Foster cat: should I worry about the puking?
March 22, 2011 5:35 AM   Subscribe

I am fostering a seven year old cat as of last Thursday. She is vomiting her food every other day, but still urinating and defecating. Is this nerves due to big changes in her life, a need for a change in cat food, or should I take her to the vet?

The vomit is, so far as I can tell, exclusively cat food (ie, not fur balls, plant matter or anything else). I don't have an extensive relationship with her so I can't tell if her behavior has changed. She is still friendly, rubbing up against me and the boyfriend, playing with her toys, hanging out on the windowsill.

Before I was given her, her previous owners took her to the vet to get all her immunizations up to date and give her a check up. She was given a clean bill of health.

She was given to me with a bag of Meow Mix. Should I try a different food?

Should I take her to the vet (after finding an appropriate cat carrier)? I do have a good local vet already so that shouldn't be a problem.

This taking care of an animal thing is complicated and I want to do the best for her I can.

And, because I hear that it is required to post pictures of cute kitties, here's one of her.

And if you live in the NYC area: she's up for adoption if anyone is interested. She was in a two cat household, is okay with dogs, is spayed and darn cute.
posted by sciencegeek to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh come on. Vet.
posted by orthogonality at 5:38 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: > And wet stuff goes in the [more inside] please.
That's not helping to answer the question.

When she was given to you with the bag of Meow Mix did they say she had been eating it fine before that? I have found that if I accidentally buy, or have to buy because they are out of the normal cat food, a lower fat food that both my cats seem to throw up their food A LOT and we end up having to drive around to find the food that has worked best for them.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:43 AM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: They didn't say what her usual food was, but in my limited experience I don't know anyone who feeds their cat Meow Mix and I was wondering if it might have been a last minute bodega purchase. I know that she was fed only dry food in her former home, but not what brand.

For what it is worth, I tried to write the information before the fold in a strictly clinical manner. My apologies to your delicate stomach, but your comment does not help to answer my question.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:49 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Meow mix is about as bad as it gets when it comes to nutrition. If she was on meow mix prior to you getting her try to get some Nutro Natural Choice or EVO from the petstore and start mixing in a little and then gradually increase the amount of new food. Also is she eating the food really fast when she throws up? Or eating more before she throws up than the days when she doesn't throw up? If that's the case, try giving her a small amount of food multiple times instead of a big serving.
Hint: Any petfood that has foodcoloring in it is really bad.
posted by Ferrari328 at 5:54 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: One of my cats will vomit dry food under two circumstances: having eaten too fast (after the bowl has been left empty for a while), or when I change to a new brand. Good luck!
posted by kimota at 5:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My 9-year-old cat ALWAYS vomits if she gets Meow Mix (or any other similarly-cheap brand). IAMS hairball formula seems to be ok, though.
posted by belladonna at 6:17 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Are you fostering through a shelter or rescue organization? If you are, you should call them right away since you will need their authorization to take her to the vet (so you don't have to pay). They can also help you troubleshoot the vomiting. (I'm a cat foster person many times over).

If you are more informally fostering, keep in mind that cats vomit a lot. They do it when they are stressed, they do it when the food doesn't agree with them, and they do it when you've just cleaned the carpets (just for fun). Meow Mix is crappy cat food. Go get her some quality cat food at a pet food store, perferably wet food, so she can get some actual nutrition.
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also have a cat that vomits regularly when he eats too fast or when he is eating something unusual (say, if I accidentally get the fake meaty-bits style food instead of smooth). Cats do vomit a lot - someone (probably here) once explained helpfully that as carnivores their bodies have evolved to swiftly reject any food that feels iffy at all once inside them. I would try a different food - not only a different brand, but maybe different consistency, wet as opposed to dry - and see if that improves things; I would hold off on visiting the vet for a few days unless she is really not able to keep food down and seems otherwise in distress.
posted by Miko at 6:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: sciencegeek,

I had a similar issue a while ago.

In my case, it turned out to be pancreatitis. I took her to the vet, he gave her an anti inflammatory shot, and then put her on this food. They have different ones, she had the one for stomach issues.

Cats are very delicate. If I were you, I would buy this food and give it to her, and if she keeps vomiting, I would take her to the vet. My cat healed very well afterwards, but the doctor said she could have died out of dehydration/starvation.

the food is a little bit expensive, but you can keep receipts and give them to your friend later.

good luck, memail me if you need any more info, but IANYV, so I do recommend that you ask one!
posted by Tarumba at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2011

for some reason I thought you were keeping tha cat for a friend.

Also, my issue was that my kitty was vomiting pretty much every time she ate, a couple of times a day. If you have the impression she's not keeping any nutrients down, there is somethign wrong.

Also, try wet food, sometimes dry food does not suit them.
posted by Tarumba at 6:21 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, if you don't know what she was eating before, and she seems to be not liking this food, then go out and buy a bag or two of something else (buy something they might actually eat in the wild (chicken, liver, beef), not cheese flavored or griller's delights ;) ).

cats are picky, so it's a giant crap shoot. one of my cats will eat chicken, the other will steal my cookies if i leave them sitting out unattended. And they'll both throw up for good reasons, or none at all (cleaned the carpets (just for fun) , like Pineapplicious said) good luck
posted by zombieApoc at 6:22 AM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: Tarumba: thanks for the link to your question. I just did the skin turgor test and she seems not to be dehydrated, although she was slightly annoyed to be woken up just have her skin pulled around.

I am going to go get an alternate (and non-technicolor) dry food and some wet food just in case and give her food in small quantities multiple times a day. I will try this for a couple of days, continue to monitor her for dehydration and if she is still vomiting, take her to the vet.

I am informally fostering her, but it is for a friend of a friend of a ... you get the idea.

Thank you all. I feel like a new mom - I can't tell if symptoms are within the range of normal.

and now, since she's awake, she's demanding petting and I'm being head butted.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:40 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: While taking her to the vet is a good idea, it's also quite possible her diet's just not agreeing with her.

It's very common for cats to develop a food allergy--a very common one is to corn, which is used in many processed kibbles and is unavoidable in cheap food. Go to a good pet store and ask about food options, read the labels and try and first to find a non-corn version. Pet shops will often give you a food sample to try for free.
posted by donovan at 6:57 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: If cats don't eat for a couple of days, they can develop fatty liver. If it gets to this point, things are much worse (though not untreatable) for a cat. My suggestion is to see a vet. If the vet doesn't want to do anything, but wait and see, at least ask for an anti-nausea medication.

Though, if the vet doesn't want to do anything, I'd suggest never going to that vet again.
posted by TheBones at 7:01 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: I had a cat who would puke every time he ate too much. Which was every 3-4 days. Totally healthy, just a bit of a pig.

Could you call your vet and ask them, if you already have a good, established relationship?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:06 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Every cat I've ever had (and that's a lot) will do the "scarf and barf" under stressful and unfamiliar conditions. Every time we move, we know we're in for a week of cleaning up cat vomit every morning. Meow Mix is crap, and she should probably be on something better, but it might not stop the vomiting. If your vet thinks she's okay, and she's not vomiting up all of her food all the time, she probably just needs time and love.
posted by SamanthaK at 7:09 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: If she seems well (headbutting is a good sign) and is eating and drinking, and is asking for food, that's good, but if it continues despite a switch to better-quality food, it's vet time, just to be sure. Perhaps try her on wet food, just in case she is dehydrated from the vomiting? That's a quick way to get some liquid into her.

Anecdote: my cat vomits more in the springtime, which is moulting time for him. Given the main mechanism cats have for washing themselves, the increased vomiting is not really surprising.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:13 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Cats vomit.
Every other day seems a bit frequent, but totally in line with a cat experiencing stress: home changes, food changes, etc.
It does not sound like she is showing any other signs of illness.
I would try a few different types of food and see how she does.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:08 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Aww that's a reallly cute kitty!! It's really nice of you to foster and you sound like a really good caregiver! I just stopped in to say how cute she is and to chalk up another line for Another cat who will vomit occasionally when she over eats or if I change her food or just for the heck of it!
Best of luck!
posted by heatherly at 8:19 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Try sticking a golf ball or rock in her food dish. We have a scarf and barf cat and the golf ball slows her eating down so that she doesn't toss is all up.
posted by sadtomato at 8:29 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a bulimic cat. He binges and purges, espcially if I have left his food dish towards the bottom and then refill. Your cat may not have impulse control, and you could only leave enough food in the dish for that meal.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:34 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Our roommate's cat is a puker. She throws up for precisely four reasons, in order of frequency: eating too fast, eating junk food, hairballs, or stress. Your cat is likely experiencing two or three of these reasons in her new situation: stress, junk food, and possibly eating too fast. The fixes for these have already been discussed (smaller portions more frequently, change to better food) and you sound like you're going to implement them. If vomiting continues, take her to the vet.

As an aside, I know you said you have a vet, but the Cat Practice on 5th and 20th is fantastic, especially if you want a cats-only place. They also may let you post photos and info about cats available for adoption on their walls - they always have three or four signs up when I go there.

Cute kitty photos always make it easier to answer these sorts of questions. Kudos for proper form. Also: awwww.
posted by bedhead at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: My cat used to do the "scarf and barf". I have since switched from the tuna fish sized cans of cat food to the smaller half-size cans, and feed her twice a day at breakfast and at dinner. She seems to have settled down quite a bit. She has one of those side-by-side food dishes, one side is kept full of dry food (Purina indoor formula) which she only nibbles at, and the other gets the wet food twice a day and is cleaned between feedings. She also has a water dish changed each feeding.

Cats are obligate carnivores. Most cats will drink very little water each day, and instead get a lot of their daily water/moisture intake from the meat they eat. A lot of cats on straight dry food diets develop problems down the road from insufficient water intake. When you serve your cat wet food, resist the urge to strain it; throw it all in the dish, juices and all.

You're not doing your cat a favor by feeding it straight dry food, this does not help to clean its teeth, as most dry food is so brittle that it simply crumbles and doesn't really do anything at all to clean the teeth. In fact, your cat is probably swallowing much of the dry food whole, if you take a good look at the vomit. It is a good idea to have your cat's teeth cleaned regularly, especially if it is strictly an indoor cat and not getting to much on bones or anything.
posted by xedrik at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of my cats also scarfs and barfs. Right now he's going through that stage again, so we put him on chicken and rice. (Just frozen chicken from the supermarket, defrosted but not cooked, and whizzed in the blender with cooked rice.)

It's bulky and plain and it seems to settle his stomach a bit. You might want to try that for a couple of mealtimes.
posted by vickyverky at 10:51 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Domestic cats, like lions and other wild cats, are obligate carnivores. Their metabolisms are developed for consuming only or almost exclusively flesh; they do not need plant material filler such as the corn, wheat, and rice found in dry cat food. It's pretty likely that if you switch this cat to all or mostly wet food that the vomiting will be greatly reduced if not disappear altogether (excepting the occasional hairball).
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:51 AM on March 22, 2011

Best answer: Cats puke a lot; change in environment and food can't help. Cats should have canned food, probably instead of, but certainly in addition to, dry. Call the vet and ask for advice.

If the cat was food-deprived for a while, it may be scarfing-n-barfing. Or it may just want to destroy your home. It's a cat, after all.
posted by theora55 at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: Summary of information:

Cats are strange digestive creatures who will vomit for several reasons some of which are cause for concern and others of which aren't. Dehydration is a bad thing but something that you can determine. If cats don't eat for a while, bad liver stuff happens.

Meow Mix is probably not the best choice for cat food.

Cats should eat wet food in addition to or instead of dry food because it is closer to what they were designed to eat.

Tips: rock or golf ball in bowl to help prevent "scarf n barf."

Updates: I gave her a small amount of the remaining cat food I had before heading out to get more cat food (Science Diet sensitive stomach dry food) and run some other errands. Upon my return: no vomit. Yay. I just gave her some of the cat food I brought back and will try to get some wet food later.

Thank you all again. You've given me good information so I can take care of the cat better.

Now, if only someone could teach me how to parallel park before my driving test on Thursday.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

sciencegeek said: "Now, if only someone could teach me how to parallel park before my driving test on Thursday"

"Think down to the wheels". Forget about the rest of the car, just think about where the wheels are in relation to the other vehicle.

Hope kitty stays better.
posted by Solomon at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: Updates: two Yays! and a mixed Yay/Boo!

I am sort of afraid to post this because I fear that it will jinx the good news: she has happily adjusted to the new food and there have been no further incidents. Also, based on her incredibly rapid response to me just opening a can of lentil soup, I think she WAS actually fed wet food before.

Also, a person looking for a cat is coming to meet her this weekend.

I did learn how to "parallel park" for my driving test. Apparently you don't have to do real parallel parking, you just have to park behind one car. Sadly my driving skills other than that weren't good enough to pass. I need more practice so that my nervous driving during a driving test is better than it was.

Thank you all for the excellent advice.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:46 PM on March 25, 2011

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