Trying to switch my cat to wet food, but she keeps vomiting!
November 27, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to switch my older cat from a dry to a wet canned food diet, but every time I try she ends up with vomiting and diarrhea. Help!

I have a nine-year-old cat who was recently diagnosed with idiopathic hypercalcemia. We have ruled out cancer, etc. The vet says that the easiest way to bring her calcium levels down without drugs is to switch her to a wet food diet. High calcium levels can eventually lead to kidney problems, so I'd like to try to accomplish this, and if I could do it through diet and not medication that would be a huge bonus. The vet agrees, as the medications used to treat this are steroid-based and that comes with its own set of side effects.

She has eaten wet food in the past when she lived with other cats and had no problem. However, that was a few years ago. The problem isn't getting her to eat wet food - she loves it and will eat whatever amount I put in front of her. This time around, though, whenever she eats wet food, she ends up with diarrhea and vomiting a few hours later. I have started the amount of wet food I am trying to give her at a quarter-can a day, but she is not even tolerating that.

Any suggestions as to what I should do? She currently eats Wellness Core grain-free dry food and I am trying to switch her to the Wellness grain-free canned foods, which she used to eat and which have a similar ingredient makeup (so I know it's not a food allergy). Should I try to reduce the amount I am feeding her even more, to like a tablespoon each day, and try to work her up from that if she can keep that down?

I have already tried switching brands - I tried the canned Merrick grain free food - and that just seemed to make things worse. If I stop feeding her the wet food the vomiting and diarrhea stops, so I know it is related to the switch in diet.

Any suggestions much appreciated!
posted by emily37 to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For our cat, the style and texture of the wet food is key. She will throw up the "pate-style" minced/mush varieties but is fine with "filet," "sliced" or anything that's more like real meat texture.
posted by Occula at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a kitty with a very sensitive stomach. She could only tolerate poultry-based wet food - I bought some "beef and bacon" (!) wet food and she threw it right up, even though it was an expensive pet-store brand. And one tiny bite of forbidden dairy and she'd throw up everything in her stomach. Some kitties are just more sensitive than others.

Based on that experience try the turkey or chicken Wellness canned food (which my sensitive-stomached kitty could tolerate, but she couldn't the fish or beef) first, that is if she will eat it; I know how picky kitties can be.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2011

Yep. If I switched food on my cat he'd be sick to his stomach too. I'd just continue with the original food and incrementally adjust the ratio of dry to wet over a couple of weeks. She'll get with the program and should be great.
posted by snsranch at 1:20 PM on November 27, 2011

Also try to get a wet food with comparable ingredients to the dry food. It's possible for cats to develop food allergies that they didn't have before. One of my cats used to be able to eat a variety of food, but now can only stomach one type without vomiting.

Also, starting her on the smallest amount possible is essential. Her body needs to adjust, and doing this as slowly and incrementally as possible will be the best for her.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:27 PM on November 27, 2011

There was some great advice in this askme about switching from dry to wet. You might find it helpful.
posted by patheral at 1:31 PM on November 27, 2011

Keep trying more different brands. My 2 cats didn't do at all well when I switched them from dry to Wellness canned (and there was eventually a recall of the batch they'd been on, grrr). When I gave them Tiki, life was good. They also do fine on "by Nature" and good ole Fancy Feast, which are cheaper.
posted by Corvid at 1:35 PM on November 27, 2011

Admittedly, I have only had a cat for a month. But she eats fancy FreshPet refrigerated food. The ingredients are listed right on the wrapper and contain simple ingredients you'll recognize; the food is always in chunks, rather than being a kind of mush; and best of all, it doesn't smell bad! Indeed, it smells quite all right. Like you'd be sort of thrilled to eat a container of it if you were on Fear Factor.

Maybe something to try?
posted by brina at 1:36 PM on November 27, 2011

It could be texture, or it could be formula, but mostly, many cats have sensitive stomachs to abrupt dietary changes. I think I would try to give her less and then work her up, and possibly try different textures - shredded, chunky, sliced, etc. - and if that doesn't work, different formulas. She might also be eating it too fast - I've heard it suggested that putting the wet food on the dry food can help slow it down. Good luck.
posted by sm1tten at 1:42 PM on November 27, 2011

I'd definitely try smaller amounts -- even something as small as a teaspoon/day to start. If that stays down for a few days, up the amount gradually.

Also, the Wellness is a pate-type, i think? I'd also try something more chunky, as some cats tolerate it better -- 2 of my three cats will only eat the chunky-types. Try some of the Fancy Feast shredded variaties, either regular FF or FF Elegant Medley stuff; it's not as bad as the other grocery-store brands. Once your cat is ok with this, you can always try a transition back to something grain-free.
posted by cgg at 1:59 PM on November 27, 2011

My cats throw up far less after I started elevating their food dishes a few inches. Something to do with their digestive tract, I think?
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:00 PM on November 27, 2011

Add the wet food to the dry in tiny amounts(think a teaspoon at a time) amounts and mix it well. When she can handle that add another teaspoon and take away a little dry food and so on. Texture can also play a part as can the type of meat. Chicken tends to be what vets recommend for sensitive tummies. Bringing the food up to room temperature can help too, if the cat is gulping down food that's been in a very cold fridge it might upset its stomach too. Slow and steady is your best bet with any diet changes for animals.
posted by wwax at 3:26 PM on November 27, 2011

My cat has an absurd sensitivity to the temperature of his food. If I gave him half a can and refrigerated the rest for later, he'd throw it up if it wasn't warmed up to a fairly warm room temperature afterward. He seems to do better if the food is kept in the cabinets that share a wall with the water heater--he'll throw it up if it's kept in a cooler cabinet.

Nthing elevated dishes, chicken, small amounts, and trying different textures. Some cats do well with pate-styles, some do better with shredded or what-have-you.
posted by lemonadeheretic at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you tried gradually introducing some plain old meat? Maybe boiled chicken breast or lamb? Obviously, this isn't a balanced diet, but maybe it could be worthwhile to try as a baseline "is she allergic" item. Do start with just a teaspoon or so, then two teaspoons the next day -- she sounds very sensitive.

Also, she might appreciate just a little (fresh, tender, chemical-free) grass - if you can buy just a little bit of wheat kernels and sprout them in a pot, then only let her nibble a little at a time, it might give her some of what she'd miss from the dry food (also, another at-home allergy test). There's probably a little calcium in it, though.
posted by amtho at 8:33 PM on November 27, 2011

Yes, slowly, slowly, mix in a tiny bit at a time. Try 1/2 tsp of wet food, a tablespoon of water, and a 1/4 cup dry food. Do this for at least a week, then add more wet food in 1/2 tsp increments of a week, or three days if she's tolerating it well.

Alternately, you could just try thinning out the wet food. Take a tsp of wet food and make it into a soup with warm water. See if she can keep that down. Sometimes wet food is just too rich till they get used to it.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:58 PM on November 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the suggestions! I will try some things out and report back. I completely did not consider the fact that the temperature of the food could be affecting this - but EVERY time she has kept the wet food down has been when it is room temperature, straight out of the can. The times she has vomited it up have primarily been when the food has been refrigerated.

I tried a quarter can of the Weruva chicken non-pate food about eight hours ago and so far so good. The food was room temp, but maybe I will try heating up another quarter can tomorrow and see if that works out.
posted by emily37 at 3:13 AM on November 28, 2011

Response by poster: Follow-up for anyone who cares: it really was the refrigerated thing and I didn't even notice. She was puking up the food anytime it was the refrigerated portion. So I switched to the small 3-oz cans, feeding her a full can at a time, and the vomiting stopped! I also switched from the pate style food (Wellness) to the chunky style (Weruva) and the diarrhea stopped as well. Thank you everyone for all the suggestions!
posted by emily37 at 10:04 PM on January 7, 2012

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