What Do Cats Recognize and Respond To?

As a veterinarian who has listened to my clients’ perspectives over the past 30 years and a person who has been “owned by cats” since I was 17 years old, I definitely have my thoughts on the answer—and it seems to be very selective.

An interesting article from 2013 affirms that cats do recognize human voices and respond primarily by ear and head movements. They further found that using harmonics and broad pitch were more effective in eliciting that response. They concluded that cats recognize their owners voice specifically by using the voices of three strangers followed by the owner and then another stranger.

Another interesting study from 2017 discussed how we talk to our pets compared to babies using high-pitched voice, simple content and harmonics. The study used “kitten directed speech” that was simple, higher pitched and musical or harmonic. They found that a cat’s hearing range had a wide scale and pitch and that cats may be attentive to human utterances with more variation.

Teaching a Cat to Respond to Voice Commands

One of the strongest variables I see in how responsive cats are to their owner’s voice is whether they are hungry or not. It is well-known among animal trainers that food is a powerful motivator to respond to verbal or audible cues. Common sense says that food, coupled with the owner’s voice, should result in a response at least some of the time.

If you think about cats only really having only two modes, predator or prey, their responses are typically in line with those modes, to seek food or hide. If we can erase any fear of us, the owner, and use food as a reward, they should come to us for food using an audible cue—or even a clicker.

Training a cat to respond to a verbal cue, such as their name, from a young age is very important. Because kittens have a very early human association period that can begin at 17 days old, it is important that kittens are handled and get used to human voice and touch to make sure there is absolutely no fear and they associate us with attention, love and food.

By starting as a kitten, using a harmonic pitch and variation, and possibly a multi-syllable name in association with food rewards, we should get a better response from our beloved felines (which could be anything from an ear twitch to running to us). As cat lovers we know, we simply need to accept graciously whatever they choose to do!

Now, Diane, as an animal communicator, has found that many cats do indeed respond to their names when called.  Her own cat Milo came to her when he was called and when she talked to one client, the cat told her that his owner comes home at night  from work and yells LEEEEOOOOO  when she wants him. (obviously his name is Leo).  It was so cute they way he imitated his owner.

Do cats know their names or recognize our voice in some other way? Although we’ve spent over 10,000 years sharing our time with cats, there’s very little research to determine the answer to this question.

Fortunately, things do seem to be changing a bit as we share even more time and experiences with our favorite felines, and there are a few interesting recent research pieces that says there is evidence that cats may indeed know their names.

By: Ken Lambrecht, DVM comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Spoil Your Senior Pet with These Fun and Frugal Ideas

Spoil Your Senior Pet with These Fun and Frugal Ideas

by Cindy Aldridge

 

Seeing your pet age may not be easy, but you can still show your furry friend that you care with some special pampering. Older pets can still enjoy love, attention, and bonding with their humans. But there are other ways to treat your favorite friend without going beyond your budget. To ensure your senior pet is especially spoiled, try these frugal yet fun ideas.

Host a Senior Pet Spa Day

Grooming sessions at the puppy salon can add up quickly. A budget-friendly fix is to bring the doggie spa home instead. Everything from bathing and brushing to hair and nail trimming can happen at home.

Make sure to keep the right supplies on hand — like pup-friendly shampoo and conditioner, a waterproof collar for security, and treats for afterward. Investing in a pet-specific comb and some extra towels can help, too.

Not only is the DIY spa method cheaper for you, but it may also be less stressful for your senior pup. Older pets with vision, hearing, or mobility challenges may feel scared at the groomer’s, so staying home means more security and more fun in the bath.

Invest in Must-Haves for Aging Pets

When it comes to making your pet comfortable, you may want to spend whatever it takes. But with a narrow budget, you’ll need to make each purchase count.

Items like a soothing heated bed, raised food dishes, snacks to hide medications in, and older-pet food blends are practically necessities for your pet’s comfort and overall health. Fortunately, you can find a Chewy promo code to help make these must-haves more affordable.

Some senior pet products do lend themselves to DIY, such as steps to make your dog’s climb into bed easier, or you might make a simple ramp to help your aging pet navigate stairs more safely. Think about the biggest challenge to your pet’s mobility and brainstorm ways to make daily living easier.

Bake Special (Nutritious) Snacks

Store-bought snacks can be an excellent treat on occasion. But since many older pets have unique dietary needs, making critter snacks at home could become a regular routine in your household. From minty snacks that help freshen your pet’s breath to pumpkin-flavored bites, there are all types of treats you can bake at home.

Since you’re controlling the oven and ingredients, you can also make softer treats that are gentler on senior teeth — not to mention, kinder on the budget. Once you find the perfect recipe, baking could become both you and your senior pet’s new favorite hobby.

Make Tasty Diet Tweaks

Senior dogs have unique nutritional requirements, says the AKC, including a need for more protein, less sodium, and possibly even more fat. Each pet is different, but older animals, in general, do well with diets rich in L-carnitine, which is present in red meat, chicken, fish, and dairy.

Though you can purchase affordable supplements for your older pet, changing up their diet to feature tasty staples is also a great and more cost-effective idea. Many of the foods that are healthy for humans are great for animals, too. Foods like peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and bananas are all great snacks to offer your senior pet, notes Whole Dog Journal. Bonus points if the tidbits come from your plate — everyone knows pets love to be treated like one of the family.

Even if they’re slowing down a bit, senior pets love pampering and special treats just as much as younger animals. With these frugal ideas, you don’t have to shell out a ton of cash to keep your pet comfortable and cared for. Need more ideas on showing your furry friend some TLC?

Laser pointers and Cats!

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

Why It’s so Hard to Cut Kitty’s Calories

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM


Estimates are that around 60% of cats in the U.S. are not only overweight, but obese. Owners of obese cats are often advised by their veterinarians to do the obvious — restrict the amount of calories kitty eats. However, this is apparently easier said than done, based on the low rate of compliance.
To try to answer the question of why it’s so difficult for cat parents to comply with recommendations to restrict how much their pets eat, scientists at Nestlé Purina Research set out to determine how much of an effect calorie restriction has on the feeding patterns of cats.
Specifically, “the objective of the present work was to better elucidate the impact of calorie cut-off on individual cat feeding behaviours, as well as on interactions between cats during food anticipation.”1
6% Reduction in Calories Has Dramatic Effect on How Cats Eat
For the study, the researchers assigned 80 domestic cats to two groups (40 per group) that were balanced for sex, age, weight, and body condition score. Cats being cats, several who “couldn’t adjust to their social group” were sent on their way, leaving 38 cats in the test group and 31 in the control group.
All the cats were fed the same commercially available diet on the same schedule. Canned food was the morning offering, kibble was served in the afternoon and overnight, along with very occasional treats. The test group of 38 cats was mildly calorie restricted (6%), which was accomplished by cutting off access to additional food when their allotted calorie intake was reached. All cats were monitored for 9 months, at which point the calorie restriction was ended.
The cats were free fed and typically consumed about 30% of their calories in the morning serving of wet food and 70% in dry food over the remainder of the day. However, the cats in the calorie restricted group quickly changed to rapidly consuming 70% of their calories in the first meal, leaving only 30% of their calories for the rest of the day. The cats in the control group, who continued to be free fed, didn’t change their eating behavior.
“While the control cats’ feeding behaviour remained unchanged throughout the trial, the study cats ate fewer but larger meals, came back faster to the food bowl after each meal, and ate their meals faster on the caloric restriction regimen compared to ad libitum feeding,” explained lead study author Séverine Ligout, PhD, in an interview with International Cat Care.
“However, one month after returning to ad libitum feeding, the study cats’ eating behaviours had returned to their baseline levels, showing that cats were able to readjust their feeding behaviours back to normal.”2
Calorie Restriction Also Increases Conflicts Between Cats
The researchers also observed an increase in conflicts between the calorie-restricted cats just before the first meal of the day. According to the researchers, it is likely linked to higher hunger and food motivation, since the cats have fewer calories to consume and they consume them faster, which leads to a longer period without food between the evening meal and breakfast the next morning.
The higher food motivation undoubtedly creates tension when several cats approach the food bowls for breakfast, leading to an increased likelihood of negative interactions. This behavior has been termed “irritability aggression” in other scientific studies and can be loosely compared to the hunger-driven irritability in humans known as “hangry” (a combination of hungry and angry).
“[The] conflicts consisted of avoidance of each other, one cat displacing another from a location by staring or approaching, lifting a paw in a threatening manner (i.e., as if to swat the other cat with its paw), and some cats actually made contact with another when swatting with their paws,” said Ligout.
“Thus, it looked like cats, just like us, are no strangers to the “hangry” (hungry + angry) feeling of hunger-driven irritability! Although no physical harm occurred during the study period, these interactions have the potential to impact negatively on the cats’ mental wellbeing and therefore welfare during the caloric restriction period, at least at actual feeding times.
These cats were housed in an enriched manner that allowed them to distance themselves from one another using space and physical structures, allowing them to avoid further conflict. In addition, their welfare was continually monitored throughout the study by veterinary professionals.”

Pet Parents Tend to Cave-in to Their ‘Hangry’ Cats
The researchers concluded that restricting the calories cats consume can change their feeding behavior significantly. Specifically, they eat larger meals faster, consuming their daily calorie allotment more quickly, which is outside the normal feline behavior of eating multiple small meals throughout the day.
So, while calorie restriction is a common strategy that humans employ when addressing feline obesity, from the cats’ perspective, it not only results in less food to eat, but also removes their sense of control over certain aspects of food availability and how much to eat.
Given that kitties like to feel in control of their living environment, it makes sense that they get “hangry” when their human attempts to restrict their food intake. According to the researchers, this leads to begging behavior, which then leads to lack of owner compliance.
Carnivores Fed Like Herbivores Results in Metabolic Confusion
Ideally, not allowing cats to free feed and become overweight is always the best advice when it comes to intentionally creating long-lived, disease-free cats. Cats, like other carnivores who remain well-muscled and lean throughout their lives, maintain innate metabolic flexibility when they’re at their ideal body weight and have periods of digestive rest in between meals.
Unlike carnivores, vegan animals (such as cows, goats and horses) need to nibble almost constantly to maintain their metabolic and physiologic wellbeing. The problem is when people feed their cats like goats, creating unhealthy and delicate metabolic butterflies that are prone to all sorts of health problems, especially when dieting.
As cats spend their days nibbling more and more, they can lose their ability to be sensitive to insulin and a variety of other metabolic hormones and end up with an overburdened liver and gallbladder and a sluggish and overworked digestive tract.
Many cats who nibble 24/7 lose their ability to effectively metabolize fatty acids at a normal rate, making them more metabolically fragile and prone to fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) if they skip meals. This is the exact opposite of how nature wired cats to be — resilient, athletic, stealthy hunters who stalk their prey and take long naps in between meals.
As guardians, we often unknowingly fail cats in all sorts of ways. We feed them far too much and far too often and we feed them ultraprocessed, high carb foods, which only fuels the problem. By the time we realize we’ve created hangry addicts, it can be really difficult to switch gears. If you find yourself in this position, working with an integrative feline veterinarian or health coach who can help you map out a strategic, safe and effective plan is the best approach.
Pro Tip: Encourage Hunting Behaviors at Mealtime
The researchers recommend strategies such as puzzle feeders and/or dividing food into multiple smaller meals to help mitigate “hangry” behaviors. This advice makes sense, as wild and feral cats are always on the move in search of their next meal.
Many domesticated cats, on the other hand, are free fed at the same location every day. The more you feed, the less interested your kitty is in “hunting” — which is good exercise — around the house. If the only time you see her in motion is when she’s walking to or from the buffet, she’s getting zero exercise.
My mom adopted two older, obese cats just over a year ago. We weaned them off kibble and onto raw food in a series of small steps and very slowly, so as not to create stress. They were free fed kibble their whole lives (hence the obesity), so first we transitioned them to scheduled feedings: 6 small meals a day. Then after a few weeks we reduced them to 4 meals and then 3 meals a day.
Next we transitioned them from dry to canned food (this took about a month), then weaned them from canned food to cooked commercial food (we used Smalls), then onto raw food. The entire process took over 3 months.
Lastly, we separated their daily food allotments into several small portions at dusk and dawn and placed them in different locations around the house for them to find (we feed them in separate parts of the house while they are “hunting” to make sure they don’t eat each other’s food). I recommend making use of indoor hunting feeders, which encourage natural feline behaviorsand provide mental stimulation as well.
Also consider putting food bowls or the hunting feeders at the bottom and top of as many flights of stairs as you have to encourage muscle-building exercise throughout the day.
A recent study suggesting cats may be healthiest being fed just once a day had many feline fanciers up in arms. If people suddenly cut meals for the majority of indoor, under-exercised, overfed cats all sorts of bad things can happen.
This study demonstrates the behavioral component of “dieting” cats and the correct assumption that the entire process of changing a cat’s food, food volume or feeding schedule is stressful and must be done very slowly (and patiently).

Pet Parents Tend to Cave-in to Their ‘Hangry’ Cats
The researchers concluded that restricting the calories cats consume can change their feeding behavior significantly. Specifically, they eat larger meals faster, consuming their daily calorie allotment more quickly, which is outside the normal feline behavior of eating multiple small meals throughout the day.
So, while calorie restriction is a common strategy that humans employ when addressing feline obesity, from the cats’ perspective, it not only results in less food to eat, but also removes their sense of control over certain aspects of food availability and how much to eat.
Given that kitties like to feel in control of their living environment, it makes sense that they get “hangry” when their human attempts to restrict their food intake. According to the researchers, this leads to begging behavior, which then leads to lack of owner compliance.
Carnivores Fed Like Herbivores Results in Metabolic Confusion
Ideally, not allowing cats to free feed and become overweight is always the best advice when it comes to intentionally creating long-lived, disease-free cats. Cats, like other carnivores who remain well-muscled and lean throughout their lives, maintain innate metabolic flexibility when they’re at their ideal body weight and have periods of digestive rest in between meals.
Unlike carnivores, vegan animals (such as cows, goats and horses) need to nibble almost constantly to maintain their metabolic and physiologic wellbeing. The problem is when people feed their cats like goats, creating unhealthy and delicate metabolic butterflies that are prone to all sorts of health problems, especially when dieting.
As cats spend their days nibbling more and more, they can lose their ability to be sensitive to insulin and a variety of other metabolic hormones and end up with an overburdened liver and gallbladder and a sluggish and overworked digestive tract.
Many cats who nibble 24/7 lose their ability to effectively metabolize fatty acids at a normal rate, making them more metabolically fragile and prone to fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) if they skip meals. This is the exact opposite of how nature wired cats to be — resilient, athletic, stealthy hunters who stalk their prey and take long naps in between meals.
As guardians, we often unknowingly fail cats in all sorts of ways. We feed them far too much and far too often and we feed them ultraprocessed, high carb foods, which only fuels the problem. By the time we realize we’ve created hangry addicts, it can be really difficult to switch gears. If you find yourself in this position, working with an integrative feline veterinarian or health coach who can help you map out a strategic, safe and effective plan is the best approach.
Pro Tip: Encourage Hunting Behaviors at Mealtime
The researchers recommend strategies such as puzzle feeders and/or dividing food into multiple smaller meals to help mitigate “hangry” behaviors. This advice makes sense, as wild and feral cats are always on the move in search of their next meal.
Many domesticated cats, on the other hand, are free fed at the same location every day. The more you feed, the less interested your kitty is in “hunting” — which is good exercise — around the house. If the only time you see her in motion is when she’s walking to or from the buffet, she’s getting zero exercise.
My mom adopted two older, obese cats just over a year ago. We weaned them off kibble and onto raw food in a series of small steps and very slowly, so as not to create stress. They were free fed kibble their whole lives (hence the obesity), so first we transitioned them to scheduled feedings: 6 small meals a day. Then after a few weeks we reduced them to 4 meals and then 3 meals a day.
Next we transitioned them from dry to canned food (this took about a month), then weaned them from canned food to cooked commercial food (we used Smalls), then onto raw food. The entire process took over 3 months.
Lastly, we separated their daily food allotments into several small portions at dusk and dawn and placed them in different locations around the house for them to find (we feed them in separate parts of the house while they are “hunting” to make sure they don’t eat each other’s food). I recommend making use of indoor hunting feeders, which encourage natural feline behaviorsand provide mental stimulation as well.
Also consider putting food bowls or the hunting feeders at the bottom and top of as many flights of stairs as you have to encourage muscle-building exercise throughout the day.
A recent study suggesting cats may be healthiest being fed just once a day had many feline fanciers up in arms. If people suddenly cut meals for the majority of indoor, under-exercised, overfed cats all sorts of bad things can happen.
This study demonstrates the behavioral component of “dieting” cats and the correct assumption that the entire process of changing a cat’s food, food volume or feeding schedule is stressful and must be done very slowly (and patiently).

What to Feed a Cat With a Sensitive Stomach

By Liz Bales, DVM

 

Does your cat have a sensitive stomach? Do they consistently vomit or cough up hairballs? Believe it or not, hairballs aren’t normal for cats; their bodies are made to pass the hair that they ingest from grooming.

So these could be signs that your cat is sensitive to something in their food.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances are commonly caused by poorly digestible foods, food allergies or food additives/flavorings/preservatives.

Many times, a diet that’s formulated to address your cat’s sensitive stomach can ease and even resolve the problem. But it’s important to not immediately jump to changing your cat’s diet without getting your vet’s input.

Here’s what you should do if your cat has a sensitive stomach and how you can help them find the right diet.

Talk With Your Veterinarian to Rule Out Other Medical Issues

Vomiting can be a sign of many different illnesses, not just a sensitivity to food. And coughing up a hairball can look very similar to general coughing and sneezing in a cat—which could actually be signs of feline asthma.

If your cat is vomiting food or hairballs once a month or more, or is also losing weight, a veterinary visit is recommended.

You should also try to get a video of your cat when they are exhibiting these behaviors so that your veterinarian can see what you see at home.

At the vet’s office, your veterinarian will check for clues as to what is causing the stomach upset. They may recommend diagnostic tests like blood work, X-rays or an ultrasound to find the cause of the GI upset.

By ruling out other medical issues, you can make sure they get right medical treatments for any underlying issues.

How to Find the Best Food for Your Cat’s Sensitive Stomach

Once you’ve dealt with any other health issues, you can work with your vet to figure out the best food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Your vet will be able to guide you towards foods that fit your cat’s nutritional requirements, while you can narrow it down by your cat’s food preferences to find the perfect match.

Here are some options your vet might suggest for finding a food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Start With a Diet Trial

Once your cat gets a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, a diet trial is the logical next step. Diet trials are a way to narrow down your cat’s food options until you find a food that suits their sensitive stomach.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for every cat. Your cat will have an individual response to each diet. So, work with your veterinarian to find the most suitable food for your cat’s needs.

It can take up to three or four months for your cat to clear the old diet from their system so that you can completely evaluate the new diet.

What to Look For in the New Diet

The best foods for a cat with a sensitive stomach will be highly digestible and contain no irritating ingredients. Highly digestible diets have moderate to low fat, moderate protein and moderate carbohydrates.

Many of these diets have additives that improve intestinal health, like soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and increased levels of antioxidant vitamins, and they contain no gluten, lactose, food coloring or preservatives.

Try a Hypoallergenic Diet

Cats can experience food allergies that cause gastrointestinal upset. Of all the components of the diet, the protein source is the most likely to cause food allergies.

Your cat can be allergic to any protein that they have been exposed to. For example, rabbit and chicken may both cause a food allergy. But, if your cat has never eaten rabbit before, their immune system hasn’t been sensitized to it, and they are unlikely to be allergic to it.

Some studies show that beef, chicken and fish are the most likely to cause allergies. The best cat food for helping cats dealing with food sensitivities for certain protein allergies are hypoallergenic diets.

Types of Hypoallergenic Diets for Cats

There are three main types of hypoallergenic diets:

  • Limited ingredient
  • Veterinary prescription food with a novel protein
  • Hydrolyzed protein

Limited ingredient diets typically contain only one protein source and one carbohydrate source, and they can be purchased without a prescription, like Natural Balance L.I.D. Chicken & Green Pea Formula grain-free canned cat food. However, these diets are not regulated to ensure that they don’t have cross-contamination.

For more highly allergic cats, veterinary prescription diets with novel animal proteins contain a single-source protein and are produced in a facility that prevents cross-contamination.

Hydrolyzed protein diets, which also require a veterinary prescription, break down the protein to a size that’s less likely to be recognized by the immune system, like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP dry cat food.

Try Simply Changing the Form of Cat Food

Your cat’s stomach sensitivity may improve by just changing the type of food that you feed.

For example, if your cat is experiencing stomach sensitivity on dry food, it is reasonable to try a low-carb, higher-protein canned food diet, like Royal Canin Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie canned cat food or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula canned cat food.

Likewise, if you are feeding wet food, you may do a trial of a dry food diet with a dry food like Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion dry cat food.

Try a Different Feeding Routine

Cats that eat large meals are more likely to vomit very soon after eating—tongue-in-cheek, we call this “scarf and barf.”

With a stomach the size of a ping-pong ball, cats, in particular, are physiologically and anatomically designed to eat small, frequent meals. They are designed to hunt, catch and play with many small meals a day. Eating one large bowl of food a day can lead to frequent regurgitation.

In general, small, frequent meals are best. This results in less gastric retention of food and increases the amount of food that is digested and absorbed.

You can recreate this natural feeding behavior with the award-winning, veterinary recommended Doc & Phoebe’s indoor hunting cat feeder kit.

Instead of filling the bowl twice a day, use the portion filler to put the food into each of the three mice and hide them around the house. This natural feeding style provides portion control, activity and stress reduction that has shown to decrease or eliminate vomiting.

By: Dr. Elizabeth Bales, DVM

 

At What Age Are Cats Fully Grown?

Reviewed for accuracy on September 30, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM as seen in PetMD

 

When a child finally turns 18 years old, they are generally considered to be an adult.

But what about our feline family members? At what age are cats fully grown? How do you know when to start feeding them adult cat food?

Your cat will hit several different milestones that signify that she’s becoming an adult cat, but there’s no one magic age where a cat stops growing and maturing.

Although there’s no definitive age, there are general age ranges where most cats generally stop growing and reach adulthood. Here’s what you can expect as your cat makes that transition.

When Do Kittens Stop Growing?

“Kittens usually stop growing at approximately 12 months of age,” says Dr. Nicole Fulcher, assistant director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, although they still may have some filling out to do. “A 12-month-old kitten is equivalent to a 15-year-old person. They are considered full-grown at 18 months of age—which is equivalent to a 21-year-old person.”

Even though many cats stop growing at 12 months, not all cats are done growing at this age. But if they are still growing, it will be at a much slower rate, generally from 12-18 months, so you can expect your cat to be very close to their full adult size at this point. But there may be some cats that can take up to 2 years to be fully grown.

Large breeds, in particular, can take longer. Maine Coons, for instance, might not reach their full size until they are 2 years old or so.

Milestones for Growing Cats

Here are some important milestones for kittens as they become adult cats:

  • Months 3-4: Baby teeth start to fall out and are replaced by adult teeth; this process is usually complete by 6 months of age.
  • Months 4-9: Kittens go through sexual maturation.
  • Months 9-12: A kitten is almost fully grown.
  • 1 year+: Kittens are just reaching adulthood.
  • 2 years+: Kittens are socially and behaviorally mature.

When Should I Feed My Kitten Adult Cat Food?

The right time to transition your cat from kitten to adult food is dependent on many factors. For most cats, around 10-12 months of age is appropriate.

However, a young Maine Coon who is struggling to keep weight on could probably benefit from remaining on kitten food until they are 2 years old or even longer. On the other hand, a kitten who is maturing quickly and becoming overweight on kitten food might benefit from switching at around 8 months of age.

Ask your veterinarian when your cat is ready to make sure you are meeting her nutritional needs.

How Often Should You Feed Kittens?

Most kittens should be fed free-choice until they are around 6 months old because of their high energy requirements.

“From 6 months to a year, an owner can feed three times a day,” says Dr. Jim Carlson, owner of the Riverside Animal Clinic, located outside of Chicago.

After a year, offering meals two times a day will work for most cats, but more frequent, smaller meals may continue to be beneficial for others.

By: Deidre Grieves

 

The Best Food to Avoid Shrinking Kitty Syndrome

By Dr. Karen Becker

If you’re a cat person, you’ve probably noticed that many kitties seem to get thinner as they get older. This isn’t your imagination — in fact, research shows that a decrease in body weight is quite common in kitties over 11 years of age.1

There are a variety of reasons older cats lose weight. Today I’m discussing dietary considerations, but it’s important to note that other factors, such as stress and certain diseases can also play a role. For more information on those issues, read Shrinking Kitty Syndrome.

Studies show that both protein and fat digestibility decrease in cats after age 10.2,3 Dietary fat contains more calories per gram than either proteins or carbohydrates, so if older cats’ ability to digest fat is limited, it can have a major effect on their ability to extract calories from food.4

Research also shows that about 20% of cats 14 years of age and older don’t digest protein efficiently.5 A compromised ability to digest both fat and protein is likely a major reason senior and geriatric cats lose both fat and muscle mass.

The cause of this phenomenon hasn’t been identified, but in my opinion, long-term consumption (often a lifetime) of ultra-processed cat food containing poor quality, hard-to-digest ingredients plays a significant role.

Reducing Your Older Cat’s Protein Intake Isn’t the Answer

For many years, the veterinary community’s answer to the problem of reduced protein digestibility in older cats was reduced protein diets to mitigate compromised kidney and liver function. However, reduced protein cat food can be a recipe for disaster, because we now know aging cats actually need more protein than their younger counterparts.

In the 1990s, retired veterinary nutritionist Dr. Delmar Finco discovered protein requirements actually increase as pets age. He demonstrated that even in animals with kidney failure, restricting protein didn’t improve their health or longevity.6

In fact, Finco’s research proved cats on low protein diets develop hypopro­teinemia, which is an abnormally low level of protein in the blood. The cats had muscle wasting, became catabolic (lost both fat and muscle mass), and lost weight. The more protein was restricted, the sicker these kitties became.

Finco discovered it was the level of phosphorus in foods, not necessarily the amount of protein that exacerbated kidney disease, and thanks to his groundbreaking research, veterinary recommendations have changed.

These days, we recommend a diet containing excellent quality (human grade) protein that is highly digestible and assimilable for animals struggling with under-functioning kidneys and livers. We also recommend restricting phosphorus in the diet, but not necessarily protein.

If your cat is in the later stages of kidney failure, as defined by the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS), a reduced amount of protein is suggested, but should still be offered in a high-quality, kidney-friendly fresh food format.

We now know that cats, as true carnivores, require lots of high-quality, human grade animal protein not only to maintain good organ and immune function, but also to maintain healthy muscle mass as they go through life and the aging process.

Not All Protein Is Created Equal

The quality of the protein you feed your senior cat is of utmost importance. Highly digestible and assimilable protein, coupled with high moisture content, is the type of nutrition that causes the least amount of stress on your kitty’s aging organs.

It’s sort of a well-kept secret, especially among ultra-processed pet food manufacturers, that protein quality is extremely variable. There are highly assimilable and digestible animal proteins (proteins your cat’s body can easily absorb and derive nutrition from), and there are plant proteins that are both biologically inappropriate and difficult to process.

All protein has a biologic value, which is its usable amino acid content. Eggs have the highest biologic value at 100%. Fish is a close second at 92%. Feathers, as you might guess, have zero biologic value. They are technically animal protein, but they are neither digestible nor assimilable.

There are also foods that are high in (plant) protein but biologically inappropriate for cats. Soy is a good example, with a biologic value of 67%. Many popular pet foods contain soy as a protein source, as well as corn. This is an inexpensive way for pet food manufacturers to increase protein content on the guaranteed analysis printed on the label. But because soy and corn are not species-appropriate, they don’t belong in your cat’s diet.

Since digestion and assimilation are not always measured for pet foods, manufacturers are not penalized for adding protein that has little to no nutritional value for the species of animal eating it. Call your pet food manufacturer and ask if their meat is human-edible quality. “Feed-grade” meat is substantially cheaper (and potentially much less assimilable), which is why 99% of pet food companies use it.

In addition to corn and soy (as well as other grains) that are inflammatory and incomplete proteins for carnivores, there are many other reasons not to feed carbohydrates to cats. Mycotoxins, GMO’s, glyphosate exposure and sugar load (which leads to lifestyle-induced diabetes), as well as obesity and arthritis are all solid reasons to avoid offsetting high quality protein with cheap fillers.

The Best Diet for Most Older Cats

Some foods are metabolically stressful; for instance, grains and potatoes prompt a big insulin release. The nutrition that generates the least amount of metabolic stress for most cats, regardless of age, is whole, unprocessed, organic, non-GMO, and minimally processed (raw or poached). This of course includes human quality animal meat, which should be the foundation of your kitty’s diet throughout her life.

Foods that have not been highly processed are the most assimilable for a cat’s body. All the moisture in the food remains in the food, whereas foods that have been extruded (most dry food) can have drastically depleted moisture content — as low as 12%.

If you can’t feed fresh food (raw or gently cooked), second-best is a dehydrated or freeze-dried balanced diet reconstituted with plenty of water. Your cat’s kidneys and liver can be further stressed as a result of chronic low-grade dehydration, so all foods served dry can pose a problem long term.

I recommend serving your cat food in its natural state to provide needed moisture, and to insure the highest level of biologic assimilation and digestion. That means feeding a nutritionally optimal, antioxidant rich, species-specific diet that includes omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil.

Moisture is an aging cat’s best friend, so encourage yours to drink by offering a variety of glass, metal or food grade ceramic water bowls around the house or a drinking fountain, in addition to minimizing (or preferably eliminating) dry food.

However, if your kitty is addicted to terrible food, adding a whole body supplement, such as Feline Whole Body Support is a good idea. Adding bone broth to a dry food addict’s meal is also a great way to increase hydration and fluid balance.

Additional beneficial supplements include SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) as a safe and effective way to stall mental decline, improve mobility and assist in liver detoxification. Consult your integrative veterinarian for the right dose size.

Periodic detoxification with milk thistle, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and dandelion can also be very beneficial, as can providing super green foods in the form of fresh cat grass to nibble on. Chlorophyll, chlorella or spirulina can also be offered in supplement form to enhance your cat’s detoxification processes.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to be safe for cats and can improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs and may also reduce hairball issues. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.

For aging kitties with a cognitive shift that makes them prowl the house at night and vocalize, consider low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use rhodiola, chamomile and l-theanine with good results.

Tips for Encouraging Your Cat to Eat

If your kitty is eating ultra-processed pet food, again, my first recommendation is to try to slowly and safely transition her to a balanced, fresh, organic, non-GMO, species-appropriate diet made with human grade ingredients. Whether her diet is fresh or processed, however, the goal should always be to make sure your cat eats something.

Unlike dogs and humans, it’s dangerous for kitties to go any length of time without nourishment, as it can lead to a potentially fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. Keeping your older cat well-nourished can require creativity along with some gentle prodding, and lots of patience. Things you can do to tempt her include:

Warming her food to bring out the aroma
Offering gently cooked food with a strong smell or topped with a sardine (packed in water)
Offering new food from a paper plate in case she’s developed an aversion to her food bowl for some reason
Offering a small selection of different flavors and textures of canned cat food or home cooked meat or bone broth
Enticing her with species-appropriate human food she has enjoyed in the past, such as warm baked chicken or salmon
If she’s addicted to dry food and refuses everything else, try adding warm water to each meal or add an aromatic enticement like tuna juice, warm goat’s milk, chicken broth or bonito flakes

It’s also important to make kitty’s mealtime a very low-stress, pleasant experience. Make sure you feed her in a calm, quiet environment that is optimally comfortable.

 

How to Relieve Cat Stomach Issues

Reviewed for accuracy on August 28, 2018, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

 

When you’re hit with an upset stomach, you seek sympathy from your cat while contemplating the contents of your medicine cabinet. But cat stomach issues are different. If your cat throws up, or you wake up to the nasty reality of cat diarrhea, your kitty relies on you to find out what’s wrong and how to get her back on track.

Symptoms of Cat Stomach Upset

“Symptoms of an upset stomach in a cat include licking the lips, which is a sign of nausea, vomiting and refusing to eat,” says Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, medical director and founder of Just Cats Clinic in Reston, Virginia. “Possibly the cat ate something it shouldn’t have, like a bug or a leaf of a plant.” Diarrhea may also develop if the problem affects the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr. Mark Rondeau, DVM, BS, of PennVet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, says that while vomiting is the most visible sign of cat stomach upset, “a change in behavior, such as being less active or not interacting or hiding in unusual places—a lot of those behaviors are common in cats that may have upset stomachs.”

And no, those hairballs that suddenly appear on the new living room carpet are not the same thing as when your cat throws up. “This is an extremely common myth,” Dr. Arguelles says. “There’s a distinction between a hairball—which looks like a piece of poop made out of hair—and vomit, which may have hair in it along with partially digested food or bile.”

Dr. Rondeau adds that if a cat occasionally hurls a hairball—ejecting hair that isn’t processed out through the ‘other end’—it’s not something to worry about, but that “the reasons for feline vomiting can include a long list of things.”

Possible Causes of Cat Stomach Upset

Dr. Arguelles says frequent causes of cat stomach upset include switching cat food too frequently as well as intestinal parasites. Dr. Rondeau adds that parasites are especially common in young cats and kittens.

Both Dr. Arguelles and Dr. Rondeau say that food intolerance, food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also commonly lead to an upset cat stomach. More serious causes, such as gastrointestinal cancers, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, can also result in vomiting.

If you are worried that your cat is sick, seek veterinary care immediately, says Dr. Arguelles.

How To Cure Cat Stomach Upset

Detecting what’s behind your cat’s vomiting is crucial, and that means a trip to the vet.  A cat who throws up multiple times in a day or who has not eaten in 48 hours needs to see a vet immediately.

Dr. Arguelles says, “Veterinarians have anti-nausea medication that can be given as an injection or as an oral tablet (Cerenia)” as well as medications to help with diarrhea and poor appetite. A temporary switch to a bland diet may be recommended until the cat’s symptoms subside. 

In some cases, a veterinarian will recommend heartworm medicine for cats or a prescription dewormer for cats. “A cat that is vomiting more than once per month should be examined by a veterinarian, who will deworm—or recommend your cat be on monthly prevention with Revolution, Advantage Multi or Heartgard,” says Dr. Arguelles. Many heartworm medicines for cats also kill some of the intestinal parasites that can cause cat stomach upset.

She says a vet may also recommend abdominal radiographs (X-rays) to check for an obstruction, foreign body or other problem, or lab work to seek underlying metabolic causes of vomiting, such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. 

“In cases that have normal labs and radiographs, your vet may then recommend an abdominal ultrasound to visualize the layers and thickness of the stomach and intestines. Sometimes, we find foreign material that wasn’t visible on radiographs, other times we find thickening of the intestines and enlargement of lymph nodes—and then we are looking at either inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal lymphoma,” she says. “The only way to determine which of these diseases is present is through intestinal biopsies.”

Dr. Rondeau says if your cat has just started vomiting or is suddenly “lethargic, won’t eat or is hiding, definitely bring him to the vet. But we also see a lot of cats with chronic vomiting… In those cases, maybe they aren’t lethargic, but the owners notice some vomiting and see the cat has lost weight … for those, it is definitely time to check with the vet.”

Preventing Cat Stomach Issues

Once the serious issues are ruled out, you can work on helping to avoid future cat stomach issues.

“The three things that you can do to promote good digestive health in cats are placing them on monthly prevention that deworms them for intestinal parasites, feeding them a balanced diet (not raw and not homemade), and taking them to the veterinarian at least yearly,” says Dr. Arguelles. As long as your cat is healthy, “if you are feeding a high-quality diet, your cat’s digestive health will be good.”

High-Quality Diets for Cats

Dr. Rondeau agrees that a high-quality diet is key, along with “avoiding table scraps. It is mostly about consistency for cats. If yours is happy to eat the same thing and is getting that balanced diet, don’t switch brands or flavors. We might project onto them that they are bored with whatever brand and taste, but rapid diet changes can create problems.”

When cats develop diarrhea, a diet change alone can fix the problem about half the time, explains Dr. Arguelles. “Diarrhea is frustrating in that even if we treat appropriately and make the right changes and recommendations, it can take several days to clear up.”

She recommends a vet visit if a diet change doesn’t help or if your cat is vomiting, lethargic or has other worrisome symptoms.

Prescription Cat Food

Cats with fiber-responsive diarrhea “will respond to adding fiber to the diet. You can do this by feeding Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Fiber Response cat food, a prescription cat food that includes brewers’ rice, B vitamins and psyllium husk seed, among other ingredients, or by adding canned pumpkin or Metamucil.” Nummy Tum-Tum Pure Organic Pumpkin is 100% organic pumpkin that can be mixed with dry or canned cat food to help provide some relief to your cat’s stomach.

Dr. Rondeau says that a tablespoon of pumpkin with a cat’s food is also often a recommendation for cats with constipation, but adds that “Pumpkin is fibrous, but Metamucil or similar supplements will offer more fiber per volume.”

Probiotics for Cats

Additional help for cat diarrhea may come from probiotics for cats, which Dr. Rondeau describes as “A colony of good bacteria that can populate the cat’s GI tract [and is] good for the gut health.”

Dr. Arguelles says that when the good bacteria thrive, the bad bacteria are crowded out. “Not all probiotic supplements are created equal,” she says. “The probiotics I recommend include Purina’s FortiFlora and Nutramax’s Proviable.”

Both Nutramax Proviable-DC capsules and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora probiotic cat supplement contain live microorganisms, and FortiFlora includes antioxidant vitamins E, C and beta-carotene. Both can be sprinkled on, or mixed in with, your cat’s food.

Monitoring your cat’s activity and being aware of changes in her habits, as well as working closely with your vet, is the best way to promote a healthy cat stomach.

By: Kathy Blumenstock

 

What’s Behind Your Aging Cat’s Quirky Behavior?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Cats, like humans, experience physical and mental changes as they age, which can translate into behavioral changes that range from minor to major. Your once social kitty may spend much of his time sleeping or even avoiding the family, and cats that are typically mellow can react aggressively when you don’t expect it.

While it may sound alarming that your cat may morph into a seemingly different feline once he reaches his golden years, it’s a natural and, typically, gradual process.

It’s important, though, to keep a close eye on your senior kitty to watch out for any changes that could signal an underlying disease or pain. Twice-yearly wellness visits with your veterinarian will help with this, as will being a dutiful owner who takes note of any unusual changes.

How Old Is ‘Old’ for a Cat?

It’s often said that one cat year is equal to seven human years. This isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s true that cats age much faster than humans. Generally, a 1-year-old cat is similar physiologically to a 16-year-old human, while 2-year-old cat is like a 21-year-old human.

“For every year thereafter,” the Cornell University Feline Health Center notes, “each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.”1 With proper care, many cats live into their late teens and early 20, but around the age of 10, a cat is considered to be a “senior.”

You may notice he’s slowed down a bit from his younger years, and by the time a cat reaches 12 to 14 years, he’s probably moving even slower and may be having some age-related health problems, such as vision and hearing loss or age-related cognitive decline.

At 15 or 16, cats join the geriatric club, where their movements and cognitive function are likely noticeably slower than they once were. These numbers are just estimates, though, as every cat will age at its own individual pace — just like humans.

Behavioral Changes Are Common as Cats Age

Aging is a natural process that’s often accompanied by behavioral changes, which commonly include:2

Less grooming, and less effective grooming, which can lead to fur matting or skin odor Less use of a scratching post, which may lead to overgrown claws
Avoidance of social interaction Wandering
Excessive meowing, especially at night Disorientation
Changes in temperament, such as increased aggression or anxiety Increased napping
Litterbox accidents Acting less responsive or less alert

Some of these changes, such as sleeping more and preferring to spend more time alone, are a normal part of getting older, but other are signs of potential health issues. Even though your cat is a senior, many conditions can be treated or managed, which is why letting your veterinarian know about behavioral changes is so important.

Hiding, loss of appetite or a reluctance to move around can be signs that your cat is in pain, possibly due to arthritis, for instance. Aggression can also be rooted in pain or can result if your cat is feeling increasingly anxious — an outcome sometimes linked to anxiety.

“Cats who are suffering from cognitive decline, and thus experiencing increased anxiety, can show a tendency to react aggressively,” Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, a behavior research scientist, told PopSugar.3

Hyperthyroidism can also lead to behavioral changes in cats. Sudden, unexpected bursts of energy in an older cat is a definite sign he or she may have an overactive thyroid. It’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible in this case.

In older cats, increased meowing can be the result of cognitive dysfunction, which is a form of dementia, especially if it’s accompanied by confusion (staring off into space), eliminating outside the litterbox and loss of interest in interacting with human family members. Increased vocalizing could also be due to stress or confusion.

 

How to Support Your Aging Cat

Aside from bringing your senior cat to your veterinarian twice a year to keep an eye out for age-related health problems, there are simple ways to help your pet age gracefully. You’ll want to respect his wishes for increased alone time and sleep, but at the same time make a point to interact with him daily, via belly rubs, ear scratches, toys or treats — whatever he prefers.

Senior cats can also be easily stressed by changes in their household and routine, so keep to a familiar schedule and avoid making any significant changes that aren’t absolutely necessary. Providing a warm, soft space for your cat to nap is essential, as is regular brushing and nail trims.

Continue feeding a nutritionally balanced, antioxidant-rich, species-appropriate diet that includes omega-3 essential fats such as krill oil, and consider supplements that may benefit your aged kitty, including:

  • SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), which may help stall mental decline, improve mobility and assist in liver detoxification.
  • Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is a naturally produced enzyme that is important for the conversion of superoxide radicals into less reactive molecules in the body, but production can diminish with age. SOD is found in unprocessed raw food but is inactivated with heat processing, so if your cat is consuming ultra-processed food (kibble or canned food), supplementing with SOD may be a wise choice.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), found in coconut oil, which can improve brain energy metabolism. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.
  • Low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect but also an antioxidant. This is useful for senior cats that vocalize and wander at night.
  • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane, to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage.

Most of all, make sure to spend all the time you can with your long-time friend, and if you notice any behavioral changes, bring them up with your veterinarian. Even small changes can give clues about your pet’s health that shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Cat Constipated???

Cat Constipated???

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Just like us, our feline friends can suffer from constipation. In some kitties it happens just once in a while; for others it can become a persistent problem.

When stool stays in the colon too long, it becomes dry, hard, and difficult to pass. Left untreated, chronic constipation can lead to megacolon, a terrible condition in which the large intestine stretches so much it can no longer do its job effectively.

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Constipated

Your kitty should poop at least once every day because it’s an important part of the body’s natural detoxification process.

Your cat is constipated when he either has difficulty pooping (and the stool he produces is dry and hard), or he isn’t pooping at all. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on kitty’s daily “output.” The quantity, color, texture, and smell, along with the presence of mucus or blood, are all indicators of his general well-being.

Often, what passes from (or in the case of constipation, doesn’t pass from) your pet’s body is the first sign of a health problem, so you should regularly monitor your cats litterbox and familiarize yourself with what “normal” looks like for your kitty.

Your cat’s stools should be brown, formed, and soft enough that litter sticks to them. If your kitty isn’t going daily or his stools are so hard and dry that litter doesn’t stick to them, he could be constipated. And keep in mind most constipated cats will never show overt signs of a problem. In fact, some suffer their entire lives and their humans don’t realize it because they aren’t aware of the more subtle signs of chronic constipation.

Left untreated, a constipated cat may begin to vomit intermittently, lose his appetite, and start dropping weight. He may seem lethargic. Don’t let the problem progress to this point before you take action.

Potential Causes of Feline Constipation

Often, constipation in cats is simply the result of inadequate water consumption or lack of dietary fiber. But sometimes the situation is more complicated, involving an obstruction inside the colon or a problem in the pelvic cavity, such as a tumor that interferes with bowel function.

If you actually saw your cat swallow something that could cause an obstruction, get veterinary help right away as this situation can rapidly progress to a very serious and even fatal problem.

Intact males, especially if they’re older, can develop enlarged prostates that compress the bowel, creating very thin stools or even an obstruction. This problem can usually be resolved by having your male cat neutered.

Hernias in the rectum are another obstruction that can cause constipation. The hernia bulges into the rectum, closing off passage of stool. Hernias usually require surgery to repair.

Constipation can also be the result of a neuromuscular problem or a disease like hypothyroidism or hypercalcemia. Some kitties have insufficient muscle tone or neuromuscular disorders that impede the body’s ability to efficiently move waste through the colon.

Other causes of constipation can include infected or cancerous anal glands, or a hip or pelvic injury that makes pooping painful, the effects of surgery, certain medications, iron supplements, and stress.

Hands Down, the Most Common Reason for Kitty Constipation

With all the above said, when it comes to constipation in cats, by far the most common cause is inadequate fluid intake. Your kitty’s natural prey (e.g., mice) contains 70% to 75% water, and felines are designed to get most of the water their bodies need from their diet.

Cats fed exclusively kibble are getting only a very small amount (10% to 12%) of the moisture their bodies need, and unlike dogs and other animals, they won’t make up the difference at the water bowl due to their “underactive” thirst drive. So, these cats are chronically dehydrated, which causes constipation.

The lack of moisture causes stool in the colon to turn dry, hard and painful to pass; it also causes the kidneys to become stressed. If your cat happens to be overweight and not getting enough exercise, the problem is exacerbated. Physical activity stimulates rhythmic muscle contractions (peristalsis) in the colon, which helps move things through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Unfortunately, many housecats have lifestyles that involve eating too much of the wrong type of food and moving too little. Swallowing fur during grooming can further slow the transit time of waste through the colon, especially in cats fed dry diets who are also not getting adequate exercise.

How to Help a Constipated Cat

Assuming your kitty is in otherwise good health, there are several things you can do to help solve her constipation issues.

  1. If you’re feeding kibble, I strongly encourage you to switch to a moisture-rich, nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet. It’s always the first thing I recommend, especially for cats with any sort of digestive issue. At a minimum, transition from dry food to canned food, which will automatically increase the moisture in your cat’s system.
  2. If you make your own food, be absolutely sure your kitty’s diet is nutritionally balanced. Many of the homemade recipes I’ve analyzed have two to three times the upper safe limits of calcium levels recommended for pets, which will lead to constipation, among many other things. Recipes to try.
  3. Make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh, filtered drinking water at all times. Place a few stainless steel or Pyrex glass bowls around the house in areas she frequents. Avoid plastic water bowls, which can make the water taste unpleasant. You might also want to consider purchasing a pet water fountain to replace your cat’s water bowl, since many kitties will drink more from a moving water source. If she still isn’t drinking enough, consider adding bone broth to her food to increase the moisture content in her diet.
  4. Offer bone broth, in addition to water. Broths are an excellent way to entice cats to drink more. Add a bowl of warm broth beside her regular food on a daily basis. Here’s a recipe for homemade bone broth.
  5. Cats need to move their bodies through play and exercise. Movement also helps stool move through the colon. Regular physical activity can help prevent or remedy constipation.
  6. Add digestive enzymes and probiotics to your pet’s meals. Both these supplements will help with maldigestion, which is often the cause of both occasional constipation and diarrhea.
  7. If your cat lived in the wild, his natural prey would provide ample fiber in the form of fur, feathers and predigested gut contents. Needless to say, domesticated pets don’t get a lot of these things in their meals! Good replacement options for your feline companion include:
Psyllium husk powder — 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food Ground dark green leafy veggies — 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily with food
Coconut oil — 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily Canned 100 percent pumpkin — 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food
Aloe juice (not the topical gel) — 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food Acacia fiber — 1/8 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily as prebiotic fiber
  1. Chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage can also be very beneficial in helping to alleviate chronic constipation in pets.

Please note these recommendations are for cats experiencing a minor, temporary bout of constipation. If your kitty’s condition is not resolving or seems chronic, or if you aren’t sure of the cause, make an appointment with your veterinarian.