What to feed our cats?
October 28, 2010 9:13 AM   Subscribe

What the heck do I feed my cats to keep them from getting sick? Their tummies are obviously not happy with the new food. Should I switch back to the old unsatisfactory food, or try to find another new food?

We have two of the Best Cats Ever. (Most people on here have one of those, I've noticed!). They're both male, littermates, a year and a half old, and part Siamese. They're what we watch instead of TV. :)

We prefer to feed our cats free-choice dry food with the occasional supplement of wet food. Right now they're slim and athletic; if they gain weight in the future, we'll move them to actual portions and increase the wet food %. Our cats are indoor cats with the occasional leashed foray into the great outdoors.

Our cats used to eat Wellness Core. It's a grain free food (more on that in a moment), but they never really liked it. Also, a substantial portion of the bag was always dust & crumbs. They wouldn't eat the crumbs, and they also seemed to have a hard time picking up food from the inevitable pile of dust at the bottom of the bowl. As a customer, I was not happy with the food and would have preferred not to buy it if I had any other grain-free choices available in our former tiny town.

[The grain-free may be important - they had months of terrible diarrhea issues as kittens. The vet was unable to make a diagnosis; he tried several types of anti-parasite goop and a couple rounds of antibiotics, but nothing changed. We started to wonder if it was a food allergy. We were feeding Wellness Kitten, then tried Blue Buffalo Kitten, then when they were old enough for big kitty food, we tried the grain-free Wellness Core. The problem cleared up shortly after that - stool was normal, fur became shiny and soft, and the one that was skin and bones gained weight. I have no idea if it was coincidence or what, but they've been eating that ever since.]

We moved two months ago, and in the new pet store I found grain free Evo cat food. I added some Evo to their food bowl to see if it was acceptable - next morning, there was a dent where the new food had been while the old food was untouched. So we switched to the Evo over a week or so.

The problems began about a week after the introduction of the new food (two weeks ago). We're back to loose stools - sometimes they're neatly left outside the box, and once one of them was obviously trying to make it to the box in time and wasn't able. The front half of the cat was in the box, I think. We've never had litter box issues before - they have a Litter Robot, so it's always clean in there. I suspect this is just a symptom of "My tummy hurts!"

We have also had a couple episodes where the food came back up in the middle of the night. I don't know if this is one cat or both.

They have remained incredibly active through this whole thing - if anything, they're running and jumping and playing more than they were before.

What should I do? I just want them to feel good and be happy.

Should I get a bag of the old food to maybe get them back to normal?
Is it possible that the old issue never really went away, firm stool and shiny coats notwithstanding?
Do we need to go to a vet? We'll have to find a new one due to the move, but that would happen anyway when their shots are due.
posted by WowLookStars to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Should I get a bag of the old food to maybe get them back to normal?

This would be my first choice. It's entirely possible there's an ingredient/additive in the new stuff that doesn't agree with them. Change back to the old food and see if the problems go away. They might prefer the newer food and whinge about the old stuff but they'll eat it once they're hungry enough. If the problem doesn't fix after changing food, then head to the vet.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:17 AM on October 28, 2010

I have a similar problem with one of my cats. The vets couldn't figure out anything, and he literally nearly starved to death because of it. The only foods I've found that don't give him diarrhea are the Blue Buffalo and the Dick Van Patten Natural Balance foods. (He prefers the Natural Balance, FWIW.) They're expensive, but they keep him healthy and he may even be getting a bit fat. Shhh, he's a little sensitive about it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2010

I will be watching this thread with interest, as a person owned by an apparently food-intolerant kitteh.

I have noticed, in all of my attempts at finding a suitable food, that there seems to be a little grace period when the cat in question LOVES the new food, which is then followed by a resurgence of all symptoms--with a vengeance. (The last time I dealt with this, I was chagrined to be told to feed the beast kangaroo. Kangaroo. Whut?)
posted by thebrokedown at 9:37 AM on October 28, 2010

I'd go to the vet and explain your problem. Recurrent tummy troubles might be a sign of an underlying medical issue.

I took care of a cat for a while who had frequent GI issues similar to those you describe above. After a visit to the vet, a swab, and some lab work, we found out that he had a disorder whereby his body was unable to produce a certain enzyme necessary for digestion. Turns out he had been eating and eating but getting very little nutrition from his food, as he was unable to process it completely. While he wasn't showing any distinguishable-to-me signs of malnourishment, his bloodwork showed marginal deficiencies in several nutrients that might have led to problems down the road.

I had to put enzymatic "sprinkles" on his food from there on out and dose him with probiotic gel (eeugh) every day, but the poo problem was solved. Hill's Prescription Diet for GI Health (you must get this from your vet; the formula is not the same as Science Diet for Sensitive Stomach) was also easier for him to process. It wasn't cheap, but the cat's health improved exponentially with treatment.

tl;dr: Go to the vet.
posted by Spinneret at 9:37 AM on October 28, 2010

Both of my cats developed very loose stools when we started feeding them that exact same Evo dry food. We switched them to this Innova food and the diareha stopped almost immediately. Our vet's take was that the Evo food was actually too rich in protein for their digestive systems. The other Innova stuff is somewhat lower (but still high) in protein and does have some grain (rice), but much lower amounts of grain than other dry foods. With this food, one of the cats did start to become overweight and we started mixing in smaller amounts of dry food with
posted by otolith at 9:42 AM on October 28, 2010

oops, with this wet food. The combo has worked well so far, and the cats seem to really like both the wet and dry food.
posted by otolith at 9:43 AM on October 28, 2010

My cats went through a major pudding poops phase on our first bag of Innova Evo too. Their tummy troubles settled down by end the second (15#) bag but it took mixing the Evo into their old food over two months. At the beginning the Evo was no more than 10% of the bowl, and at the end of the transition, the Evo was at ~95%.
posted by jamaro at 9:44 AM on October 28, 2010

Question for the OP & everyone whose cats have had similar problems: are the loose stools reddish in color? Almost brick or terra-cotta colored? my younger cat periodically has these, which then self-correct, and I'm wondering if trying whichever foods have worked for you might help him as well... he's MUCH skinnier than his brother is, and they have similar activity levels, so this post has me wondering about enzymes and such now.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:47 AM on October 28, 2010

Completely anecdotal, of course, but Evo didn't agree with our cat either. He seemed to like it, but after about a week started throwing up. Then, awesomely, he added a urinary tract infection (which he's generally prone to, unlike barfing). There was no way to know for sure that it wasn't all just coincidentally timed illness, but everything cleared up quickly when we switched him back to his previous food.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:47 AM on October 28, 2010

I have an identical flame-point siamese who vomits at the slightest provocation. The only thing that seemed to work for her (other than a discontinued vet-only brand) was the Natural Balance food. (Unfortunately, it seems to give the other one UTIs, so I've been swapping foods around for a year to try to find one that works.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2010

Just coming in to say my vet advocates the raw meaty bone diet. He says he used to be very sceptical of it, but was convinced by another vet in his practice. He has now been championing it for several years because the cats and dogs he sees who are on the diet are noticeably healthier and have better teeth.

I don't feed my cat raw meaty bones all the time, but basically bone raw chicken thighs and give her the bones - which she loves - as a switch in for wet food on a couple of days a week.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2010

If they do have a food intolerance, it might not be grain. Contrary to popular conception, grains aren't the oly thing animals might be allergic to; a lot of animals are actually intolerant of proteins, not to carbohydrates or even additives. Grain-free might be a red herring, and it might be something else in the bag that's a problem.

If you have a pet who seems to be having issues with food intolerance, it can be helpful to compare item by item with foods that you know are okay, and foods that you know aren't. If you can find something in common in foods that you know aren't okay, if there are only a couple, then you can just try to avoid those in the future. If you compare an okay food and a not-okay food, it might be there's only a couple of differences, and so one of those might well be the culprit.

Heh. I somehow ended up with *two* dogs that are intolerant of beef. When the older one was having some issues with eating, I went through an absolute ton of lists trying to find a canned food that didn't have beef in it. I found that a lot of them, including the high-priced supposedly-better ones, had *unspecified* meats in them ("liver"--oh yeah? what kind of liver?). That can make it a little confusing when you're comparing "safe" foods to "unsafe" foods, so keep it in mind. Something that doesn't specify could be anything.
posted by galadriel at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2010

(also, as an anecdotal point, I'm fairly convinced my cat with the digestive problems is at least 50% Siamese, even though he's all black -- he's JUST like my former meezer, talks, and has a very Siamese-y face -- is this possibly just a "Siamese thing"?)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:59 AM on October 28, 2010

FWIW, my cats would not tolerate Wellness, and one of them cannot do the EVO wet food at all. They are both fine on Natural Balance, so there we stay.

Finding a cat food your cat likes and can / will eat can be a challenge. See if your local Hippy Pet Food Store will give you samples? But really, if you aren't happy with Wellness and EVO is giving you problems, then I'd think Natural Balance is a good next step.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2010

We've fed my two cats Wellness Core, and it's always gone over really well. We just rescued one of them from the pound, where I'm sure they don't serve the best food, and she adjusted really well (the occasional deadly fart aside).

I've noticed that Wellness Core is a bit crumbly and dusty, but it seems to go down really well, so we've stuck with it. Good luck.
posted by elder18 at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2010

I would just like to thank you for the proper formatting of cat-related questions, ie, including photos of the cats. Makes things much easier to answer.

My cat had an iron stomach, pretty much, until he became ill earlier this year, and then all of the dry food that he'd been fine with previously gave him the same loose stool reaction. The only dry food that worked for him was the Dick Van Patten Natural Balance stuff. Pricey, but he loved to eat it and his loose stools stopped. Our other cat, who has been a wee skinny thing her entire life, actually put on some weight eating it, not because it was high in calories, but she just actually ate more of it. It's the only dry food she really likes - she'll eat other dry food, but only if there's no wet food out and she's really hungry. She'll eat the Natural Balance even if there's wet food nearby.
posted by bedhead at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2010

Have you tried a different formulation/flavor of Evo?
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2010

You may need some prescription ID--yes it is a prescription OTC food at say PetCo/PetSmart but it has helped my Snowshoe siamese in the past with his IBS.
posted by stormpooper at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2010

Two anecdotes that might not help at all -

We switched our cat's diet a few months ago and he went through an adjustment period of maybe a month with periodic very-loose stools. He seems to have come through it ok, with the new diet (part canned Wellness chicken; part supermarket brand dry) unchanged. It's possible it was just a long adustment period to the change.

When I was a kid we had Balinese cats (a Siamese mix) who ended up being allergic to most proteins later in life; at the end they could only tolerate a food that was made from deer. They figured this out with help from the vet and a lengthy process of trial and error.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2010

2nding possible problem with the proteins. Cats can develop a sensitivity to common proteins - often referred to as an allergy. Hence, the foods labeled "hypoallergenic" that contain novel proteins like rabbit, duck & venison. Most cats haven't eaten these proteins previously since most kibbles and wet chow are chicken and/or turkey-based. Kangaroo (as thebrokedown mentions) is uber-novel and is sometimes a last resort for the most delicate of tums.

If possible, try switching to a grain-free food with a novel protein. I had good results with Natural Balance as well - specifically duck & green pea. Kittens loved it, helped the one with IBD (inflammetory bowel) and has the added bonus of being fairly low protein, important for my older cats, one of whom had acute kidney failure in the past. Only caveat: my previously petite Kate did get a bit chunky on it, but not dangerously so.

I'd try a new food, give it no more than a week/10 days to improve. If you don't see results in that time frame, it's off to the vet with those darling boys.

Good luck.
posted by East Siberian patchbelly wrangler at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2010

...dose him with probiotic gel

OOh, I totally forgot about that stuff, but yeah, I highly recommend it. For me, it's fixed all kinds of kitty stomach issues that the vet couldn't figure out. And it's not very expensive. Just a little tube of stuff that you squirt in their mouth. You give them 3 doses and you're good to go.

Bene Bac is the one I've used, but there may be others.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My suggestion is also around the un-common proteins "allergy" thing. My cat has allergies and my vet suggested trying a food with a protein that wasn't very common. So I switched to the Natural Balance green pea and duck formula and he's been fine since. So maybe that's also something to try. When I did the switch (from a Wellness one), I did it very gradually - mixing the two foods in pre-measured baggies and slowly increasing the ratio of new to old over two weeks. So maybe a very very slow transition to any new food is required. I'll do anything to avoid litterbox problems so maybe that was an insane way to do it but it was a very easy transition.
posted by marylynn at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2010

Wow, thanks for all the answers! None of my family's other animals has had a sensitive stomach, so hearing that this problem may not be uncommon makes me feel better. It's very interesting that Evo gave other cats issues as well.

For bitter-girl, the color is the same as a regular poo, it's just pudding-like in consistency. It's also very stinky. (ew)

I'll switch back to the old food temporarily to see if things calm down. I'm pretty tired of finding crap on the floor every other morning, as you can understand. :) If they're ok after that, then I'll slooooowly try another food (Natural Balance sounds good based on what people have written here). Before I move them to another food, I'll definitely sit down with the ingredient lists to see if there's a pattern. Thanks for that suggestion!

We had tried probiotics during the kitten-poopies era, with no improvement. I might give that another go though.
posted by WowLookStars at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2010

Sorry, I forgot to mention that they're due at the vet in two months anyway for their shots, so if they're back on the old food, that's probably just enough time to make sure things are actually back to normal. Then we can talk about it with whatever shiny new vet we choose. :)
posted by WowLookStars at 1:49 PM on October 28, 2010

Ha, yes, extremely stinky poop. Like health hazardous, toxic waste, glow-in-the-dark stinky. That was our experience, too.
posted by otolith at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2010

I tried putting my cats on EVO and they had the same exact problem you're describing. I went around and tried a bunch of different grain-free foods until I found one their stomachs can handle. According to the (non-vet but very knowledgable and next door to a vet) cat food store owner, some grain-free foods have too much protein and are too rich for some little kitty tummies. I tried Before Grain, which made them more solid but wicked stinky, and eventually settled on Nature's Variety Instinct. The cats both loved it and you could see a marked improvement in every way.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 4:16 PM on October 28, 2010

Other choices if you need to continue your search - this NOW cat food is also grain free, as is Orijen and Nature's Variety Instinct. Many pet food stores (the more boutique-y kind) have sample packs of these. Take care with weight gain with these high protein foods, though. By the bye, I used to feed my cat dry food, but switched to wet food for weight loss and urinary tract reasons - it was a great change for my cat.
posted by analog at 5:25 PM on October 28, 2010

Canned food is better for cats, so I might just ditch kibble altogether and feed canned, but if you have to feed dry for some reason, try Orijen. You are definitely right to feed grain free, cats are obligate carnivores, they should not eat grain.
posted by biscotti at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2010

My cats did great on Natural Balance and also raw meat and eggs.
posted by jadepearl at 8:17 PM on October 28, 2010

(Thanks -- I know it's not every day one gets to discuss the consistency, color and smell of one's cat's poop, but, you know... yay Metafilter? or something...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:44 AM on October 30, 2010

So! Our boys are not ill. We switched back to the old food, and everything was fine. Also, the Wellness Core here in Oregon is not crumbly and dusty at all, so we may stick with that. Maybe they just had elephants sit on the shipments to TX. :)
posted by WowLookStars at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2010

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