food. Dry kibble just creates more trouble for a cat with a tendency for UTI’s and kidney stones.

Dental Disease.

Because most dry cat food is fairly high in carbohydrates, cats solely eating a dry diet are subject to dental infections, rotting teeth and gum disease. Acid producing bacteria in the animal’s mouth feast on those carbs from the food and slowly eat away the tooth enamel. Again, adding canned commercial food to Kitty’s meals will help prevent dental disease.

Chronic Digestive Issues.

If your cat suffers from this ailment, you know what a nightmare it can be for you and your pet. Vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation wreak havoc on Kitty’s digestive system and on your carpets, if your pet misses the litter box.

When an irritable digestive system occurs, it could be linked to the animal’s diet. Allergic reaction to some ingredient in the food is often the culprit or it could be a bacterial infection. See your veterinarian for help in solving this problem.


Excess weight is often caused by a diet too high in carbohydrates. Obese cats are subject to arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Always include your veterinarian when placing a cat on a calorie-restricted diet.


Many cats suffer allergic reactions to specific ingredients in their diet. Corn is often to blame, as are other grains.


Far too many felines suffer from this horrible disease. The high amount of carbs in dry cat food add to weight gain which raises blood sugar levels. Yes, cats can be treated with daily insulin injections and an expensive veterinarian-approved diet, but Kitty’s life-span is likely to be shortened, and diabetic cats easily contract other illnesses as their immune systems weaken. Prevention is a better option.

Take steps to prevent each of those diseases. Pay attention to Kitty’s diet. Consider switching her to an entirely wet food diet. If you must feed her dry kibble, select it carefully to be certain the ingredients fit your pet’s needs and that the ingredients don’t contain anything that would cause the problems you are trying to avoid.  Work in a healthy portion of wet food and decrease the amount of the dry kibble you feed your cat. Before making any changes in your pet’s diet, discuss this with your veterinarian.

Feline Weight-Loss Diets Can be Fatal

One of my weekly tasks is to read the Consumer Affairs website for complaints about pet food.  Last week, there was a message from a lady writing about her overweight Maine Coon cat.  At 28 lbs., he was a big boy, but Maine Coons are a large breed.  Only her veterinarian would have known for sure if he really needed to lose weight.

Instead of visiting her veterinarian, she sought advice from a store employee at a well-known Big Box pet store.  With advice from that employee, the lady changed her cat’s food and place him on a diet to lose weight.  In one month, he lost 17 lbs.  The cat subsequently suffered liver failure and after the fact, the lady contacted her vet.

Cats are not like humans!  You cannot put them on a diet without medical guidance. Feline diets must be meticulously balanced to avoid loss of vital nutrients and to ward off serious illness.  Losing too much weight too quickly is a sure way to create health problems.

Retail store employees are trained to sell merchandise.  Over time, they may gain some knowledge of pet nutrition, but they are not usually trained to dole out veterinary advice.

Studies have shown that over 50% of cats in America are overweight.  Those extra pounds can lead to diabetes, joint problems, skin, heart and liver conditions.  Keeping kitty in shape is crucial to her good health and longevity, but this can be accomplished in many cases without actual dieting.

First of all,  cats need a diet of mostly wet food, rather than all dry kibble.  Along with providing extra liquid in the diet, wet – or canned – food is likely to be lower in calories.  Try to condition your pet to eating both wet and dry cat food.  More exercise is crucial to losing and maintaining weight.  This can be accomplished with more human interactive play.

Try such methods before placing your cat on an actual weight loss diet and if that doesn’t work, visit the vet!

You will notice on this website that I am happy to share my opinions about pet-related subjects, but I always tell readers to seek advice from their veterinarians before making changes to their pets’ diets.  Every animal is different and breeds differ in nutritional requirements.  It pays to listen to the real experts – your veterinarian.


Protect Fluffy at Holiday Meal Time

The house is clean.  New potted mums flank the front door.  The dining room table is set for company.  Aromas of roasting turkey and cooling pumpkin pies waft through the house.  Fido sits patiently by the kitchen door, hoping you will drop something as you prepare the feast.  Fluffy wanders back and forth, meowing her demands.  It’s Thanksgiving, and your pets are begging for their share.

Don't give your cat people food!

When everyone is in a festive mood, it is tempting to offer tasty little morsels of people food to our pets.  However, this is not a good idea.  The rich holiday foods we enjoy are likely to cause a problem for dogs and cats.  The following suggestions may help make the holiday perfect for everyone:

*No people food for pets!  Rich, fatty human food may lead to pancreatitis in animals.  Don’t risk your furry friend’s health.

*Some foods are toxic to pets.  Caffeine, garlic, onion, grapes, tomato…all can be poisonous to dogs or cats.  Chocolate and alcohol are also no-no’s.  Don’t take the chance.

*Keep the garbage can lid tightly shut.  Pets will be tempted to pry open the lid, if they smell goodies inside.

*Clear the counters before you sit down to eat.  When you and your guests head to the dining room to enjoy the feast,  Fluffy could be counter-cruising in the kitchen.  Don’t leave anything out that you don’t want her to eat.

*Remove the pets from the kitchen when you cook.  No one wants to end their Thanksgiving in the emergency room, but it could happen if you trip over Fluffy while carrying a bowl of hot food to the table.  Better to close the pets in a secure room until dinner is over than to risk an accident.

*Buy a new catnip toy for Fluffy.  Presenting your  cat with a new toy to occupy her time will keep her busy and out of trouble while you prepare dinner.

*Watch out for poisonous plants.  Cats love to investigate new plants.  Don’t leave one in Fluffy’s reach until you are sure it is safe.

If guests will be coming in and out of the house, be sure your pets are wearing identification tags and/or microchipped.  You never know when someone will forget to shut a door properly and allow a cat to escape.  Just a few precautions will ensure that everyone, including the family pets, will enjoy the holiday.

Cat Digestive Issues: When to Call the Vet

If you have experience with more than one cat, you know how delicate the digestive system of some felines can be.  The least little disruption in their routines might deliver a smelly mess of barf for you to clean.  Our large Snowshoe Siamese, Chico, is one of those finicky felines.  He scarfs down food like it’s his last meal and once in awhile, we are greeted with a repeat appearance of that meal.  If our grandson visits, Chico will vomit.  Guaranteed, because he is terrified of children.  It doesn’t take much to upset Chico’s tummy, and we’ve learned to mostly ignore his issues because he quickly recovers.

Chico, all grown-up

Chico, a Finicky Kitty


A cat’s digestive system may be negatively affected by stress or life events.  Chico was a well-adjusted kitty until a few years ago.  His best feline buddy, Jake, became ill and the veterinarian had to euthanize him.  The illness was sudden and Jake’s death left a hole in all our hearts.  However, Chico never fully recovered from the loss of his pal.

Along with withdrawing from most of the family, Chico stopped eating.  It took several weeks to persuade this boy to eat normally.  We dealt with both vomiting and diarrhea as he mourned Jake.

Sometimes, cats refuse to eat if their food bowl is dirty.  A strange noise can cause Fluffy to stop eating or vomit.  Many triggers can affect a cat’s appetite.  Allergies may result in upset tummies.

If a kitty goes too long without liquids, kidney or urinary tract damage may occur.  Some cats have to live with finicky tummies, but you should be vigilant with your cat’s diet and eating habits.  Don’t allow her to become dehydrated.  Eating a healthy diet will help soothe some of the misery.

Our Lucy is a dainty eater.  She never pigs out and nothing seems to bother her or cause her stress.  Last year when she failed to eat her breakfast and subsequently vomited twice, we knew there was a problem.  Lucy visited her veterinarian that same day.  Fortunately, her illness wasn’t serious, and she was back to normal within a couple days.

Learn to recognize the “hairball hack.”  Novice cat owners often believe that their pet is ill when they first hear the sounds of Fluffy trying to hack up a hairball.  It may take several tries over several hours, but the end result will be a nasty glob of gunk in the middle of a pool of bile.  That behavior is normal for a cat.  Feline grooming includes a lot of licking, which results in a whole lot of fur being swallowed.  That fur is not digestible and usually reappears as a hairball, often where you least want to see it.

The key is in knowing when to pay attention to a cat that vomits or has diarrhea.  If the vomiting occurs several times in a short period of time, the animal shows signs of a sore belly, or has blood in the vomit, take that kitty to a vet, pronto, to rule out a serious condition.  If vomiting continues more than a couple days, I’d have the professional make the diagnosis.

Diarrhea can occur for many reasons…from eating moldy, spoiled food to consuming milk products when she has a lactose intolerance, or something more serious.  In most cases, only a veterinary professional will know for sure.

Don’t take chances with your pet.  When in doubt, consult the expert.


7 Diet-Related Cat Health Triggers

What Fluffy eats has great impact on her health.  Many issues can trigger vomiting, diarrhea or more serious problems in cats.  Here are just a few:

Obesity kills cats!

Obesity kills cats!

  1. Obesity.  Overweight cats are prone to diabetes, arthritis and a host of other diseases.  Never place your cat on a diet without veterinary consultation.  Serious complications can arise from sudden drastic changes to a cat’s diet.
  2. Dirty Food Bowls.  Sometimes a cat will stop eating or drinking if the bowl is dirty.  Should that occur, kidney problems could appear, brought on by dehydration.  Cats are very clean animals and want their dishes to also be clean.
  3. Stress.  Cats often react negatively to environmental stress.  The death of a loved one may cause kitty to stop eating.  Strangers in the house may trigger a hunger strike.
  4. Dental Disease.  Cats need preventive dental care or they will suffer cavities and tooth loss.  Some veterinarians believe that diet plays a big role in the condition of a cat’s teeth, so whatever Fluffy eats is very important.
  5. Dry Food.  A diet of only dry cat food is the source of many feline health problems.  Cats need moisture in their diets, and the commercial dry variety is missing that component.  Because cats don’t always consume enough water on their own, be sure to add some canned or wet food to Fluffy’s diet.
  6. Allergies.  Allergies can trigger all sorts of problems for cats.  Many cats are allergic to corn, and cheaper commercial cat foods often contain corn in some form, such as corn gluten meal.  Wheat is another known problem for some felines.  Beef is the most common meat likely to bother kitty, along with dairy products.
  7. Bacteria In Food.  We read constantly about commercial pet food recalls due to “possible contamination with Salmonella.”  I’m certain that not all recalls will catch every package of pet food that was sold.  Some people just don’t hear or read about the recalls and continue to feed said food to their pets.  Of course, any pet food can become contaminated with bacteria if it is not stored properly.
Healthy cats eat healthy diets.

Healthy cats eat healthy food!

These are the most likely problems that could stem from what a cat eats.  Be careful with food choices, cleanliness, routine care of your pet and watch out for pet recalls.  We try to include all recalls on this website.  Hopefully, your kitty will remain healthy, happy and problem-free.

Help, My Cat Ate My Sweater! Dealing with Pica

Some cats eat “stuff.”  It might be paper or plastic, fabric or house plants.  They may actually swallow the items or perhaps just chew or suck on them.  Whatever, this compulsive need to chew on or consume non-food items is an eating disorder known as pica.

Common items for chewing include fabrics (wool in particular), yarn, string, plastic and electrical cords.  Any of these can be fatal if ingested.  String or yarn can wrap around the intestines, blocking food passage and cutting off blood supply.  Many plants are toxic to cats and electrical cords, if plugged in, can kill or leave horrible burns.

The exact cause of pica isn’t known, but genetics may play a major role.  In a British study in 1990, 152 owners of pica cats were surveyed.  Results showed that where the cats’ siblings were known, 58% had a brother or sister that also showed signs of pica.  83% of the cats ate or sucked on wool fabric.  Researchers found that 55% of the cats studied were Siamese and 28% were Burmese.

Bored cats will sometimes show symptoms of pica as a way to gain attention from their owners.  It is also believed that kittens that are separated too early from their mothers are more likely to have pica.

Max, a Siamese-mix cat who shared his short life with Elisa Hereth, had an obsession with plastic bags.  Any piece of plastic left in his reach was likely to be confiscated by Max for eating later.  He was fortunate that his bad habit never caused a blockage or other problem for him, but his veterinarian frequently cautioned his owner to hide all sources of plastic from him.  Max and his littermates were found in a drainage culvert when they were about 2 weeks old.  Perhaps this early separation from his mother contributed to his pica behavior.

If your cat suffers from pica, have him examined by your veterinarian to rule out any medical cause.  Several diseases can result in pica behavior.  One example is hyperthyroidism, which can lead a cat to eat dirt, cat litter, and other non-food items.  Once treated and thyroid hormone levels return to normal, the pica will most likely correct itself.

Chico, a cat with pica

Chico, a Cat with Pica

Some cats are obsessed with plants.  Several years ago, my two kittens, Jake and Chico, began devouring my plants on the lanai. When Chico became ill after chewing on a philodendron, I got rid of all the plants.  However Chico, another motherless kitten, moved on to sucking on the linens on our bed.

Pica has been linked to FIV (feline immune-deficiency virus) and FeLV (feline leukemia).  It is also thought that pica is connected to pancreatic disease and anemia.

Whatever the cause, a solution must be found to avoid serious harm to the cat.  If plants are the chewing item of choice, remove them.  Substitute food-dispensing toys for the offending item in order to distract kitty.  More attention from the owner to the cat might help.  If your cat chews fabric, spray his fabric of choice with a substance to deter cats.  For instance, my cats dislike the taste of Bitter Apple, a spray deterrent you can find in retail pet stores, including Pet Smart.

Indoor-only cats are subject to more anxiety and stress than cats that have access to the outside.  Pica behaviors may provide comfort to a stressed animal.  In some extreme case, a veterinarian may prescribe medications to calm the cat.

Whatever you do, don’t punish the cat.  Just protect him from any possible harm as you seek the solution that works best for his particular problem.

Changing a Cat’s Diet Can Be Tricky

I can attest to the fact that cats are often attracted to the cheaper, less than healthy, commercial foods.  Years ago when we first searched for both wet and dry food for our first cat, we discovered that Lucy always liked what I call junk food.  This was before I learned the difference between healthy cat food and junk.

The first couple of dry food brands we bought were not quality choices, but I didn’t know that at the time.  Lucy thought they were both wonderful.  Perhaps that’s because manufacturers coat their kibble with an animal digest spray to give it an interesting flavor.  Whatever the reason, just because Lucy liked it, didn’t mean it was good for her.

A good place to look for a new cat food is Pet Smart.   You will like their prices and wide selection from which to choose.  As you search for the perfect food for your own kitty, keep in mind that it may take some time to switch her to a better option.  I finally realized that the change had to be done in minute stages.  I began by adding only a teaspoon of the new and healthier cat food to the old one.  I did that with both her canned and kibble and gradually increased the amount of the good food over a month’s time.  By the time she was being served the bowl with only the healthy food, Lucy was well-acclimated to it.

Dry food proved to be more difficult to switch, but we eventually made it.  Today, armed with a lot more knowledge about good and bad ingredients in pet food, our cats are served their wet food twice a day with only a small amount of kibble mixed in.  Chico didn’t like that idea in the beginning, but he did finally adjust to the change.  We no longer leave dry food out for the “kids” to nibble on all day, because that contributed to weight gain that neither of them needed.

The wet food is the most important for a cat’s diet, because the moisture content in the food is so much higher than in dry cat food.  Cats rarely drink enough water on their own, and a diet of canned – or wet – food takes care of any shortages of liquid.

Talk to your veterinarian before making any changes in Fluffy’s diet.  Cats are such finicky eaters and sometimes, a change or misstep in their feeding routine will cause psychological issues that you want to avoid.  It doesn’t take much to upset a cat’s lifestyle and it often comes out in her eating habits.

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Cats and House Plants: A Toxic Combo

Do you know which house plants can harm your pet?  Cats often chew or sit on plants.  I never thought of this as a problem for the animal, as much as one for the poor plant, because my female cats never touched the plants.  But then 6-week-old Chico joined our family.  Chico was a “one-boy-wrecking-crew,” and nothing was safe from his reign of terror, especially plants.  At first, my concern was for the plants.

Three months later tiny little Jake, a rescued kitten who was recovering from a run-in with a golf cart, became a permanent resident in our home.  And I thought Chico was destructive?  Jake taught Chico to climb the tall plants on the lanai.  A thickly-foliaged plant is a wonderful playground for kittens.  The boys broke off pieces of the plants, carrying them through the house between their teeth.  That’s when I began to research safe versus toxic house plants.

I had thought I was fairly knowledgeable and had already made sure that the pots on my lanai didn’t include such things as Dieffenbachia or poinsettia, both known to be a problem for pets.  But it took Chico’s unexplained vomiting fit for me to learn that even the innocent-looking Philodendron can harm a kitty.  I have purchased plants in years past, including Philodendrons, and was told by sales clerks that they were safe for pets.  The only way to be certain is to do the research yourself.  There are many websites devoted to the subject.

Should your cat come in contact with a potentially toxic plant, call your veterinarian immediately and ask what to do.  In Chico’s case, he actually chewed on the plant, but it is possible for a cat to be poisoned just by climbing on a plant or sitting in the pot.  Cats clean themselves and any toxins on the plant could very well have ended up on their feet or fur.  Fortunately, our boy was fine once he purged himself, and I immediately  threw out the plant.

After some research, I removed 2 other plants from the lanai and between Jake and Chico, the remaining ones met an early and unfortunate demise.  Ours may be the only lanai in Southwest Florida that is barren of plants, but it is a small price to pay for the safety of our beloved pets.

Our pets depend on our knowledge and efforts to protect them.  Go through your house now and remove any potential hazards to Fluffy’s well-being.


Hairball Hell

Hairballs are common with long-haired cats.The queen of hairballs once lived with us.  Bella considered herself the queen of everything, but that’s a story for another day.  She was a relatively long-haired cat and groomed herself frequently, ingesting a whole lot of fur along the way.  The hair mixed with undigested food after it was swallowed and formed a firm wad of gunk.  Sometimes, it passed through her digestive track and didn’t become a problem.  But more often, that glob of disgusting hair mixture made an appearance where it was least welcome.  I well remember the fresh one I found in the middle of our bed!  Many of you know what that’s like.

Diagnosing hairballs as Fluffy’s problem is the first order of business.  This isn’t a topic for the squeamish, but it is a fact of life with cat ownership.  The first time you see your kitty hunched up and heaving, you’ll  immediately think she’s ill.  The heaves can go on for minutes or hours, intermittently, before results occur.  Obviously, if she actually vomits bile or food, you have cause for concern.  But don’t react too quickly.  If the first time was basically bile, wait and see if Fluffy repeats the procedure.   If she continues to vomit more than twice, I’d call the vet’s office for advice.  We have found that Chico often, but not always, loses a  pool of bile a couple of times before he hacks up that hairball.  Should you ever see blood in your kitty’s vomit, seek veterinary help at once.

Numerous hairball remedies are sold in pet supplies stores.  With the gel type, you place a bit of the get in the cat’s mouth or on the tip of its nose where it will be licked.  Chewable hairball remedies are fine for the agreeable cat that will eat them.  You can also find granules to sprinkle on cat food.  These products will all help kitty to pass the hairballs through her digestive system.  Most of the remedies contain mineral oil as lubrication.  Some cat owners feed their kitties a teaspoon or two of canned pumpkin or baby food squash as a treat to provide a bit of soft bulk, so hairballs will pass more easily.  Experience showed us that the gel that looks rather like toothpaste worked best for our animals, but you will have to experiment to find the type and brand that works best for you.

Whatever method you choose for hairball elimination, clear it first with your veterinarian.  He or she is the expert and may offer other effective options.