Oh cat, I really wish you wouldn't do this
September 18, 2017 3:17 AM   Subscribe

I am writing this at 3 in the morning because for the millionth time our cat had diarrhea, stepped in it, and tracked it around the entire apartment. It took half an hour to clean up. What can I do to prevent this living nightmare from ever happening again?

Our cat is 9 years old. She has always had digestive problems. Years ago we spent about six months working with a vet to find a diet that worked, but it basically does nothing except empty our pockets that much faster. Her stomach is OK some of the time. But when is is bad it is horrid. It might even be getting worse.

Her current diet is: 1/4 can of wet food (grain-free rabbit, as per vet's instructions) 2x per day, plus 1/4 cup dry food (grain-free rabbit again, as per vet's instructions)

Also, she keeps stepping in her own diarrhea and/or urine. We have gotten her bigger and bigger litter boxes to try to prevent this from happening again. It does not work. She does not ever seem to be aware that her own waste is there, or that she has stepped in it. She will happily traipse all over the apartment, apparently unaware that she is leaving a visible trail of catwaste behind her.

We have an uncovered litter box. It has very high sides because she seems keen on scratching her litter with maximum force, sending a spray of litter flying in as many directions as she can manage. This does not, of course, bury anything. The high-sided litter box she currently has does seem to minimize her broad casting of litter (it's actually a storage crate, because the sides of even a so-called "large" litter box still became ramps for cat litter and/or cat shit). It was also necessary because no matter how wide her litter box was, she always seemed intent on squatting with her butt hanging over the side. The tall sides prevent this from happening.

I do love our cat. I am clearly very frustrated with her right now, but I do love her a lot. She is very sweet. But I just spent half an hour in the middle of the night cleaning up after her, only to find some cat shit stuck to the sole of my foot. This is not OK. I think there's basically a 100% chance that I have contracted toxoplasmosis by now. I could give in and live in a world of cat shit, but I like to think I can imagine a better future for all of us. Besides, I am actually concerned about her health.

We are going to take her to the vet to see what input they have (not the same vet, because we live in a different city). Since the dietary changes weren't exactly a huge success the first time around, I wanted to ask the community what steps we can take to address her stomach problems (if the vet doesn't have any ideas beyond the ones we've already tried). At the very least, I wanted to ask what we can do to minimize damage from the inevitable repeat of tonight's incident.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a cat with digestive issues who once managed to get shit onto the ceiling 11' above. I can say that even though I feel like NaturVet Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotic Dog & Cat Powder Supplement must be unscientific bunk, giving it to him (on the advice of my cat wise friend) has greatly reduced the horrifying liquid shit blow outs he was routinely producing.
posted by foxfirefey at 3:24 AM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Clever Cat top entry litter box.

Ask your vet for rx probiotics.

That's all I've got. My boy has regularly runny poop but is aware of it and likes me to clean him up. But the probiotics do help.

You might try psyllium husk. It prevents constipation, yes, but it also promotes formed stool.
posted by janey47 at 3:38 AM on September 18, 2017

Depending on how often this happens and the configuration of your apartment, can you shut her in the kitchen or bathroom overnight to minimize the mess and cleanup time? It might be especially worth doing this if you're changing her diet, since you won't know how her digestion will be.

Of course, whether this is upsetting to her or no big deal or somewhere in between depends on your apartment configuration and your cat's habits, so I don't know if this is workable or not.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:06 AM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

We had a (young) cat with endless diarrhoea problems who turned out to have a parasite that the vet only caught because someone had been on a course recently and thought to check for it. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the parasite was called. Sorry to be vague, but I thought I should at least mention it.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 4:17 AM on September 18, 2017

One of our cats (his brother is fine, weirdly) gets ferocious and evil diarrhea with literally every food we've tried - even the "Sensitive" ones from the vet. Except raw food. He's been amazing with raw food, his craps don't stink, they are firm, all the things you want in a cat poo.

Many vets do not recommend raw food, and people do seem weirdly evangelical about it. We buy frozen packs from the pet store, and I am completely agnostic about it. Buying canned food would actually be much easier. But the results are irrefutable. We did also find that the turkey one made him also poo everywhere, but the kangaroo raw food (analogous to rabbit in that it's high protein and super low fat), did the trick.

Best of luck I really feel for you.
posted by smoke at 4:37 AM on September 18, 2017

Regarding the rabbit food, your previous vet may have been attempting a novel protein diet as a strategy for addressing food allergies and/or sensitivities s/he suspected were causing your cat's diarrhea. And yet some vets feel that feeding an animal the same food day in, day out creates intolerance to particular proteins, noting that pet owners get into a cycle where they try a new food, use it for a while (years, even) and then have to switch to another novel (and increasingly exotic) meat.

Saliva-based tests for identifying food allergies in cats exist (Nutri-Scan is one that purports to have been successfully subjected to double-blind tests, but I'm not a vet and can't speak to its reliability).
Can you ask your prior vet to fax your cat's records to her new doctor?

I hope you find a solution.
posted by carmicha at 4:46 AM on September 18, 2017

I don't have a suggestion for the diarrhea itself, but strewing puppy house training pads around the house has greatly minimized my frustration with my elderly kitty who has started having accidents. They are not cheap or eco-friendly, but they will make your life easier while you find a solution.
posted by FencingGal at 4:47 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried mixing pumpkin with food? It's a miracle for my cat's sensitive tummy. If she gets diarrhea, only one tbsp of pumpkin mixed with dry kibble will bind her sufficiently. I keep remainder frozen (I make pumpkin cubes in a tray) for future emergencies.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:44 AM on September 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

My kitty has a sensitive stomach and when he gets diarrhea, my vet starts him on a course of metronidazole and probiotics. If it's a bad round of diarrhea, he also gets fluids under the skin (subcutaneous fluid) and some antacid to prevent any vomiting. The metronidazole clears up the diarrhea with in a day or two. Good luck!
posted by pumpkinlatte at 6:36 AM on September 18, 2017

Seconding pumpkin for the poop. I feel your pain, as I'm currently dealing with a similar situation only from the other end. (Cat puke nightly in my pillow at 3am? Sure, why not...). Been doing the novel proteins, the expensive vet diets, everything. It's a slog.

The raw food debate in certain cat circles is loud and angry, but if you haven't tried them yet, there are a couple dehydrated raw-food diets that might help you can buy at the pet store (although probably not PetSmart). Stella & Chewy makes one, as does Primal. You can feed S&C as dry kibble-esque food if needed, without rehydrating it. Not sure about the Primal because my cats wouldn't touch it, but YMMV. If you're going to try it, transition sloooowwwwwllllly.

Finally... as a last case resort, while you deal with this a spare bathroom just might have to become kitty's new home. It's not permanent because you're actively trying to figure out what's wrong, but for your own sanity it's easier to clean. Don't leave kitty alone there, make sure to visit, but maybe even keeping her there just at night would make things easier for you.

I would also go back to the vet... they will probably at some point suggest medications and perhaps more - an ultrasound or similar. This is where i'm at - apparently my cat's insides are a mess and we're currently looking at IBS, for example. Definitely do talk to your vet though... there are next steps beyond just diet changes.
posted by cgg at 6:41 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you confirmed that the food you are giving her does not have ANY poultry of any kind? Chicken, Turkey, Chicken/turkey meal/fat, hydrolyzed chicken/turkey? Make sure the food you are giving her is 'limited ingredient' and there is no poultry of any kind.

My cat had the same issues and the vet said it is very common for cats to develop an allergy to the poultry. It has been an ordeal to find food that has no poultry. Many of the 'limited ingredient' labeled foods *still* had some kind of poultry. The vet assistants even convinced me that 'hydrolyzed chicken' would be fine for my cat because 'the way it is processed is different'. Reader.... it wasn't different.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:17 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of our cats also has digestive issues / potentially IBS - The diet that's worked for him is the "limited ingredient" from Blue Buffalo. There were a few other limited ingredient varieties that we considered, but they seemed to have a larger variety of fruit and veggies - something likely to set a cat's bowels off in a bad way.

The only veggie that should be in cat food is pumpkin IMO.

Also, like foxfirefey we were recommended the NaturVet Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotic, but it's tough to work with dry food (it's small granules, so doesn't "mix" with dry), and dealing with wet cat food in our household is difficult, so I never gave it a fair shot. I still have it; and in retrospect, I would have flash frozen a bunch of 1.5 tsp size balls of canned pumpkin, bag them together an keep one or two dethawing in the fridge to later mix with the probiotics. Pumpkin plus probiotics would have been a great combo.

Now, the only problem is sometimes I forget to pick up the cat bowls after feeding them (I'm getting better), and he'll eat some of the other cat's food - then I get a big pile of mushy stool somewhere on the carpet, or over/in a heat register (really?!). I'm really happy with the Blue Buffalo reduced ingredient food for his IBS and wish I would have tried this years earlier.
posted by nobeagle at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also feed Blue Buffalo limited ingredient. You mention your cat is 9. As weird as it is, this is "your cat is getting older" territory and rabbit may not be well-tolerated. My cat LOVES BUNNY but cannot eat it, due to exactly what you describe. She has to have chicken or turkey (I rotate three kinds of food to keep her interested) and anything else makes her tummy sick.

So, perhaps transitioning to something more bland might be in order. Lamb also upsets my cat now, as she's gotten older. Nth adding pumpkin to help, also.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:08 AM on September 18, 2017

Parasites, even if she's an indoor cat I'd treat her as if you'd just found her on the street. Although if she had them as a young kitty before you got her the damage may be done.

Prior to the development of wormers horses generally were healthy and lived till their late teens. Now they routinely stay healthy and live to late 20s or 30. That's the effect parasites can have.
posted by fshgrl at 9:16 AM on September 18, 2017

The canned plain pumpkin has worked for us.

Try another vet. Start at the beginning and work up everything.
posted by littlewater at 10:01 AM on September 18, 2017

I can't help with the diarrhea front, but on toxoplasmosis -- if your cat stays indoors, you should be fine. Cats pick this up from infected soil or another infected cat's poop, and so as long as your cat doesn't come in contact with those things, she can't get it. I also believe their poop does not become infectious to people for 24 hours or so, so fresh cat poop won't infect you. I realize this is not a solution to the overall problem (which is clearly awful regardless!) but just to put your mind slightly at ease on that one point!
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:32 PM on September 18, 2017

A more intense option is steroids (liquid or pill). The liquid kind seems to be working for my cat.
posted by yarntheory at 6:32 PM on September 18, 2017

We also do limited ingredient wet foods for our cats, but the main thing that helped ease them past the diarrhea they had when they were younger was adding powdered psyllium husk to their wet food - 1/8 tsp per cat per wet feeding (we feed them wet twice/day). It's harmless and it really did seem to help! Do it regularly for a few weeks before ruling it out as helpful, too.
posted by 168 at 4:00 AM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone!

In the short term, I've started mixing some pumpkin with her wet food, about 2 tsp per day (and I made some pumpkin cubes for the freezer, as per Dressed to Kill's comment). It's only been a few days, so it's impossible to know if it'll make a huge difference, but we've at least gone without any incidents so far.

We're still going to take her to the vet in the next week or so. Hopefully it's nothing too serious. I found out that she had worms about a year after we adopted her (I found a worm segment, yech), so it wouldn't be the first time we've had to deworm her. I don't think that's what's going on now, but I'll see what the vet says.

Anyway, she's snuggled up against me right now, so I guess she's not mad at me for having to chase her down and bathe her last week.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2017

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