Beloved cat is responding horribly to new baby - give us your tips
April 17, 2014 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Our cat has been puking multiple times a day since the arrival of our baby 4 weeks ago. She's been to the vet twice to rule out coincidental health issues - cat is healthy aside from the baby misery, kitty parents are at a loss for how to ease the transition, please help!

Artichoke_Enthusiast an I welcomed a baby girl 4 weeks ago and our sweet, beloved 9 year old cat Madeline (seen here with my very pregnant belly) is not taking it well, to say the least. She's puking, sometimes multiple times a day, hiding, and not grooming. On the plus side, she's eating mostly normally and peeing and pooping. However, we are worried about the long term implications of all the puking now that we're hitting the one-month mark on this behavior, and we miss our cuddly lap cat.

Things we have tried:

-special dedicated human (my mom) who was charged with cat attention for the first few weeks. Mom had to go home this past weekend, and it didn't seem to make much of a difference anyway
-2 visits to the vet now (including an x-ray to rule out a blockage), cat seems basically healthy
-Kitty Xanax and Kitty Prevacid. Both work OK... when we can get them down. The cat is getting really wise to our attempts to dose her and is biting, scratching, and cheeking the pills. We've followed all the YouTube videos for giving pills to cats, tried hiding them in her food, and liquifying them and squirting them down her throat. The process of giving them to her just keeps getting worse as she gets more fearful of it, and both treatments are to be delivered indefinitely if we use them. When we can't get them down, we're all extra exhausted by the effort. We're basically just exhausted by the twice daily prospect of getting pills down on top of being first time parents.
-extras of her favorite wet food to keep her hydrated (she partakes, this doesn't impact the puking)
-special easy tummy food from the vet (she likes it, doesn't seem to impact the puke volume)
-ignoring the puke beyond cleaning it up and trying to get back to normal (possibly the only long term solution?)

We're hoping you all may have other ideas for us... or at the very least reassurances that this may get better eventually.
posted by paddingtonb to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Feliway? Its air diffused, like those airwick things, so no pills. It calms our fussy teenage cat pretty well.

I'm NOT a vet and this is NOT medical advice, but it sounds like the pills are causing way more stress than they help. If it was me, I'd probably stop those.

Cats don't like change in their territory... I assume the cat will get used to it soon.
posted by Jacen at 9:53 AM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention that the vet's diagnosis was anxiety, hence the Kitty Xanax. We've tried Feliway in the past, for lesser traumas like vacations, and it didn't make a big difference for our girl, unfortunately.
posted by paddingtonb at 9:53 AM on April 17, 2014

Sentry makes these calming collars that work very well for cats I've tried on. It's with the cat all the time so you don't have to worry about the pheremones getting blown away by drafts like you do with Feliway (if you have open windows, drafty rooms, etc it's quite possible the Feliway will leak out rather than build up enough in concentration to affect the cat).

You said your mom spent one-on-one time with the kitty, but what about you? Unless your mom and the kitty have a close relationship, Madeline might feel neglected by you, not her. I know it's very hard with a new baby but perhaps one of you could cuddle with Madeline while the other is on baby-care duty.
posted by schroedinger at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

When we lived with a baby, Unacceptable Tiny Human Smells were an issue for our little cat. Where is her food? Is it Very Far from the baby's haunts, and particularly from any diaper pails? Is your house large enough that there can be a Cat Room where the baby does not go, at least for the present? Our little cat spent almost all her time in her lair (otherwise known as my room) while the baby lived with us.
posted by Frowner at 10:00 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The cat doesn't want your mom. The cat wants you and A_E and everything that is familiar. That's how cats are. Can A_E hang with the baby while you coo over the cat? Your mom is simply another interloper in her cat territory. (Mom leaving - even if the cat liked Mom previously - is probably a good thing.)

Also, I highly recommend Pill Pockets if you haven't tried them.

Mostly, your cat needs some time to get used to the new reality of the home. Frustrating, but time and patience are the best things you can offer. Think of it as advanced training for child rearing.

Oh, and congrats on your new baby girl!
posted by 26.2 at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2014

No advice for helping the cat adjust but I do have an idea for the pills. We crush them and add to plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. It probably helps that our cat loves Greek yogurt in general but it's probably worth a try even if yours doesn't have a known affinity.
posted by cessair at 10:08 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you get liquid kitty xanax? I got liquid suspension alprazolam (same thing) from the vet. Then you can mix it in her wet food. Give her small meals 3-4x daily.

I bet the smells are an issue. Feed her treats next to baby blanket or other baby smells. Rub cat smell on the baby area. Rub baby blanket on the cat?

Can you play with kitty? Feather on a string. And copious amounts of pets & scratches. I know you have a (very cute!) little one on your hands right now, and a persnickety cat is a LOT of work. A few pets might go a long way though. Or a blanket that smells like you (not baby).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2014

I believe I read on Metafilter, but can't find it right now, a comment from a woman whose cat went into her closet, pulled a bunch of her clothes down from their hangers and arranged them into a kind of nest when the woman was pregnant and near term.

With that as a prelude, maybe my answer won't sound quite so weird, but I think your beloved cat loves you right back, and is trying to help-- by providing a nice, easily consumed food supply for the new and nursing mother.

Along the same lines, a female cat in a context of more than one, and who doesn't have kittens, could be seen as the same kind of threat to kittens as a male cat who isn't the sire, and hiding and avoiding contact with the baby would seem to take that threat off the table.
posted by jamjam at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Crush the pills with the back of a fork and mix with a bit of wet food, tuna, or something else that smells delicious. I've had lots of cats who hated pills and never had one refuse wet food because of a crushed pill mixed in. I have never had success with Pill Pockets- they were always wise to that trick, but I did have have success with Feliway.
We have a happy cat who pukes often, and the vet says he's fine. He does puke noticeably less when on Nutro Max Senior dry food versus other dry foods (which we mix with canned wet food).
posted by aabbbiee at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2014

I know the timing and circumstantial evidence (plus the vet's opinion) suggest "anxiety due to baby" is the most likely cause of your kitty's gastrointestinal woes.

But if she's not had one done, you might want to look into getting her an abdominal ultrasound. My 12-year-old Siamese ladycat Nikki had ongoing stomach issues for quite a while (lots of puking, general grouchy behavior, etc.). Blood tests were inconclusive, and it was only when they did the ultrasound that they were able to determine she actually had feline IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Which, thankfully, responded wonderfully to treatment (prednisolone, B12 supplements, and hypoallergenic food). Ultrasounds aren't necessarily standard in the kitty-diagnostic suite, though, so I figured I'd mention it.

Oh and re. medication administration -- Nikki won't do pills, period. She gets her steroid in a small "feeding syringe" in 1mL doses as a liquid. It took some practice but at least with the liquid I can sort of squirt it into the side of her mouth so that she is sure to swallow it (and not aspirate or spit it out).
posted by aecorwin at 10:21 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the practical answers so far. I hope it was clear from my question that we are diligent cat parents. We've been offering the cat plenty of attention, play and snuggles in addition to all of the above strategies. The cat knows and likes my mom in general - having one adult on cat duty was a reasonable strategy given the circumstances.

The baby is physically attached to my body for the majority of her waking hours, and many of her sleeping ones as well. Carving out alone time for the cat without a screaming baby in the vicinity who wants to be held is not possible at the moment.
posted by paddingtonb at 10:29 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had success offering a small ball of cream cheese. Yum! How about another? Yum - second one contained the pill.

Also, being this time of year, I'd suggest "hairball" treats. My cats are especially prone.
posted by crw at 10:54 AM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ours were really scared about the crying sounds - I think the first time that Speck cried, the cats pressed themselves into walls and furniture like a bomber had just flown over. We tend to have a quiet house, so all the noises were new, but crying especially. If your baby cries a lot, there's just not much for it but the passage of time.

Bummer that the reaction is puking, which is so unpleasant and labor-intensive. I think I'd try to find a far-away room for the cat to hide in, where you and spouse can make occasional visits. That insulates her from whatever stimuli are freaking her out, as much as that's possible. Maybe this will pass with all the other traumas that seem to end magically around 12 weeks -- even though that seems incomprehensibly far away right now, it's not that long, and your can will survive too.

Hang in there!
posted by acm at 11:10 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

How is she around the baby (aside from the puking?).
Would it help the anxiety if she were to associate the baby with yummy treats?

It sounds to me like you guys are all stressed to the max, which the cat reacts to, which stresses you even more etc. And it sounds like the giving of anxiety meds causes you all even more anxiety to the point where it may be wiser to stop and simply ignore the problem for a week or two? Cats tend to calm down best if you just let them do their thing for themselves.

(But I understand. Please don't feel criticized, you're in a tough situation. These are all just things to consider if you haven't already.)

Thirdly, I'm just throwing it out there if nothing else works: I'll be the person to suggest therapy in a cat thread.

I wish you the best of luck. Cats are resilient creatures who excel at carving niches out for themselves.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:20 PM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't imagine how stressful this is for you. Two of my friends had their baby months ago, and dealt with similar sadness and whining from their two dogs.

A couple more suggestions:
- A pill gun revolutionized the pilling process for my parents when their cat was sick. Took it from 5-10 minutes of scratching and wrestling to one person holding the cat, the other shooting the pill in.
- Are there lots of high places for the cat to climb? Like cat trees or cat shelves? This can help cats feel less trapped and anxious.
- Maybe Feliway in the baby's room for yuks in addition to the Sentry collar on the cat as I linked above?
- Can you feed the cat during scheduled baby-feeding times (if such a thing is working for you), so the cat can associate baby with good food vibes?
posted by schroedinger at 1:02 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

SO here.

Thanks everyone for the great advice and support. We've tried Feliway before and were unimpressed, but I think trying it again (along with the collar) is a good idea. Also, the pill pockets and pill gun give me hope that maybe we can make med administration a bit less stressful which might make it more viable for at least the short term.

Omnomnom, therapy would be great, but honestly the only person I would trust is the great Jackson Galaxy, peace be upon him, and I think he is strictly SoCal-based. Still, I have repeatedly tried to channel my inner JG here and I think that although the cat already has a couple of great hiding places (some of them a little too great), I am definitely considering putting up a couple of high shelves to give her even more places of refuge.

Again, thanks everyone for the heartfelt advice. Madeline is quite literally the best cat in the entire (known) universe and we are confident she will be back to normal soon enough, even if the carpets never are.
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Your baby is gorgeous and your kitty looks like a love.

A baby is a big upheaval for a kitty. She probably is pretty stressed. There have been people in the house and this new human who is smelly and taking all of Mom's time.

Until things get to a new normal (and that may be awhile) kitty is going to continue to be stressed.

I agree, find a little area for Madeline and make it as nice as it can be. Have your partner go in there every so often, or have partner do baby-glom duty while you go in there for some 1:1 time with her.

Have treats ready to give Madeline whenever she's doing something you approve of. Sitting in the window. Hanging with you when the baby sleeps, eating her food nicely.

Once your infant is a bit more interactive, once you've had the chance to have the house settle down and once the cat can predict what's going to happen in any given hour on any given day, her stress will decrease.

If you can get the cat do easily ingest the pills using some of the above ideas, awesome, but if that's not going to happen, I'd bail on it. It's just another stressor, for both of you.

I promise, Madeline will learn to deal with your new kitten. She may even love her as much as you do. It will just take time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:38 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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