Food for a cat with issues
January 3, 2010 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Cat Food Filter: Cat with digestive issues is no longer eating prescription food. Need help finding new food, or a new vet.

I inherited ownership of a cat when a roommate moved out (on good terms) - the cat initially moved with her, but would not adapt to the new living space which already had a cat in it, so she returned to my home where I promised to take care of her. The cat was a rescue, and came from unknown medical background / breed / age. We've known since we had her (before she joined this household) that she's had digestive issues, usually loose stools and / or clenching issues, resulting in sloppy drops, as it were. While we're willing to live with this if needed, we'd like to find a way to help her produce less offensive stools.

The original owner fed the cat prescription food for a while, and then gradually weened her off of this and onto more mainstream food - Fromm Green Pea and Duck dry food, and Trader Joe's wet food. Eventually, she was weaned to just the dry food. She has a Drinkwell fountain that gives her constant running water, and I make sure I keep it clean.

About 2 years ago, the cat's stools became much sloppier, almost liquid. We consulted our vet, who had a case history of the cat, and began moving her back to the prescription food. We had originally been feeding her twice a day, and tried moving her to an automatic feeder that would feed her in smaller quantities four times a day, to ensure she was on an absolutely routine schedule that we couldn't screw up by forgetting, being late at work, etc. In the end, she's had food and mostly eaten it all up until recently, and the stools varied from liquid to solid with no determinable reasons or factors, given all other variables have been consistent. We tried to treat the loose stools with vet-prescribed pills for a few days, but she was so difficult to pill that it was getting to the point of almost hurting her to do so, and she clearly was unhappy with us for a full day after (which didn't help the next day when we tried again), and pill pockets, grinding the pill w/ food, etc. also failed.

In the past 2 months, her stools have become more solid, but she's also eating less and less. She's always complaining she is hungry, even when food is available, and she's visibly lost weight. She eats, but not as much as she used to. We take care to make sure her food and water equipment are clean. She's still on the prescription dry cat food - Royal Canin Veterinary Diets Green Pea and Duck Cat Food (Formerly IVD). We called our vet, asking if we should try another food, and the answer was a rather blase "If you do, it needs to be hypoallergenic" - no additional help or recommendations from what was once a trusted caretaker of this cat, who is familiar with her history. The cold delivery of response was enough to make us question continuing business with this vet.

At this point, I need two things:

1) Recommendations for wet or dry cat food for a cat with loose stools, about 10 years old (we think), that is exhibiting digestive issues.

2) Recommendations for a vet in the White Plains, NY area that actually cares about its clients and treat them and their owners with some level of empathy, instead of telling them something they already know and leaving them holding the bag. Specialty in cats is a plus.
posted by GJSchaller to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We're feeding ID dry. We tried to switch him to a high end OTC food but had a bad flare up of IBD. Unfortunately, it's prescription only. Also, if he's stressed or if he over eats (cat sitters fall for the "I'm hungry"), he gets those loose stools.
posted by arabelladragon at 5:51 PM on January 3, 2010

What's the condition for which your vet recommended the Royal Canin? If it needs to be "hypoallergenic," which allergen does she need to avoid?

In the short term, my go-to cat tempting food is baby food. If you get a selection of pureed meats in the little jars, you can add dollops as a calorie boost to her existing food.
posted by ErikaB at 6:08 PM on January 3, 2010

Were you giving metronidazole? Those pills taste very very bad to cats and many will fight you rather than take them. We solved that problem by breaking them up and putting them in empty gel caps so that the cats can't taste them before they swallow. Sometimes it works for cats that are hard to pill. If you think the medication was working, you might give it a try. Also, you might want to consider an internal medicine specialist for your kitty. Changing the diet may only exacerbate the problem. IM specialists do cost a bit more though.
posted by little miss s at 6:49 PM on January 3, 2010

My six year old cat had terrible, awful, shrieking horrors of vomiting and was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome; our other cat had terrible "hobo poos." We've fixed that by feeding them Natural Balance for fat cats and supplementing the skinny one with Innova EVO wet food. We chose these foods after a LOT of research, some of which I think I did by Asking Metafilter.

Prescription Diet food is not all that and a bag of chips. I'm pretty sure pet-extraordinaire biscotti has covered this at some point in the dim past, as this comes up from time to time, but if there is a chance that she's allergic to something in her food, she needs to go on an elimination diet to figure out what the problem is (or isn't, really). Any future diet can be based on the results of the elimination diet.

If you look at the ingredient list of i/d it's full of grains and glutens and things that cats and people can be allergic to. The Green Pea/Duck thing is not a bad rec because duck and green pea are sort of weird things that the cat has probably not had a lot of exposure to (and is therefore probably not allergic to), but the ingredients list is full of stuff you can't pronounce (or I can't, YMMV, clearly). Compare to EVO, which lists the ingredients in pretty simple terms. If I were in your particular situation, I would look for a pet supply store nearby that sells Natural Balance Green Pea and Salmon or Natural Balance Green Pea and Chicken.

I would also look for another vet, considering you feel like the vet "threw up his hands" about the issue and fobbed you off to look for diet advice on your own. This cat clearly has some GI issues that are (I assume) not parasite related and therefore have to be diet related. . . there will be a lot of trail and error, and while I am not the expert I believe biscotti to be, I did do a lot of work choosing our cats' foods, so I'm happy to talk with you via meMail or email. Good luck . .it's a long road to sort out but really excellent when you get there.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2010

Thank you for the advice. My immediate concern is getting her to eat so she puts on some weight - even if the stools are loose, that's a small price to pay for her not being a skeleton.

My apologies, yes, we did check for parasites - the vet's response may be exasperation at the lengths to which we've gone so far, to no avail. A good, simple process of elimination sounds like it may be it... I'll see what the local store carries in the way of NB and EVO, and see what I can do.

More feedback and advice is always welcome - the more, the better armed I will be.
posted by GJSchaller at 7:12 PM on January 3, 2010

My cat had the same problem with constant diarrhea. My vet tried different types of cat food to no avail. The cat was a Himalayan which made keeping her clean a real problem. As a last resort, we put her on Gerber baby food meats, pureed lamb. That was all she ate for about two years. Her stools firmed up and she maintained a healthy weight. We slowly introduced dry food over the next year. She lived another 12 years with no further gastric upset.

My vet's theory was that her gastric track was hyper irritated and overly sensitive. The lamb was very mild and easily digested giving her gastric track a rest.

Good luck, I know how distressing this can be.
posted by JujuB at 7:26 PM on January 3, 2010

FYI, our little pet supply shop here gave me a ton of samples when we were trying to work out what our cats would eat and what would be good for them; ask for samples, don't be shy. Quality pet food is expensive; samples will save you in the long run. Also, the people who own and staff those places are invariably going to be really sympathetic and want to help you, and may very well be hippy pet food evangelists, which is great. Pick their brains. They want to help you have a healthy, happy cat.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2010

I'm going to go the opposite route here - I have a kitty who was once prescribed a high end food by a vet (a particularly non-spendthrift brand of kitty food which incidentally is only available at the vet), which she deliberately eschewed in favor of.. the food from the doggy's bowl. Yes, blase' Eukanuba dry dog food only available at the finer pet retail locations. A particular food chocked full of, well, who knows what, it probably contains the animal equivalent of a double quarter-pounder with cheese and extra bacon. And the animals (both cat and dog) love it. Can't get enough of it.

My point? Not to belittle your cat's food allergy issue by any means, however, the solution may be more simple than you think and doesn't require the use of a specially bio-harmonically engineered animal serum crafted by a team of Swiss docs in a sequestered underground bunker, with one meal costing the equivalent of a average week's pay. You might add to your 'elimination diet' some 'placebo' foods consisting of regular off-the shelf, mundane kitty (or doggie) foods.

In my case, kitty gained a healthy weight, brought a noticeable swing to her step and added a bit of sass to her meow. And she's currently 25 years old. Good luck!
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:57 PM on January 3, 2010

I hate to be That Person Who Keeps Commenting, but regardless of how one person's cat has done eating dog food, please keep in mind that dog food is unsuitable for cats, as cats have different dietary needs than dogs.

Also, an elimination diet should be undertaken if possible with the assistance and guidance of your vet, or if your vet is useless in that department, another vet, or someone who really knows what they are talking about w/r/t pet nutrition. An elimination diet, by definition, does not include "placebo" foods.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:44 AM on January 4, 2010

My apologies, yes, we did check for parasites - the vet's response may be exasperation at the lengths to which we've gone so far, to no avail. A good, simple process of elimination sounds like it may be it... I'll see what the local store carries in the way of NB and EVO, and see what I can do.

Have you checked her bedding/butt for tapeworms (they look like little grains of rice)? They don't show up in stool analysis.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2010

Trust me, I have had a very... thorough examination of her rear end (She's a cat, her butt routinely winds up in my face). We did a full analysis about 2 years ago at the vet when this all began, including X-rays and blood work to look for possible thyroid issues, they all came back "normal."

IBS was mentioned specifically by the vet, although a cause was never actually diagnosed. No specific allergen was ever given, so I will need to do the elimination process myself. I'd been working on the recommendations from her vet visits prior to my taking ownership of her, but it looks like I'll need to start from scratch on that front.
posted by GJSchaller at 11:05 AM on January 4, 2010

Again, with the commenting, but if IBS has been a serious possibility, perhaps look into having her treated with steroids (prednisone is what they gave my cat). Steroids, plus making sure he's drinking a lot of water (pet fountain really caught his interest and increased his intake) are what finally pushed our boy into health.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2010

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