cats are weird, volume 3 billion
July 17, 2016 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Why might my cat only have diarrhea flare-ups on Sundays? This is a serious question that merely sounds insane--I am hoping MeFites can help me think of something I've missed. Possibly unnecessary warning: discussions of poop within.

Obligatory cat pic--this is how she looks when I've just squirted metronidazole down her mouth.

So, for two months, my cat has been having intermittent episodes of diarrhea, accompanied by discomfort (yowling), urgency (doesn't make it to litter box), gas (farty sounds) and oh god, unholy stench. In between these episodes she seems perfectly normal; the day of an episode she tends to lay low but eats/drinks normally.

What happens is, all of a sudden she begins pacing frantically around the room, howling. Eventually she runs to the corner (always the same corner) and has diarrhea. It's always: mostly, but not entirely, liquid, a brown or greenish-brown color, no blood. So far this has happened three times, always on a Sunday: May 29, July 3, July 17.

--The first time it happened we went to the vet right away. They palpated her for a blockage (nope) took a fecal culture and found Clostridium perfringens (sp?), and prescribed antibiotics. Cat poops for a few days were kind of soft and definitely over-fragrant, but by the end of the antibiotic course they were back to normal.

--Second time (July 3) it happened we called a second vet (cat has an in-house vet and a house-call vet), who agreed with Vet 1 that it was probably Clostridium, maybe a chronic infection. She ran some blood tests and recommended some diet changes, including probiotics. We have been gradually transitioning cat to the new food and probiotics, but...

--Third time (today). Actually-- it was yesterday that she was acting a bit under the weather, and she vomited a small amount in the afternoon. Today she was totally normal and playful, right up until she began the pacing/howling/pooping routine.

Some more facts about this dumb cat:
-The vet's bloodwork came back with liver, kidneys, etc all normal and great--the only thing wrong was a slightly elevated white cell count (which she said pointed to the infection dx)
-This cat is 10.
-Apart from the diarrhea, she's been pretty vigorously healthy. She is a healthy weight, not losing weight or gaining it in any significant amount. Coat looks good, eyes bright, etc.

Now, for the "only on Sundays" thing: Obviously it could be a red herring but 3 times seems like a super weird coincidence. We just can't figure out what could be different about Sundays, since to our human perspective they are pretty identical to Saturdays, and yet she hasn't had a Saturday flare-up. Her feeding schedule doesn't change. We humans do different things on the weekends than on weekdays, but again--our Sundays don't seem different from Saturdays in any big way.

So I guess my question is two-fold:
1) Have you had a cat with chronic clostridium infection, and does this sound like it?
2) Can you think of any schedule-based environmental changes that we aren't seeing?

I'm kind of hoping that between anecdotes, experiences, and the questions y'all might ask me, a lightbulb might switch on in one of our heads. Thanks in advance, MeFi!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
I have no idea at all about the infection itself, but are you guys super stressed on Sundays, going back into the work week, and could be stressing kitty out?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2016

Is there anything different about your Saturday or Sunday routine that could be upsetting your cat, or that would give your cat access to something she doesn't normally get (outside time, more treats, people food, etc)?
posted by erst at 8:08 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Unless there's also a pattern to the time of day this happens -- like, it's always in the evening, or always a set amount of time after kitty eats -- I would say the Sunday pattern is likely just a coincidence, especially since they've been spaced out so much.
posted by phatkitten at 8:12 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Separation anxiety pre-Monday?

Do you do something special on Sunday, like mop, or clean surfaces, or do the laundry?

Is she an indoors cat? Or does she perhaps go walkabout on Sunday and perhaps have a little cheeky snack from a nearby neighbour?
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:15 PM on July 17, 2016

My first thought was stress as well. It may take hours/days to show symptoms, but is there anything in the friday/saturday/sunday routine that could be stressful to your cat? Neighbourhood cats outside maybe? Cleaning of a litter box? Vacuuming? What about anything during this schedule that's stressful to you? (Cats are very perceptive to our emotions; when i'm stressed I can see it in my cats for example).
posted by cgg at 8:18 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could she be raiding the trash can, and getting into some special weekly cooking byproducts that you might discard?
posted by SillyShepherd at 8:47 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also thought snacks from a neighbor.
posted by jbenben at 9:44 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Okay, not a vet at all so this is speculation. But have you tried replacing her litter box and food bowl a couple of days after her symptoms resolve? Perfringens is super common both in the environment and in healthy guts, to the point where just finding perfringens tells you next to nothing, but some strains are indeed worse than others. Maybe she's just periodically dosing herself with something nasty?

Also, a lot of bugs have a 24h incubation time, so Saturday activities may be relevant.

Finally, if it really is perfringens, that usually grows in protein-rich food left out at room temperature. Is the amount of time the food gets left out different on weekdays vs. weekends? Maybe take extra care to clean her bowl thoroughly an hour or two after feeding so she's not tempted to graze or lick after it's been out for a while?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:47 PM on July 17, 2016

Do you feed her tablescraps?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:07 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

When is trash day in your neighborhood?
posted by clorox at 12:48 AM on July 18, 2016

Maybe a nearby lawn/garden treatment?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:46 AM on July 18, 2016

You're home a lot more on the weekends, yes? Are you giving her more treats or different treats on the weekends?
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:38 AM on July 18, 2016

Response by poster: Lots of good things to consider! Especially the litter box suggestion--her food dishes get changed out and washed (dishwasher, hot rinse) after each use, and her box gets cleaned daily, but I hadn't considered just starting over with a whole new box. One is on its way right now! We're also getting a spare for the front room--we will put it in her, uh, diarrhea corner. (Won't cure the diarrhea cause, but hopefully she will be less distressed if she is always near a box.)

I'll pay close attention to whether there's any lawn or bug spraying going on but we're on a large urban street and have no lawn ourselves, so that seems less likely.

Three points of clarification:
-she is indoor-only, so there's no chance of strange neighbor foods or trash access.
-She has had no treats or human food since before her first episode.
-I work from home, so there's actually almost always Some human home with her.

We have had a very stressful and miserable year tbh and though we haven't changed any routines much, there's probably a lot of ambient stress about. I wouldn't say that weekends are in any way worse, but maybe with us both around it's palpable to a kitty.

She vomited a bit this morning but then happily ate her breakfast, and is now cuddling with me as I type. Cats are damn weird.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2016

Do you stay up late on Saturday, maybe putting off putting plates etc in the dishwasher. My dog used to raid our computer desks every Saturday and. Friday night for left over snacks etc. It was only when we realised he was drinking my coffee dregs we figured out wjy he was acting weird weekend nights.
posted by wwax at 7:03 AM on July 18, 2016

Has nothing to do with days of the week, but our vet recommended vitamin B12 shots for our kitties who had separate, and different, digestive issues. One cat we gave 3 shots per week (giving a sub-cutaneous injection is WAAYY easier than getting oral meds into the cat), the other cat we gave one shot per week. Both cats eventually succumbed to their illnesses but the B12 really helped with the diarrhea and vomiting. It might be something to check with your vet.
posted by angiep at 7:27 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the second - diarrhea - box, you might want to consider using something soft, i.e. torn up paper towels. You don't want her to associate her regular litter with pain.

We did this with our cat who had lymphoma, who for 14 years used his litter boxes without exception until he became ill.
posted by Altomentis at 3:42 PM on July 18, 2016

I'm lining cookie sheets with sheaves of newsprint - the 10lb boxes of movers' paper is good for this.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:41 PM on July 18, 2016

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