Kitty is Lactose Intolerant
January 20, 2014 5:53 AM   Subscribe

My cat managed to get at some milk and tossed his cookies yesterday. Now isn't eating up to his usual standard. Is he probably ok?

Yesterday my fluffy cat knocked a bowl off the coffee table which contained the last remaining remnants of milk and shredded wheat. Before anyone could stop him, he was lapping up some of the milk that has spilled. Unusual as he generally avoids anything aside from his particular cat food.
Seven hours later, he ate his dinner as usual. Three hours after dinner he began making bizarre sounds of the talking cat variety and then hurled up all his dinner. We didn't feed him any more.

This morning I ran out to get some chicken breasts because various sources said that a cat's first meal after tossing his cookies should be plain boiled chicken. When I put down a plate of plain boiled chicken, he of course looked at me as though I were a weirdo and he refused to eat it. So I replaced it with a half of his usual meal. He ate a little of that but not very much.

So, people of mefi, what gives? Is my cat probably ok?

Special possibly unimportant snowflakes: he's on a restricted calorie diet as he was overweight when we rescued him (17.4 lbs), he never has hairballs.
posted by donut_princess to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
Best answer: I'm no vet, but I have never worried about my cats throwing up a few times - one of mine eats random things like gum wrappers and broccoli and rug pieces all the time, plus he snarfs his food too fast. It's important to react fast if your cat eats something toxic (which should hopefully be prevented in the first place) but a cat throwing up after some milk wouldn't even register as a concern for me. When one of my cats was a kitten I called the vet when she threw up 4 times in a row and he said not to worry unless it kept going or she seemed dehydrated or lethargic. Now, when one of my cats mouthed a dead lily petal I rushed her to the kitty ER, so I'm not taking chances with them, but milk just isn't toxic.

Finally: your cat probably has no idea the chicken is food. I am a vegetarian and once a guest left some chicken in my freezer. Since I don't eat chicken I prepared it for my cats and they didn't know why on earth to do with it. Didn't take a bite.

When my cats throw up, I clean it up, observe to make sure they aren't looking sickly, and then completely forget about it. This has worked great for 5 years and they probably throw up every other week each.
posted by Cygnet at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Cygnet's right on. Cats are designed to barf (as are many small and medium-sized carnivores)-- hair, small animal bones and other incidental ingestions go out the front by design. Milk's a funny one because most cats love it, but many adult cats can't digest lactose. So they eagerly lap it up, but their stomach might say "I can't do anything with this. Send it back."

An episode or two of vomiting followed by a day or two of diminished appetite isn't anything that I'd worry about. Chronic, serial vomiting's a worry, but it sounds like you know the exact cause and you're getting a typical response. I'd just give him some space until he feels better, which will likely be soon.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:29 AM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recently went through a serious gastrointestinal scare with my cat. 24 hours of upset probably doesn't indicate anything serious in and of itself. If he still has less appetite tonight or tomorrow morning, I would call my vet. They can prescribe anti-nausea meds to help with any lingering effects of eating the wrong thing.

Keep an eye on his pooping (which of course might slow down if he's not eating) and his hydration levels (you can google for how to do this, but the skin-pinch test and the moistness of his gums are easy to check) and/or his drinking. Chronic vomiting can dehydrate them quickly.

When my sick cat didn't want to eat (but this was after days of reduced appetite), the vet gave him some catnip-flavored Temptations - not part of his normal diet, but very appealing and apparently helpful in settling kitty tummies.

Handsome dude!
posted by Theophylactic at 6:31 AM on January 20, 2014

I need to see barf + other symptoms to get worried, OR copious amounts of barf.

One of my guys is always a little "off" after a barfing session and needs a few days to get back to his regular appetite.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:46 AM on January 20, 2014

Best answer: Since I always like as much reassurance as possible when my own cats are sick, I'll throw in another confirmation here - I don't hear anything that would worry me. If you see an extended period of vomit-y cat, or if he were to stop eating at all for more than a day or two, then I'd probably schedule a vet trip. As long as he's taking in some food, and you don't see too many more barf sessions, he probably fine.
posted by Stacey at 6:50 AM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all!

Here's another picture for your help!
posted by donut_princess at 7:56 AM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your kitty is SO pretty!

My Eartha Kitty is a total chow hound. She eats all kinds of crap, and then throws up on the regular.

Resolve is great at getting cat puke stains out of things.

Fluffy Cat may not enjoy throwing up, so he might we a little shy about eating right now. Give it a day or two, he'll be back to enjoying his Fancy Crack soon.

As for stuff that doesn't come out of a can. Eartha and Malcolm know that rotisserie chickens are awesome and the whining and meowing for their share starts from the moment the bird comes out of the wrapper. Once, I bought them some chicken livers as a treat. The brats wouldn't eat them raw at all. And just nibbled a bit once they were cooked.

Spoiled is what they are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2014

Like people, some animals are lactose intolerant to milk from different species. Most people who are lactose intolerant to cow milk, can drink goat milk without issue. There is a different milk protein in goat milk and the fat globules are smaller than in cows milk. Unlike cow milk, it is also naturally homogenized. Goat milk is sometimes referred to as the universal milk.

It the animals are raised in similar environments, and are fed similar feed, there should be a minimal, if any, taste difference in cow vs. goat milk. It is just milk. If you feed garbage in, you get garbage out (in their milk).

If you are worried about your cat being lactose intolerant, just try different milk. I hope your kitty feels well.
posted by Leenie at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2014

I would also vote for "probably fine," assuming no other symptoms crop up.

In my understanding, most adults cats (and other mammals) are lactose-intolerant. Many humans can continue drinking milk into adulthood simply because they continue to drink it past breast-feeding age, so the enzymes to digest it stick around; that's not the case for other mammals. It makes total sense that your cat couldn't digest the milk, and so that alone wouldn't concern me if it were my cat.
posted by jaguar at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2014

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