Even though it’s common knowledge that cats have nine lives, it’s still important to keep their life count at its peak by keeping a watchful eye on their digestive health. Between long days trying to paw their way into cupboards and nights spent chasing mice throughout the house, cats get into enough trouble on their own. Most cats will develop some type of digestive health problem at one point in their life. From a mere hairball habit to a more serious chronic complication, there are treatments to help ease all of your cat’s unsettled stomach ailments. As a responsible pet parent, you can help keep your cuddly companion healthy by being aware of symptoms, causes, and treatments associated with cat digestive health.
Symptoms of Cat Stomach ProblemsCats can be rather private creatures at times, especially if they aren’t feeling their best. As a pet parent, you should be aware of their habits and behaviors, so that you can tell when something just isn’t right. There are a number of symptoms that can surface as a result of a digestive health issue, but the most common is diarrhea. Clean the litter box regularly and check to ensure everything is looking normal. In addition to diarrhea, two other very common symptoms are vomiting or lack of appetite. If your cat is avoiding his food or can’t keep their food in his stomach, it may be a sign of gastrointestinal sickness. Although diarrhea, vomit, and decreased appetite are the most common signs of an upset stomach in cats, digestive issues can manifest themselves in a variety of other ways. Abdominal pain, weight loss, constipation, blood or mucus in the stool, flatulence, and an unkempt coat can all be indicators of a health issue. Unfortunately, these symptoms are common with many health issues, so it is important to see a veterinarian to diagnose the problem at hand. However, by being an observant cat lady (or gentleman), you can keep an eye out for these symptoms and put a stop to your cat’s illness before it escalates.
Causes of Cat Digestive Problems
Intestinal Parasites or WormsMany stomach problems in cats are caused by parasites. These unwanted visitors are more common in outdoor cats, but all cats can be affected. Intestinal parasites or worms are highly contagious and can be contracted when a cat ingests one of the little buggers. When an outdoor cat eats grass that was once defecated on by an infected cat, they can ingest the worms. This can also occur when a cat is grooming and licks his paws after stepping in an infected area or eating an infected flea that has made itself home in their coat. *Tasty* The most common type of intestinal parasite is the tapeworm. These worms are not visible in the stool, and can only be seen on the cat’s rear end. Another common worm is the roundworm, which is easier to identify. Less common intestinal parasites include whipworms, hookworms, coccidian, giardia, and toxoplasmosis. All of these lovely creatures are treated differently, so it’s important to seek veterinary help to identify which worm is causing the digestive problem.
Ingesting Foreign ObjectsCats are notoriously curious and like to put all sorts of stringy, shiny things in their mouths for proper investigation. Cords, hair ties, yarn, floss, and tinsel are among some of their favorites, but the list is never ending with these curious kitties. It goes without saying that these foreign objects don’t typically sit well in your cat’s stomach. When your cat ingests a foreign object, they will likely vomit to try to remove it from their system; however, sometimes the object is too large or gets stuck somewhere inside their gastrointestinal system. To spot this issue, try to keep a close eye on your cat, take notice when things have gone missing, and be on the lookout for symptoms.
Food AllergiesThat delicious, fishy-smelling bowl of canned cat food or crunchy kibbles could also be at the root of your cat’s digestive health problem. When your cat ingests something he is allergic to, it causes his intestinal system to become inflamed. This inflammation can cause an immediate reaction such as vomiting or diarrhea, but if left untreated, it can lead to a series of more serious diseases. It’s important to identify the allergy as soon as possible so that the inflammation does not lead to a chronic digestive issue. Cats of all ages can develop food allergies, but they have to first be exposed to the ingredient in order to develop the allergy. Therefore, the ingredient must be lying in the type of food you regularly feed them. Your veterinarian can help you pinpoint what ingredients are causing the allergy, so that you can switch to a more wholesome food source.
Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (IBO)Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (IBO) is another gastrointestinal complication commonly found in our feline friends. IBO often occurs when another intestinal disease is impacting the overall intestinal health. This happens because IBO is the result of an imbalance of the “good” and “bad” bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract. There is always an abundance of bacteria living inside the intestines. However, when an illness occurs, the bad bacteria can get out of hand, causing an imbalance and an unhappy kitty. Luckily, IBO is not chronic and can be treated, bringing balance back to your cat.
Underlying IssuesSometimes an underlying disease can cause a digestive problem to surface. For example, constipation in cats is often a side effect of another illness, such as kidney disease. When your cat is not retaining moisture, the stool becomes hard and difficult for your cat to pass. Similarly, if your cat suffers from arthritis, it may become painful for your cat to squat, leading to a build up in the intestines. Regardless of the initial cause of the disease, if your cat is experiencing constipation for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to take him to the vet to see what is causing this unpleasant symptom.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic disease and occurs when the stomach and/or intestinal tract is constantly inflamed. Inflammatory Bowel Disease occurs when there are too many white blood cells in intestinal walls. This inflammation causes the intestinal walls to thicken and develop scar tissue, making it difficult for cats to absorb crucial vitamins and nutrients from their food. Although cats will continue eating their food, they are not absorbing the calories and nutrients, causing your cat to start slowly withering away. Since your cat will seemingly continue with his or her regular diet, it’s important to keep an eye on his appearance and habits to identify this disease.
Treatments for Cat Stomach ProblemsWhen your cat is feeling down in the dumps, it’s essential that you are aware of the symptoms so that you can stop the digestive disease in it’s tracks. Luckily, there are a variety of homeopathic and veterinary treatments that can cure your kitty or help ease the complications.
Treatment for Intestinal Parasites in CatsIntestinal parasites are not only hard on your cat’s digestive system, but they are also hard to spot. Worms are often not visible to the naked eye, and a veterinarian will need to perform testing to uncover what type of parasite is causing the problem. Once the vet has discovered which pest is the culprit, they will recommend a de-worming medication. Although a trip to the vet is necessary to find out which type of worm is present, there are a number of homeopathic supplements you can integrate into your cat’s diet to help speed up the recovery process. Pumpkin seeds, Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, garlic, parsley water, papaya, grapefruit seed extract, and turmeric have all been found to help eliminate worms or alleviate the symptoms. When practicing homeopathic remedies, it is crucial to do ample research before feeding these items to your pet. An unsafe amount or combination of the wrong ingredients can have adverse effects, unintentionally harming your cat. In addition to integrating homeopathic supplements to your cat’s diet, keeping a clean home and yard can be key in avoiding and eliminating worms. Since worms can be contracted through poop, rodents, and fleas, keeping a clean home and yard can help minimize the presence of these unwanted visitors. Keep the litter box clean so that your cat doesn’t re-infect himself during recovery.
Treatment for Ingestion of Foreign ObjectsIf your cat gets extremely excited when the holiday tinsel comes out, it may be best to avoid putting these hazardous materials within your cat’s line of fire. The best way to keep your cat from ingesting foreign objects is to avoid giving him the opportunity. Keep the yarn in the arts and crafts box and keep your hair ties in the bathroom drawer. Sometimes, a hairball too big for your cat to cough-up is the cause of the stomach problem. Avoid this problem by brushing your cat regularly with a fine-toothed comb to capture shedding fur. If your cat does happen to snack on some string, the vet will have to perform x-rays to identify the object and then remove it, most likely through surgery. Some homeopathic vets recommend nux vomica to help your cat expel the foreign object. However, always be careful when diagnosing this issue yourself.
Treatment for Feline Food AllergiesWhen food allergies are at the root of your cat’s unsettled stomach, try switching to a hypoallergenic diet. There are a number of hypoallergenic foods available, and your vet can recommend the best one for your feline friend. In some cases, your vet may even recommend a food not available in stores. If you want to formulate a diet for your cat at home, you can try a raw diet, but ensure they are getting the vital ingredients they need. Every cat’s diet should include a meat protein, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. One way to achieve this is to enhance your cat’s food with an Omega 3 & 6 and fatty acid rich supplement such as Missing Link’s Feline Formula. If you choose to create a diet on your own, ensure that you research the diet prior to avoid any further irritation to your cat’s stomach.
Treatment for IBO in CatsIf your feline friend is experiencing Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (IBO), your veterinarian will most likely prescribe an antibiotic to eliminate the overgrowth of the bad bacteria causing the imbalance. Since antibiotics don’t discriminate between the good and bad bacteria, it is important to couple antibiotics with probiotics. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus are the good bacteria that keep the bad guys in check. There are a number of probiotics and probiotic formulas available that you can use to enhance your cat’s diet.
Treatment for IBD in CatsInflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is probably the most difficult complication to treat. This disease will require multiple trips to the vet, and you should not attempt to cure it on your own. The vet will provide your cat with steroids and immunosuppressants, and you can switch your cat to a hypoallergenic diet or raw diet to help mitigate the problem. Although it is not proven to work as well as steroids, raw diets have shown signs of alleviating inflammation, which can keep your cat more comfortable while they combat the symptoms of IBD.
Promoting Cat Digestive HealthIt may go without saying that the best way treat digestive issues is to attempt to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Although sometimes you cannot control what diseases your cat will develop, there are steps you can take to help. The first step is feeding your cat a nutrient-rich diet. Ensure your cat is getting ample vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, Omega 3 & 6, and probiotics. There are a number of supplements available that can restore balance to your cat’s diet. When your cat is eating nutrient rich meals, they are less likely to develop digestive complications. Often the standard, name-brand cat foods are over-processed and do not have high-quality ingredients. Take a careful look at the food you are feeding your cat and enhance their food with nourishing supplements. Another way you can prevent diseases is to keep both your cat and their environment clean. By keeping your cat’s coat neat and tidy, you will eliminate the risk of hairballs. Similarly, by keeping their physical environment clean, you decrease the risk of parasites and the risk of them eating something questionable that may get lodged in their system. Although curious cats are bound to get themselves into trouble once in awhile, by keeping a watchful eye on their digestive heath, you can stop problems dead in their tracks!