is this a reason to go to an emergency vet?
August 8, 2021 6:28 AM   Subscribe

cat edition. Details inside.

I have a cat who is prone to hairballs behaving oddly.

* Lots of hacking/coughing but bringing up nothing in the middle of the night.

* Loss of appetite. She's normally a food monster but yesterday/today she isn't interested in normal friskies but does pick at one of those kitty soupy things.

* I did give her a dollop of yogurt yesterday morning (after a normal breakfast AND verifying the ingredients label - nothing harmful in it). She seemed to like it a lot, but was similarly uninterested in dinner last night.

* hard to say about bowel movements - shared litterboxes. I might try to keep her in a room with a clean litterbox and see how she does.

Can this wait until tomorrow when my normal vet opens, or should I take her to an emergency clinic today?
posted by snerson to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If she is taking in some food, and isn't listless, hiding, or seeming to not want to move, I'd wait until tomorrow. If she does look really off, I'd consider the vet.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:43 AM on August 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

I rely on this reference that used to be online. If the only symptom or condition is partial loss of appetite, and the coughing/hacking is normal for this hairball-prone cat, it would say you’re ok waiting for tomorrow. But check their list for anything co-occurring, and for coughing that’s not normal for her.
posted by daisyace at 6:56 AM on August 8, 2021 [9 favorites]

Do you have an emergency Vet Clinic you can call? We have one in St. Louis who will do triage over the phone with you. In the three incidents I have called about over the past decade, two they suggested waiting and one they said to bring the cat in. I certainly had much more peace of mind after talking to a professional.
posted by hworth at 6:56 AM on August 8, 2021

Hope she's feeling better already. I have feline leukemia cats, and I know too well the feeling of "should we go now?" that you describe.

Cats are very good at hiding illness, so I wouldn't necessarily write off illness just because she's acting okay. Lethargy, hiding and total cessation of eating or drinking are usually things that happen pretty far along in an illness, when they can't conceal it anymore. It is good that she's at least trying to eat and her behavior is normal otherwise.

Are you able to look in her mouth, perhaps with a flashlight? Just double check to make sure there's nothing visibly stuck in there.

Can you get some ham baby food? Just ham puree, no seasonings or other ingredients. I've never had a cat turn it down. Warm it a bit in the microwave, just enough to make it nice and stinky. Even better, stir in a tablespoon or two of hot water to add hydration.

If you're thinking she has a hairball that she just can't bring up, you could try adding a teaspoon of olive oil, or even just plain vegetable oil, to something that you know she will eat, like the yogurt. It can help make the hairball softer and more slippery so that it's easier to hork up on some beloved household textile. It won't hurt her if there's actually no hairball present.

Finally, do keep in mind that kitties are fickle creatures. She may have just decided she's over the particular flavor of wet food you're offering. Around here, this usually happens when we've just bought an entire 24-can case of something the cats have gobbled up before. It's like they know. You could try getting another type of food, perhaps something really meaty and stinky. We have had good luck with the types of food that have actual shredded meat or bits of seafood. If yours is a pate eater, there are some brands that smell much worse - and therefore, more delicious - than the others. Ours like Ziwi and Against the Grain; I think any food with mussels as a protein source is much stronger smelling than other types.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:37 AM on August 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: She's feeling well enough to pester her sister, so... for right now I feel okay waiting. I can always call the emergency vet later today if she seems suddenly worse. And I'll try the ham food + water trick tonight to make sure she's getting something. Thanks everyone!
posted by snerson at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Try a hairball treatment like Petromalt or anything else malt based if you think your cat is jammed up.
Regarding cats getting tired of food, I had one that decided she didn't want anything except chicken puree so refused to eat anything unless it was chicken. I should note that I only syringe feed chicken puree so she was submitting to being bundled in a towel and having chicken fed in a syringe she wanted the chicken puree so much. The vet called her out otherwise I probably would have kept it up.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

I’m a vet (a cautious one) and agree that this can wait until tomorrow.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:29 AM on August 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

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