How to care for my cat before I see the vet?
July 28, 2011 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Newbie pet owner. Cat has diarrhea, time to worry, or not?

The vet's closed for the day, and I don't think this registers as a medical emergency at this point. But cleaning out the litterbox yesterday evening, and checking after work today...something's not right. No blood or anything, but the litter clumps look more like funnel cake than normal stool.

She hasn't had any people food this wee, though I did give her a little can of wet food (Newman's Own) on Tuesday. She seems to like wet food better than the Iams dry food she gets now, and I was going to start integrating that into her diet as more than just a treat. She didn't eat very much of it, and I ended up throwing it out. (Fancy Feast is apparently much preferred) She's probably also had 3-4 Temptations cat treats since Monday.

So far there have been 2-3 instances of diarrhea, all in the litterbox, and she's drinking water normally. She's actually been MORE playful than normal and doesn't seem sick in any other way. Is it time to call the vet tomorrow, or wait another day? Should I keep giving her her normal dry food, or do fasting or the hamburger & rice thing?

And don't think I forgot the rules! Here's a picture of Roxy. I'm usually pretty rotten at taking care of myself, but I'd like to do better by her.
posted by Caravantea to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
As long as she's eating and drinking normally, you'll be fine waiting on the vet until tomorrow. Do keep an eye on her, though, and call the vet in the morning.
posted by something something at 2:17 PM on July 28, 2011

Yeah, I think you're fine waiting until tomorrow. The fact that she's also pretty lively and playfull is a good sign. If she gets all sulky-looking and sits in a lump all crouched into herself, and wants to be left alone, or hides, that's when it's time to worry. But if she's lively and playful, and her water intake is normal, those are all good things.

The diarrhea could just be from her system adjusting to the new food -- sometimes that happens if you give a cat a type of food they've never had before.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:30 PM on July 28, 2011

I've heard that wet food tends to give cats the runs. I certainly have noticed it in my kitty when we give him wet food as a treat. Wet food also gives him horrible, acrid, unforgiveable gas.
posted by coppermoss at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2011

It's not at all unusual for a cat to have diarrhea for a day or two after eating something other than their usual food (and treats seem to be especially problematic). One of my cats used to do this every single time I bought a new bag of dry food--his tummy got less sensitive as he got older. If it goes longer than a couple of days, I would call the vet.

And what a cute little girl!
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:38 PM on July 28, 2011

Aww, she's a darling British Shorthair! Those eyes! :D

You aren't describing anything that sounds like a "must get to the vet TODAY" emergency, but as a newbie to cat-servitude you should definitely stick with your plan to consult with the vet tomorrow. They won't necessarily ask you to bring her in right away, mind you, but they may have some expert advice to offer nonetheless, and if you DO need to bring her in better to find out & arrange that sooner rather than later.

All that said, I have 4 cats and they all seem to occasionally experience random Poop Weirdness. One of them used to have the runs nearly constantly, but it turned out he had food intolerances (corn is his worst trigger, I can't even use corn-based *litter* because he gets sick from grooming himself after using it). He's now on a grain-free/raw-meat diet and has no back-end problems whatsoever so that was an easy "fix" in his case. But every cat is an individual and things like that can be tough to pin down if they're not glaringly obvious.

Another thing I've seen happen (mainly with my 9-year-old Siamese girl, who seems to produce half her weight in fur on a weekly basis) is that the cat will get a nasty hairball, which leads to a round of constipation (which you may not even notice unless you actually see Kitty straining in the box), which is followed by a day or so of the squirts. Something to do with stomach irritation / efforts by the body to add more water into the stool to get things moving. So if your girl is hairball-prone (something that is indeed quite possible in short-haired cats) you may be able to stave off future discomfort by brushing/furminating on a regular basis.

Finally, as somewhat of an aside, don't give up on the wet food! For some reason it has this reputation as being "rich" or likely to cause poo problems but really I suspect what people THINK is this is actually just a temporary adjustment to a change in protein/fat/fiber ratios that occurs mainly in cats who were not raised on a varied diet. Wet food is heaps better for your kitty than dry, in terms of kidney/urinary-tract health especially, and also in terms of helping her avoid conditions like diabetes in the long term. 'Course some cats would literally rather starve than eat anything but crunchies, but if yours is enjoying the wet stuff I would say you're in luck. You also sound like you're doing fine so far in terms of your vigilance re. kitty's health...keep it up!
posted by aecorwin at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2011

I just noticed you didn't mention if she was eating normally. I assume she is? I would just keep her on her regular food--more changes in her diet would make it worse, not better.

If she isn't eating, that's serious and I would call the vet right away.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:40 PM on July 28, 2011

I had a cat who would get diarrhea when I switched her food without a slow transition so I think that might be it.

Oh, and by the way: My goodness! Roxy is CUTE!!
posted by smirkyfodder at 2:55 PM on July 28, 2011

Our scottish folds, who are from a line bred with british shorthairs, have gotten diarrhea every time something different has gone on with their food, or when they are stressed out. I'd just give her regular food and check with the vet first thing if she's otherwise happily eating and drinking.
posted by Zophi at 2:57 PM on July 28, 2011

Your cat is probably fine. Maybe adjusting to the new food, maybe found a delicious dead bug behind the couch. If it continues, call the vet, but chances are, no biggie.

Those orange eyes! That's pretty rare, I think. What a lovely beastie.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:05 PM on July 28, 2011

Ok let me save you a vet visit. We shelled out $75 we didn't really have to take our dog to the vet. He was diarrheaing all over the house.

He told us it was because he had been exclusively eating science diet and we changes to purina ( I was lazy to go get the science diet), so that was what made him sick.

Reading that you gave your cat wet food could be the cause. Do you always do wet food? If so was it a different brand? Or maybe you switched from dry different brand to wet different brand.
posted by Sweetmag at 3:17 PM on July 28, 2011

Call the vet in the AM, but don't panic tonight.

If you take her in tomorrow, your vet may want a fecal sample to check for parasites or an infection - if you can grab a fresh, er, 'sample' from the litterbox just before you leave, that will probably be far preferable for kitty than having them use the sampling apparatus (after all, if she has diarrhea, she's probably going to be tender).

If you need something to help settle her tummy this evening, I have had luck with Kaolin Pectin (what USED to be in Kaopectate - don't use the current formulation of Kaopectate, it's got salicylates in it now which are toxic to cats in large doses).

Our black kitty, Torgo, has food sensitivities and an unquenchable hunger for human food, which means I've got to spend lots of time thinking about his digestion.
posted by subbes at 3:28 PM on July 28, 2011

Thank you for formatting your cat question correctly with those OMGSOCUTE photos.

I think the wet food could be the culprit here, too, but for a slightly different reason. When our roommate's cat started having occasional diarrhea, the vet told us that some cats are sensitive to fish and shouldn't eat it. Once we started giving her wet food with a different protein source (she especially likes chicken and turkey), her poop returned to normal and she hasn't had diarrhea since.
posted by bedhead at 3:28 PM on July 28, 2011

1. She's gorgeous!
2. Cat treats could very well be the problem. We have a cat that can't tolerate those Temptations things at all.
3. If I wasn't posting from my phone I'd link, but recently on AskMe, there was a long comment from vet (it got sidebarred, I believe), about how you should actually feeds cats only wet food, not dry.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:52 PM on July 28, 2011

Oh and I should add that Fancy Feast is basically Cat Crack. It is the ONLY wet food my picky Siamese princess will eat. Moreover, the "classic pate'" varieties are surprisingly decent in terms of nutritional value for your resident obligate carnivore. You just want to avoid the weird gimmicky "florentine in gravy" variants as those tend to include stuff like wheat gluten and corn powder and whatnot.

And I also forgot to note in my last comment that I have had good luck resolving unserious kittybuttsquirtage with both canned pumpkin and slippery elm bark.
posted by aecorwin at 4:34 PM on July 28, 2011

I'd say keep an eye on the poop, if she's eating and drinking OK and not showing any signs of dehydration (pinch the skin on the back of the cats neck if it springs back almost instantaneously the cat is fine, in a dehydrated cat the skin sort of gathered up). Watch the poop for signs of blood, if there is any blood get to the vets ASAP.

If you do go to the vets take a nice fresh poop sample with you as it makes it easier for them to check for parasites and things.

When in doubt you can always ring your vet with questions like these, most are good at offering advice over the phone to worried new owners. (if they're not you might want to find another vet).

If it makes you feel better my dog has bad diarrhea at the moment too so I am watching all the same signs.
posted by wwax at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2011

Oh I almost forgot don't fast your cat for more than 12 hours, unlike dogs cats can get liver problems if they are fasted or don't eat for some other reason they can getHepatic Lipidosis. so only do that under a vets supervision.
posted by wwax at 5:20 PM on July 28, 2011

Are her eyes bright? Is her nose wet? Does she still have what looks like tiny devil horns made of fur next to her ears?

If she is still eating, drinking and playing and if she doesn't show any signs of illness (dull fur, dry nose, others mentioned above) it's probably different food issues.

Incidentally, the Florentine in Gravy stuff is like crack mixed with heroin and meth for cats. And it costs almost as much. (One of my cats for the first time in her insane little life eats full cat sized meals, as long as I feed her that.)
posted by jeather at 6:25 PM on July 28, 2011

Here's the best advice I've ever seen on feeding housecats on the Internet (mentioned above by MexicanYenta and it's from AskMe). Strongly recommend that all cat owners read it.

The first thing to worry about with diarrhea in felines is dehydration; an easy basic test for that is lifting the cat's loose neck "scruff" and releasing it. If the skin returns to normal position quickly, that's good. If the scruff is slow to fall back into place or stays up off the body a bit, chances are your cat is seriously dehydrated and needs to see a vet ASAP. The second thing to attend to is the cause of the diarrhea; could be a food change, might be a food sensitivity, could be parasites, could be illness. Also, wwax is spot on with the caution about hepatic lipidosis.

I know it's late, but so long as Roxy isn't showing signs of dehydration or intestinal bleeding, a vet visit isn't immediate.

Roxy is a gorgeous moggy, and I hope she's right as rain soon.

I'd also probably toss the Temptations treats; those niblets are crap.
posted by vers at 7:03 PM on July 28, 2011

I know I'm late on this, but what everyone said up-thread. Any change of diet is almost guaranteed to change a kitty's bowel movements. As long as she continues to eat, drink, play and appears healthy (eyes, nose, fur) she's probably fine. If the diarrhea doesn't clear up in a day or two I would take her to your vet.
posted by deborah at 11:48 AM on July 29, 2011

« Older I just ordered my passport.   |   Do I need a doctor? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.