Confused about Cat Nutrition

by Christine
(OC, California)

First of all, I would like to thank you for offering this service to people, it is so kind and generous of you. It is really exceptional that you take your time to answer people's questions!

My cat, Lilly is only 2 years old and she's always been a very small cat, most likely the runt of her litter. I was volunteering for the shelter and fostered 6 kittens, so I raised her and bottle fed her. She is the most loving cat I have ever had and I really believe she thinks I'm her mom - sometimes she won't even eat if I don't stand by her bowl with her. She has always been really skinny and even had stinky breath but I never thought it was a problem. I bought her the best food I thought was possible - "Nature's Select" dry cat food which supposedly has no by-products, no corn, no soy, no gluten, and also canned food in addition - also the best stuff - Nature's Balance and "Wellness" with limited ingredients, no preservatives or by-products. I hoped this would put some more weight on her but it didn't.

Two weeks ago, she was throwing up, not keeping her food down, having diarrhea and was looking even skinnier than normal. We immediately took her to the vet. The vet thought she possibly had blockage, maybe ate something she wasn't suppose to, so she ran x-rays. They came back and she said they were pretty normal nothing too unusual except a little something she wasn't too sure about and if she kept throwing up we'd have to do exploratory surgery. She gave her fluids and sent us home with a new food to try - Hills Prescription ID. We gave her that food, and she wasn't throwing up anymore, but still had the diarrhea and was very inactive/not her normal self wasn't playing with my other cat like they usually do, etc. So we brought her back in.

The vet did a urinalysis – normal. I brought her a sample of her stool to test for parasites - nothing, normal, she did a blood test, and even those came back normal with only slightly high numbers in the kidney count or blood cells or something that she didn't seem worried about because they were only slight and she said it could've been because she was dehydrated from the throwing up and diarrhea. So she gave her fluids and sent us home, this time with some pills and supplements - the Forti Flora to sprinkle on her food once a day and a feline enteric support pill twice a day. She was doing pretty well but her stomach had loud gurgling noises after she ate.

I read the ingredients on the Hills Diet and the main ones are pork and pork liver, etc. and I thought this was pretty gross - I mean isn't this pretty far from what their diet would be if they were in the wild?? A cat would never hunt and eat a pig. I didn't think this was a best food choice for her and I was sure it was the pills and flora that were helping with her diarrhea so I put her back on the "Natural Balance" wet food of chicken instead. I now feed her 3-4 times a day and she is eating at least one can a day.

Her stomach still gurgles a little after she eats, but not as loud as it did on the Hills prescription ID. She has been doing great - all her energy is back, she plays with the other cat, she is even filling out a little more and is looking and acting so much better. The poop is firmer, but still not as hard as our other cats.

Today, I heard her farting a couple times, I walked over to where she was sleeping and the farting continued a good 30 seconds - I looked at her butt and out was coming clear mucus. I got a baby wipe and cleaned it. It was only a small (quarter size) amount. This was the first I've ever seen or heard of this and now I'm worried all over again!

Do you know what could be going on with my cat??
She has had so many tests (and cost me well over $500) and yet all the vet has done is given me supplements. Is that what she's supposed to take for the rest of her life?? (Not that I mind. They're inexpensive, but I just don't get what the underlying problem is!)

Could she have a disease? What tests are there left to do?? Was I wrong in taking her off the Hills ID food??

Could it be the food?? I'm a vegetarian myself, so I think that meat is really bad (ESPECIALLY the lower grade stuff they put in the cat food! And with all the hormones and antibiotics they're injecting them with these days I've often thought of switching my cat over to a vegetarian diet to see if that would help her stomach issues. I brought this up to my vet and she thought I was crazy. "Cats need the protein" but I've researched a lot of veggie cat food companies that claim that cats live just as long if not longer than non-vegetarian cats. Have you heard of or evolution diet for cats??? Do you think this is crazy idea too??

I am ready to try it out, but I don't know what to do I'm so confused and I honestly I just want what's best for my cat, she's like my baby!

Please help! :(

Dear Christine,

Thank you for expressing your gratitude for the information I provide on this site, but more importantly, thank you for writing in with concern for your kitty!

Let me start by addressing your concerns regarding your cat’s nutrition. I would strongly suggest that you do not try to turn your cat into a vegetarian. Cats need animal protein for their overall health. I would recommend reading the information provided by Dr. Pierson on this site regarding cat nutrition. The information provided by Dr. Pierson is very thorough, and I strongly support the ideas expressed on her site.

In terms of your cat’s illness symptoms, it actually sounds as though your cat is doing better, despite this recent episode. Everything you have described indicates that your cat may have inflammatory bowel disease, in which occasional episodes of gas or mucus discharge are not worth panicking over.

To reassure you that you are not alone in dealing with this, you could visit this page of my site, which includes a lot of information about anal discharge including comments and experiences from other loving and concerned cat owners.

After you have read more information about cat nutrition, from this site and from Dr. Pierson, you are more than welcome to write back with any further thoughts or questions.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

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