Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?
Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

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Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

An upset stomach is more common in cats than you might think. But how can you tell if it's a serious problem?

Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging, and heaving retch. But in a flash, the cat seems to snap back to good health while you're left scrubbing the carpet.

The scenario is a familiar one for Cynthia Bowen of Cleveland, Ohio. As the owner of four Maine Coons, Bowen has cleaned her share of messes. "It would happen every couple of months or so," she says. "Otherwise, they were perfectly healthy."

Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do almost on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a better relationship with your cat.

 

Cause for Alarm?

Repeated cat vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But, because vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what's normal? "A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this 'normal,'" says Dr. William Folger, a DVM from Houston.

He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain, or retches continuously, or if there's blood in the vomit, take her to a veterinarian. And, as always, if you're suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat's discomfort and your worries as well.

 

Why Cats Vomit

Many owners attribute their cat's vomiting to hairballs, but that's not the only culprit. "It's careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs," says Dr. Folger. Two other frequent causes of an upset stomach are:

  • Eating too fast. Cats sometimes eat too much, too fast. When the stomach wall expands too quickly, a signal is sent to the brain to cause regurgitation. In these cases, the mess on your floor is from regurgitation, not actual vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, he brings up fluid and food from his esophagus by opening his mouth–unlike vomiting, where there's gagging and retching. Regurgitated food is still formed, and may smell fermented. "Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating," says Dr. Sara Stephens, a DVM from Montana. But don't assume regurgitation is always a case of eating too fast. It could be caused by esophageal problems, obstruction of the digestive tract, hairballs, or dehydration. If you've forced your cat to eat slowly and he still has problems, contact a veterinarian.
     
  • Curiosity. Grass, carpet, and toilet paper are just a few things cats may digest and later vomit. The vomiting is a protective mechanism–nature's way of cleansing your cat’s system. Sometimes, though, curiosity can lead to more serious problems. String, toy parts, and feathers are favorites of playful felines and can lodge in the stomach or intestine, causing repeated vomiting and severe distress. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, take her to a veterinarian immediately; surgery is often necessary to remove the object.

 

Preventative Measures

Often, owners accept their pet's vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of tummy troubles doesn't mean you have to sit idly by.

One simple preventative measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Stephens recommends smaller portions, elevating your cat's food dish slightly, or putting an object, such as a ball, into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, and thus her intake will be slowed. If you do this, make sure the ball isn't small enough to swallow. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.

If simple solutions don't work, watch your cat's eating behavior and reactions. Bowen, for example, tried changing her cats' diets. "Since switching to IAMS®, they rarely throw up," Bowen says.

 

"Usually, when you change to a higher-quality diet, there is no problem," Stephens says. Here are some tips for helping make sure your cat's change is as successful and comfortable as possible:

  • Go slowly. Make the transition gradually to allow your cat time to adjust. "Make sure the cat eats something every day," Stephens advises. "A cat that quits eating suddenly can develop liver problems."
     
  • Add appeal. Switching from wet to dry or vice versa should also be done gradually. Many cats find canned food more palatable. If you switch to dry, add water and warm it slightly for more appeal. Discard uneaten food after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage.
     
  • Measure up. How much should you feed? Your cat's age, sex, breed, activity level, and overall health need to be taken into consideration. Talk with your veterinarian, then read the manufacturer's recommendations. Premium foods like IAMS cat foods are more nutrient-dense than many non-premium diets, so don't be surprised if the recommended amounts seem low.
     
  • Pay attention. Beyond careful measuring, also regularly weigh your cat and adjust the feeding amount accordingly after switching to a premium food. Your cat may appear happy if you overfeed him. But over time, he may become overweight. Tummy troubles can be in the past with your veterinarian’s help and a little effort on your part.

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    orange cat in hands of pet parent

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    Are You Ready to Adopt a Cat? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

    Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.

     

    What to Consider before Adopting a Cat 

    First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).

     

    Cat-proofing Your Home 

    Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:

    • Household cleaners and chemicals
    • Medications
    • Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
    • Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol

     

    Cat Supplies You’ll Need 

    You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.

     

    Cost of Cat Care 

    Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.

     

    Cat Exercise and Playtime 

    Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.

     

    Cat Socialization 

    Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.

     

    Litter and Litterboxes 

    Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.

     

    A Lifetime Commitment 

    Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    Choosing the Right Cat for You 

    A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.

     

    What Is Your Lifestyle Like? 

    If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms. 

    Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.

     

    What Cat Personality Suits You? 

    Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.

     

    Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat? 

    Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.

    Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.

     

    Fur Better or Fur Worse 

    All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    Where to Adopt a Cat 

    There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.

    In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.

     

    Adopting a Cat from a Shelter 

    At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.

     

    Adopting a Cat from a Rescue 

    Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.

    Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    The Cat Adoption Process 

    While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:

     

    1. Application

    Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.

    Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:

    • Do you own or rent?
    • Have you had a cat before?
    • Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
    • Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
    • Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
    • Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
    • What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?

     

    They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.

     

    2. Home Inspection 

    A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.

     

    3. Adoption Fees 

    As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.

    Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.

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    orange cat in hands of pet parent
    orange cat in hands of pet parent
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