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December 30, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

What is a normal level of cat barf, and how can we reduce it?

We have two cats. Between the two of them, cat barf is a daily occurrence. Is it normal for cats to barf this often? Is there anything we can do to make it less frequent?

Additional info:

(1) Yes, they've been to the vet, and the vet has not found anything wrong with them.

(2) They're both around 14 years old, but this has been going on for years. We're finally tired of it!

(3) The two cats have very different diets. One eats wet/canned food. The other primarily eats dry food, with a select offering of human foods. The latter is extremely picky, and changing her food would be a significant challenge. Her barf tends to be very liquid/watery.

(4) In the event it might be a furball problem, does anyone have suggestions on how best to eliminate furballs? Again, getting the one cat to eat something new is a real challenge.
posted by mikeand1 to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've got a recreational puker, and I've done everything - changed food, tried hairball control, taken her in for all manner of blood tests over the years - and have come to the conclusion that if she's made it to 13 puking most mornings, she's probably doing it for fun.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:12 PM on December 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Furballs can be helped with regular combing and or bathing. Petromalt also helps, but if your cat wont eat it on its own, you'll have to cram it int its mout.
posted by Good Brain at 2:12 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Daily, large doses of petromalt was our fix for our cats. Best product ever.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry in advance to be gross, but hey, we're discussing puke, it's going to be gross. So, what does the puke look like? If it's chunky, it's probably their diet. If it's more watery check and see if it has a furball in it - you should be able to see this. It sounds from your brief descriptions that for the first cat maybe it's diet and for the picky cat it's furballs?

For the diet cat, it isn't necessarily the brand of food but the flavor. We found out that our cat who's about the same age as your two can no longer tolerate fish of any kind. Eliminating fish and feeding him tinned and dry rabbit, chicken, beef, etc instead cut his puking down from 2-3 times a week to pretty much nothing. Try that?

For the furball cat, get a furminator and furminate weekly. The less loose fur, the less furballs and the less puke you're likely to get.
posted by hazyjane at 2:23 PM on December 30, 2012

Vaseline works the same way petromalt does and both cats I've had love it. Wipe a small amount on their mouth the first time so they try it. After that, should be good.

Of note- through 3 cats over the course of 30 years in my family, we have never had one hairball vomiting issue thanks to daily Vaseline. Big thanks to the Humane Society for recommending it to us years ago
posted by superfille at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Somebody on AskMeFi once suggested raising the food so that my cat isn't crooking his neck while eating-- raising the bowls about 3" has made a huge difference!
posted by kimota at 2:37 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do your cats run around and play a lot after eating? Our adorable, perfect cat throws up if she eats too fast and/or plays right after eating. When she's having episodes of vomiting, I feed her smaller meals - there was a phase where we had four tiny meals every day and I sat with her because that calmed her down when eating.
posted by Frowner at 4:12 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I joking call my cat bulimic (I know, not PC, but not meaning to offend anyone) because she pretty much binges on food and purges within minutes at least every three days. She kind of a high-anxiety cat, so I attribute it to that. But she's almost 11 and I've had her as a kitten, so I think it's just part of her routine.
posted by greta simone at 5:14 PM on December 30, 2012

Some responses:

The cats don't run around a lot; they're older now. I also don't think they're eating too fast. Typically, they barf long after eating; the smaller female barfs almost regularly in the morning, right before we get up to feed her.

The female's barf is almost always liquid, very watery. She does drink a large amount of water.

The large male's barf almost always consists of mushy, half-digested food. He's the one who gets the wet food, so it's hard to tell exactly how well-digested it is, but it is often somewhat chunky.

We will try the various recommendations. Thanks much.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2012

If your cat won't take Petromalt, there is another option. My Katya recommends Friskies Hairball Remedy treats. She likes the chicken-flavored soft ones. I tried giving her Petromalt, which ended in her being so scared she was literally shaking, with no Petromalt having been consumed. But she eats the hairball treats with gusto. I buy the hairball treats at the grocery store. I first heard of hairball treats from Sparkle's Cat Advice on sparklecat.com
posted by Anne Neville at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2012

Grain free food solved all of our barf puddle problems. Weruva canned chicken is a great wet option, and Fromm Surf & Turf is the favored dry version. I haven't met a cat yet who turned their nose up at Weruva. (Don't get the chicken w/veggies - just the plain chicken w/gravy.)
posted by muirne81 at 7:03 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My (family) cats most likely had allergies. After a lot of experimentation, my mom found the foods that they almost never puke from. This was after daily barf sessions. Older, female cat would puke ~ once a week. Male cat was a binge eater and would puke anywhere from 3x a day to 1-2 x a week.

He eats Evo (it's a grain-free wet food) and I forget what wet food she eats. They also get dry food -- B.G. (before grain). This solves 99% of the puking issues. Not sure if it was the grain he/she/they were allergic to, or something else. They also get cat-tuna as a treat now and then, no problems (it's the Trader Joe's kind that is formulated for cats, I believe because human-tuna has too much mercury in it for cats to eat).

Another thing that probably caused some puking was when they would be given food but not eat it right away. The food would be out for too long and start to turn, and this invariably caused puking. Not sure of the timing, but our best solution was to give the minimum amount they'd eat, and if they finished that to give a bit more.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:13 PM on December 30, 2012

Your little girl might need an extra feeding before bed. That watery barf sounds like bile, which happens when someone's got an empty stomach for too long and it's making them queasy. It happens to our old man cat when he's too comfy in bed and waits too long to eat. Also happens to one of our dogs if he doesn't have any snacks between his feedings.

How's the catbox? We had a cat who had some form of an irritable bowel condition, which gave him occasional really unhappy stinky poop episodes that also sometimes resulted in vomiting as well. He eventually was unable to digest kibble so for the rest of his life he ate wet food. Your guy might just have a touchy system. Was he a stray? Some cats who had hungry times tend to binge and then offload what they've overeaten. Smaller portions more often might help for him, if that's not too inconvenient.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:17 PM on December 30, 2012

When my cat was supposed to be losing weight on the vet's recommendation, he would gulp water when he was hungry and his food dish was empty. 5 minutes later, he would puke up all the water he had just guzzled. To be honest this really only stopped when the vet ok'ed him to eat as much as he would take (that is, when he got old and started losing muscle mass). But I did find that it helped to pay attention to when he was chugging water, and to take his water dish away for 10-15 minutes to let his stomach settle before letting him drink more.
posted by vytae at 7:28 PM on December 30, 2012

One of my cats was a puker most of her (long) life. About a year and a half before she died at age 20, I switched her to grain-free wet food and she immediately went from a daily puker to a once-a-month puker. I felt terrible it took us that long to figure out why she vomited so much!
posted by upatree at 9:18 PM on December 30, 2012

A trick for getting cats to take furball medication - our vet gave us medication that was in a kind of paste format. Of course the cat doesn't want to eat it, but if you smear on the tops of his paws, how else is he going to get it off apart from licking? *cunning cackle*
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 1:54 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our older cat has a dodgy tummy, and we've managed to reduce her puking from multiple times a week, mostly food, to about once or so a week, usually hairballs. We did this by:

1) giving her corn-free food (Halo dry, Felidae wet), as she appears to be allergic to corn. We've tried going full grain-free, but she hates having her food switched and really hates grain-free. Corn-free seems to work fine, though, and the Halo Spot's Stew kibble is smelly enough that she likes it. We used to feed Felidae kibble, but they seem to have changed their formula recently, which prompted out other cat to have urinary problems so we switched them to Halo, which seems to be working fine, now.

2) Furminating her when we can, as she's got an extra-thick coat even though she's a shorthair.

3) feeding the cats dry food (they get wet food in the mornings, dry in the evening, and the older cat only grudgingly eats wet anyway) with feeders that look something like this (only ours are plastic). It slows down their eating since they have to paw out the kibble a few pieces at a time, so gorging-induced puking doesn't happen. (Petco seems to carry the plastic ones, and I've found them on Amazon before.)

4) allowing the older cat to train us to fill a sink with drinking water for her. This means she no longer goes from the dry food immediately to the water bowl next to the dry food, which was causing the dry food in her stomach to swell up, prompting puking (sometimes into the water bowl, yuk). The water bowls are still there for the other cat and for times when we don't have water in the sink, but she prefers to check the sink first, which gives the food time to settle and digest a bit.

5) giving her NO pork products whatsoever. I know, table scraps in general aren't good for cats, and we rarely give them anything but a little cut-up chicken here and there (although the older cat looooves carbs: taco chips, saltine crackers, etc.), but pork WILL produce puke shortly after eating it, so although pork is about the only meat she'll beg for, she doesn't get *any*. From what I understand, there's something about the size of the fat particles or molecules or something that lots of cats can't digest. Same with milk, even lactose-free (as most adult creatures, including me, can't tolerate lactose).
posted by telophase at 8:05 AM on December 31, 2012

Ooh this is fascinating - esp about the watery ones. We started adding olive oil to our one's dry food a year or so ago (on veterinary advice) and got her down from 7 barfs to one hairball to one or two: a major achievement!

Good luck! I wonder if you can get grain free dry food in the UK. Any ideas?
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:26 AM on December 31, 2012

Just popping in to say that James Wellbeloved does grain free senior cat food. We are trying ours on a mix of that and her normal food and so far no sicks ... fingers crossed as she often scks up new food anyway, just because ...
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:33 AM on January 6, 2013

My cat was puking almost daily and I went crazy trying different grain-free, beef-free, special foods on him to little avail. It turned out he had bladder crystals and came close to dying from a blocked urethra. I have no idea why that illness was making him so pukey, but apparently it was. Months later, he now drinks filtered water and eats special bladder-friendly food, and he's had problems with neither stones or vomit in months.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:02 PM on January 6, 2013

Just to mention that if your pukey cat starts puking more than normal, it's worth getting them checked out, our old lady had colitis, and she didn't make it in the end, but we were able to ease the final weeks with an injection from the vets that calmed it for a bit and helped a lot.
posted by LyzzyBee at 3:56 AM on March 11, 2013

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