Help my vomitous kitties
July 29, 2020 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Hank and Dean were former street cats that we adopted 7 years ago from a shelter. As far as we've known them they are fast eaters and usually that means within an hour or two of feeding we step into a pile of undigested cat vomit. We've done a number of interventions to slow things down but I think it may be time to switch foods. I am looking for specific brand recommendations of dried food you use to successfully help alleviate this.

We've brought this up to the vet multiple times at yearly check ups. The vets say they don't see anything wrong with them so it's just that they're eating too fast.

We can usually go anywhere from 1-3 days between vomits, and usually if we don't catch it fast it enough the other cat will go and eat up the kibble that was thrown up. The cats always seem fine and have an appetite for the next feeding.

Here's what we're doing right now:
* Automatic dried feeder dispenses 1/8 cup of Taste of the Wild Grain Free Venison and Smoked Salmon to two bowls, side by side at 5:30 am and 7:00 am on slow feed mode, which dribbles out the kibble over the course of 30 minutes.
* When they're extra vomity we clean out their water fountain an extra time
* At night, we feed them half a can each of wet blue buffalo cat food. They consume this fine without vomiting.
* A 3.5 year old and a newborn baby in the household may be contributing stress, and which may be why they're eating food faster but they're undisturbed at the 5:30 am feeding.

When they have food related vomit it's usually a pile of whole kibble. They don't even chew any of it. We don't want to go to only wet cat food because of the expense and the fact that we'd have to be getting up at 5:30 every morning to feed them.

I'm open to other suggestions, but MOSTLY I am interested in hearing your recommendations for specific brands of dry kibble that we can switch out to and see if it's tolerated better.
posted by Karaage to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend a slow feeder puzzle. Has worked wonders with my fat guy. Make them work for it!
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

We found that changing to a smaller kibble size helped Cricket when she had similar issues. She's much less barfy with Hill's Science Plan/Science Diet foods with the 9x9mm kibble (Hills makes foods with a couple of different sizes, so check the picture and description on the bag).
posted by penguinicity at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Have you tried a cat food ball for some of their food? You can adjust the size of the space the food comes out so that only one piece of kibble comes out at a time. You do have to demonstrate the first time, but my cats got the mechanics very quickly and it really slowed down their ability to scarf-and-vomit.
posted by past unusual at 8:14 AM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since you're using an automatic feeder anyway, have you tried spacing out the dry feedings more instead of doing 5:30 and 7:00 am? Do they sometimes puke after the 5:30 or only after the 7:00 when they've had both servings? I also have a cat who sometimes eats too much and pukes and we've had some success with spreading out meals so his stomach can't get so full at once.
posted by impishoptimist at 8:33 AM on July 29, 2020

Note with the puzzle balls, one of my cats generalized bang the thing to get food and spent days banging everything not nailed down in sight. It was so annoying we gave up.

Can you spread out the 2 slow feedings? Or make it even smaller?

You might want to try a snack or moving down the wet food as late as possible, so that aren't quite as hungry in the morning.

With our three there's always a danger of one of the cats getting two portions. We try to feed them in seperate rooms to prevent this due to a certain greedy cat.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my cats had the same issue and I had to switch to wet food only. Problem entirely solved.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:53 AM on July 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

It could be so many issues, like the food itself, but the very first thing you need to do is start your cats on trickle feeding. Trickle feeding is the way cats' digestive and metabolic systems are optimally set up for. Cats shouldn't be scarfing large amounts of food at a time, and that may be the thing that is triggering their vomiting. (I think that especially as cats get older, this is more and more problematic as their systems become less resilient, as in people).
posted by nanook at 9:12 AM on July 29, 2020

Thank you all for the comments so far. I want to gently reemphasize that I am mainly seeking specific recommendations of dry kibble that has helped your fellow vomitous cat - thank you to penguinicity for that.

On trickle feeding: Yes, my post indicated a 5:30am and a 7:00am feeding of a 1/8 cup, divided into two bowls, on a slow feed timer that spaces it out over 15 minutes (not 30 as I thought). We have a PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Cat and Dog Feeder that has the setting. After viewing the video and reading the two comments on that, I will try changing the 7:00 am to noon. I can't always tell when the vomiting is happening but I am not surprised if it happens right after the first feed.

Wet cat food is usually provided around 5:30-6. From 4:30-5:30 they're usually already howling at us to be fed.
posted by Karaage at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2020

Can they be fed in separate rooms? Maybe they make each other jealous.
posted by Namlit at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2020

Could they have issues with hairballs? If my cat vomits right after eating it's usually because he's working on a hairball and it'll come up either in the vomit or shortly after. I give him hairball gel for it.

Also agree with the recommendation for smaller kibble, I used to get this one and remember it being pretty small. You can also put something obstructive in the dispenser bowl (should be big/heavy enough they can't easily get it into their mouths – small jar maybe? Fist-sized rock?) to slow them down further.

Check the protein/calorie content of your kibble — it might be possible to switch to a higher quality, more nutritious-per-volume kibble so you can feed less overall volume. Unfortunately yours is a pretty good brand so I'm guessing it won't be easy to find one with better numbers. If you were using Meow Mix or something it would be a no-brainer.
posted by 100kb at 10:13 AM on July 29, 2020

Echoing penguinicity that our cat has had good luck with the Hill's Science line of foods. You can sometimes get sample/small sizes of some of these brands to try out. From how I read it, you are already being very careful about doling out the food slowly, so it sounds like it is time to try different dry food.

Our cat eats fast no matter what you feed him, so we are careful to only feed small amounts, but some foods he can scarf down just fine, and others cause vomit fountains. It is also not obvious from the ingredient list what will or won't set him off, so we have just had to experiment, and settled on Hill's.
posted by gudrun at 10:29 AM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can certainly try any number of new brands of kibbles but it is likely that the result will be the same since the proximal cause is not the food itself, the food is not upsetting their tummies. This is a mechanical problem. You mention that you have tried several interventions but don't specifically mention slow-feeder bowls, just that you use an automatic feeder on slow feed mode. Another things that can get cats to eat slower is to put their food higher up, like at the top of a cat tree. Speed eating is often behavioral and instinctual ("gotta eat it before someone steals it from me/predators come") and putting it up high seems to short-circuit this train of thought so they can take their time eating where no one will come "steal" their food. Many big cats drag their prey up into trees to eat in peace. As a bonus, if you put their food up at the top of a cat tree your toddler won't be able to access it.

I am not saying this to be an asshole, but why are you disregarding your vet's specific advisement which is that the issue is not the food itself but that the cats are eating it too fast? Your description of the problem is textbook ate-too-fast barfs, especially that the vomit is still-intact kibbles.
posted by juniperesque at 10:40 AM on July 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

my boys (or maybe just one of them, hard to tell) have this problem. i did everything you did, including the automatic feeder on trickle feed into two bowls with a custom 3D printed splitter. that helped, but what SEEMS to have helped on top of that is the kibble SIZE. i didn't think of it until just now reading penguinicity's comment. i have been mixing their regular kibble (adult royal canine urinary so) with some kitten food (iams kitten in the purple bag) so they have a little treat. because i am a pushover. the kitten food is MUCH smaller in size. they are getting about at 60/40 mix of adult/kitten. so perhaps that is a route to investigate.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:31 AM on July 29, 2020

Still not quite clear if you've tried eliminating kibble entirely, but that's also where I'd start; you already know they don't puke the wet food. Of my three rescue cats over the years, two had this problem. After trying various kibble sizes with each, I finally landed on wet food, in portions recommended by the vet (about 3oz. per cat per feeding) and only two feedings a day (8 am and 8 pm). Every once in a while I give them a little handful of no-grain kibble, which they view as a treat. No more vomits (except when the weirder one does something like eat half a cucumber).
posted by aspersioncast at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2020

If you're already at a point where you're giving a single kibble every few seconds (like a kibble-dispensing ball does - my old cat did require slowing food down to that extreme point) and they're still barfing then I really don't think it's an eating-too-fast issue. It's not clear if your automatic slow feeder is already accomplishing this or not - if so, make sure your vet is understanding just how slowly you are giving the kibble already.

Assuming the food has indeed been slowed down to that point already and they've been thoroughly medically cleared, it could be an individual food intolerance and you could try switching to a food with a different protein. Brands that follow WSAVA guidelines, conduct feeding trials and employ vet nutritionists on staff to formulate their foods are a safer bet to ensure that the foods will be properly nutritionally balanced (note that both TOTW and BB do not meet those criteria - something like Royal Canin or Hills is much safer). You could also ask your vet about trying a prescription gastro diet, again assuming the more obvious causes are ruled out first.
posted by randomnity at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had a Tonkinese that finally got the diagnosis of 'pukey kitty', after numerous vet visits didn't turn up anything.

I switched to this towards the end of her life, and it partially fixed the issue for me: Siamese Dry Cat Food. It has extra large kibble pieces, so they have to chew them more instead of just wolfing it down.

I think it'd be helpful for non-Tonk and non-Siam kitties as well.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:41 PM on July 29, 2020

I am not saying this to be an asshole, but why are you disregarding your vet's specific advisement which is that the issue is not the food itself but that the cats are eating it too fast? Your description of the problem is textbook ate-too-fast barfs, especially that the vomit is still-intact kibbles.

My quote was as follows: "The vets say they don't see anything wrong with them so it's just that they're eating too fast." I'm not sure where that means I disregarded their advice, but let me clarify:

The vets did not find anything medically wrong with the cats, and theorized that they ate too fast, and therefore we implemented, per their advice:

- the automatic slow feeder to go off at 5:30 am (e.g. you're waiting too long to feed the cat when you get up at 7am and it might be their digestive juices starting to flow that's upsetting it),

- Split up the feedings to two feedings in the morning per their advice to space out feeding (they are gluttonous cats and inhale their food or maybe are competitive with each other)

- One vet suggested free feeding which led to even bigger barfs and overweight cats, so we stopped that.

- try wet food, which we rotated in as part of dinner per the original post, but we're not super interested in making it part of the breakfast routine if we can avoid it, because that cats would be jumping on our heads and yowling at 5:30 to get us to do it. They generally tolerate wet food fine.

- I didn't mention this in my original post, but they also recommended putting golf balls in the food bowl to slow them down(which the cats learned immediately to knock out of the bowl, or flip the bowl over entirely)

- If those things don't work try different kibble.

I am now asking about different kibble ideas. I will look into slow feeder bowls as well as Hill's Science diet with smaller kibble size.
posted by Karaage at 3:41 PM on July 29, 2020

I don't know where you live, but my formerly pukey kitty gets food from Lake Erie Pet Food Company in combination with wet food (Fancy Feast). I don't know what it is about their food, but both cats love it.
posted by kathrynm at 4:05 PM on July 29, 2020

Hey, somebody else has pukey cats!

We invested in an automated feeder with Natural Balance dry food for a few years early on after we brought Bianca home from the shelter. It did seem to solve the problem, as it trained her to slow down on feeding quite a bit.

Moving her water further away from food also seemed to have a positive effect.

She's been off the automated feeder and currently on Trader Joe's holistic dry cat food for over a year now. Bonus is the TJ's food is high in protein and inexpensive, compared to Natural Balance.

These days we deal with vomit a few days a month, and that's usually connected with fur balls more than gorging.

Bottom line, you might have to try a few things to see what works.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:05 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might try either Science Diet Sensitve Skin ans Stomach or the Royal Canin Sensitve Digestion foods. If they don’t work and slowing down the feeding doesn’t help the maybe talk to the vet about a feeding trial on a food allergy diet- (which require a Rx from the vet. )
posted by morchella at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is anecdotal, but one of my three cats reliably puked that exact Taste of the Wild flavor up Every. Time. And none of them is really all that pukey in general. I ultimately just gave the bag away.

I have not had any puking that I can remember with American Journey duck recipe. We have tried many, many, many brands and types of both dry and wet food over the years, and most of them have been fine, but that particular American Journey is the only one I can somewhat confidently say has never been the identifiable cause of an immediate puke.
posted by slenderloris at 4:00 PM on July 30, 2020

My pukey girls have done much better on Whole Paws Grain Free Chicken indoor cat dry food. Little pellets. I also discovered that salmon seems to make them pukier--we've done better without salmon in the mix--there is a salmon version of this dry cat food.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:07 PM on July 30, 2020

It may not be the food making them vomit. Have you got any potpourri or essential oils fuming? My cat vomits at the smell of citrus. Maybe a plant?
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 2:51 AM on August 3, 2020

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