Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?
Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

An upset stomach is more common in cats than you might think. But how can you tell if it's a serious problem?

Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging, and heaving retch. But in a flash, the cat seems to snap back to good health while you're left scrubbing the carpet.

The scenario is a familiar one for Cynthia Bowen of Cleveland, Ohio. As the owner of four Maine Coons, Bowen has cleaned her share of messes. "It would happen every couple of months or so," she says. "Otherwise, they were perfectly healthy."

Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do almost on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a better relationship with your cat.

 

Cause for Alarm?

Repeated cat vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But, because vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what's normal? "A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this 'normal,'" says Dr. William Folger, a DVM from Houston.

He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain, or retches continuously, or if there's blood in the vomit, take her to a veterinarian. And, as always, if you're suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat's discomfort and your worries as well.

 

Why Cats Vomit

Many owners attribute their cat's vomiting to hairballs, but that's not the only culprit. "It's careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs," says Dr. Folger. Two other frequent causes of an upset stomach are:

  • Eating too fast. Cats sometimes eat too much, too fast. When the stomach wall expands too quickly, a signal is sent to the brain to cause regurgitation. In these cases, the mess on your floor is from regurgitation, not actual vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, he brings up fluid and food from his esophagus by opening his mouth–unlike vomiting, where there's gagging and retching. Regurgitated food is still formed, and may smell fermented. "Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating," says Dr. Sara Stephens, a DVM from Montana. But don't assume regurgitation is always a case of eating too fast. It could be caused by esophageal problems, obstruction of the digestive tract, hairballs, or dehydration. If you've forced your cat to eat slowly and he still has problems, contact a veterinarian.
     
  • Curiosity. Grass, carpet, and toilet paper are just a few things cats may digest and later vomit. The vomiting is a protective mechanism–nature's way of cleansing your cat’s system. Sometimes, though, curiosity can lead to more serious problems. String, toy parts, and feathers are favorites of playful felines and can lodge in the stomach or intestine, causing repeated vomiting and severe distress. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, take her to a veterinarian immediately; surgery is often necessary to remove the object.

 

Preventative Measures

Often, owners accept their pet's vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of tummy troubles doesn't mean you have to sit idly by.

One simple preventative measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Stephens recommends smaller portions, elevating your cat's food dish slightly, or putting an object, such as a ball, into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, and thus her intake will be slowed. If you do this, make sure the ball isn't small enough to swallow. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.

If simple solutions don't work, watch your cat's eating behavior and reactions. Bowen, for example, tried changing her cats' diets. "Since switching to IAMS®, they rarely throw up," Bowen says.

 

"Usually, when you change to a higher-quality diet, there is no problem," Stephens says. Here are some tips for helping make sure your cat's change is as successful and comfortable as possible:

  • Go slowly. Make the transition gradually to allow your cat time to adjust. "Make sure the cat eats something every day," Stephens advises. "A cat that quits eating suddenly can develop liver problems."
     
  • Add appeal. Switching from wet to dry or vice versa should also be done gradually. Many cats find canned food more palatable. If you switch to dry, add water and warm it slightly for more appeal. Discard uneaten food after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage.
     
  • Measure up. How much should you feed? Your cat's age, sex, breed, activity level, and overall health need to be taken into consideration. Talk with your veterinarian, then read the manufacturer's recommendations. Premium foods like IAMS cat foods are more nutrient-dense than many non-premium diets, so don't be surprised if the recommended amounts seem low.
     
  • Pay attention. Beyond careful measuring, also regularly weigh your cat and adjust the feeding amount accordingly after switching to a premium food. Your cat may appear happy if you overfeed him. But over time, he may become overweight. Tummy troubles can be in the past with your veterinarian’s help and a little effort on your part.

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    How to Create an Enriching Environment for Your Kitten

    How to Create an Enriching Environment for Your Kitten

    Kittens are curious, energetic fluffballs with boundless energy. A safe, enriching environment can cater to your kitten’s playful side, stimulate them physically and mentally, and benefit their health and development for the rest of their life.

     

     

    Tips for Creating a Safe, Enriching Environment for Kittens

    Keeping your kitten indoors has significant benefits because it protects them from a large number of dangers. But without all the sights, sounds and smells of nature, a kitten needs other ways to stimulate their mind and body.


    To build your kitten an enriching environment, provide them with safe places for hiding and resting, like window ledges, carriers or perches. Your kitten should feel protected in their safe spots and may prefer an enclosed resting area. While kittens spend a great deal of their time sleeping, their periods of wakefulness can and should be used to stimulate psychological and physical activity.


    It’s important to create stimulating places for entertainment and play, as well. Cats can benefit from spaces at different vertical levels, like cat trees and perches. A variety of scratching posts can teach your kitten appropriate scratching while nurturing their natural instincts, and protect your furniture and carpet from their sharp claws.


    Many cats also benefit from social activity with other cats, especially if they were introduced to other cats early in life. Providing your kitten with another kitten or young cat as a play buddy can help meet their need for near-constant play and motion. Keep in mind that cats put a premium on managing space, so it’s important that multiple-cat homes offer a variety of places to hide, sleep and observe, using both the horizontal and vertical dimensions.

     

     

    Engaging Games and Toys for Kittens

    An important component to enriching your kitten’s environment is socialization and play, especially if your kitten is the only animal in the household. A kitten’s natural predator-play behavior is usually easy to stimulate with interactive toys, such as wand toys or balls to pounce on or chase.

     

     

    Games for Kittens

    Playing kitten games with your pet helps them develop coordination and natural hunting skills. It also can help them learn boundaries and develop a bond with their new owner. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of structured playtime two or three times a day. One way to prevent the “nighttime crazies” is to engage in active, vigorous play before feeding your kitten at bedtime. This helps wear out the kitten before bed and mimics the natural hunting-feeding-grooming-sleeping sequence in cats.


    Engaging games to play with your kitten include:

    • Hide and seek.Call your kitten to you; this may be easiest at mealtime. When your kitten comes running, move to a different room and call again. Reward them for finding you with a fun toy or treat.
    • Fetch.Toss a toy across the floor for your kitten to chase. When they “catch” the toy, call them back to you. If they bring the toy back to you, reward them with praise or treats to reinforce the behavior.
    • Paper bag prey.Place a paper shopping bag on its side, and gently scratch the sides or put a toy inside to encourage your kitten inside. Poke and scratch the outside of the bag while your kitten happily pursues the unknown “prey.”

     

     

    Stimulate a Kitten Through Training

    An important component to enriching your kitten’s environment is socialization and play, especially if your kitten is the only animal in the household. A kitten’s natural predator-play behavior is usually easy to stimulate with interactive toys, such as wand toys or balls to pounce on or chase.

     

     

    Keeping a Kitten Entertained While Alone

    A greater challenge is providing enrichment opportunities for kittens when a person or another pet is not present to interact with them. Puzzle toys are one option to fight kitten boredom. These toys come in a variety of designs to entertain your kitten and reward her with a treat or food, such as Opens a new window IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Healthy Kitten with Chicken. This offers twofold benefits, providing play and proper nutrition for supporting a kitten’s energy and playtime.

     

     


    Kittens and cats will spend a great deal of time watching the outside world through windows, especially if there’s a bird feeder or butterfly garden within view. Make sure to keep at least one window blind open — especially if it looks out on an area with frequent movement and activity. There are also a number of “cat TV” videos of squirrels, birds and other nature scenes available online to keep a cat entertained.


    Providing your kitten with enrichment opportunities helps prevent stress and the development of abnormal behaviors. Growing from a kitten into a cat in an enriched environment with lots of physical and psychological exercise supports the overall well-being of your pet at all stages of her life.

     

     

     

     

    How to Create an Enriching Environment for Your Kitten
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