In an interview, veterinarian Petra Wolf explains why diarrhea is often due to the diet of the house tiger, single proteins are better for sensitive animals and cat owners should not get bouquets of flowers.
Prof. Dr. med. vet. Petra Wolf
is a specialist veterinarian for animal nutrition and dietetics and owner of the nutritional consultancy “Feedconsult”
Is it true that diarrhea in cats is often due to diet?
Petra Wolf: Yes, stool problems often arise because the cat cannot digest certain food components well. Cats are carnivores, carnivores, and can only process a certain part of plant substances such as starch, which is found in potatoes, in the small intestine. If the undegraded starch then reaches the large intestine, it is cleaved by the bacteria there and a mushy stool occurs.
Milk can also cause diarrhea in cats. Because only young kittens have the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the milk sugar. In adult animals, the enzyme is no longer formed and they get flatulence and diarrhea due to excessive amounts of milk.
Can meat products also cause digestive problems in cats?
Yes, these are certain animal raw materials such as the lungs and liver, which contain a lot of connective tissue. These can be difficult for the cat to digest if they are offered in large quantities. In particular, liver is often given to as a gourmet bite. But this is not a good idea, because it can cause a disturbed bowel movement.
Does an abrupt change in food or the wrong treat also promote diarrhea?
The change of food or a treat do not play a major role in digestive disorders. Only in animals that have a sensitive stomach, this leads to diarrhea. Rather, digestive problems arise from the fact that the food portions do not meet the cat’s natural need: If the pussy receives a large meal only once a day, it winds down the food hungry. This overwhelms the digestive activity in the small intestine and causes foamy feces. Cats are snackers who eat prey ten to fifteen times a day in nature, so house tigers should also get several small amounts of food.
What role do allergies play?
Feed allergies have increased significantly in domestic cats in recent years. In my day-to-day clinical life alone, these cases account for almost a quarter of all patients. In the case of an allergy, the proteins contained in the food trigger the immune system, which then starts defensive reactions and triggers symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, itching and skin inflammation.
How does the pet owner know if the diarrhea is caused by an allergy?
Just leave out the food for a day and offer the cat only water. If the diarrhea then stops, it is most likely due to food. Depending on which type of meat was previously given, another should now come into the bowl. If there was previously beef, for example, poultry or lamb can now be tried.
Since different types of meat have been processed in many feeds, it is worthwhile to buy a special food that really contains only one variety. Veterinarians speak here of single-protein or mono-protein food. If the symptoms subside, you have found the right variety. However, the search can sometimes take longer and you need some patience. If in doubt, it is better to ask the veterinarian before changing too much food on your own.
What are the causes of diarrhea in cats?
Diarrhea has many causes. Digestive problems occur due to stress, heat or the wrong food. The most common triggers of diarrhea in velvet paws:
Diarrhea in cats is often due to food. Thus, spiced food residues that the pussy has received from the table, or spoiled food can be a reason for the digestive problems. The animal then tries to get rid of the problematic substances as soon as possible.
Even if the food is abruptly changed, the cat does not tolerate a new variety well or has simply devoured a meal that is too large, this can mess up the digestion.
Some velvet paws also suffer from a feed intolerance or allergy and therefore react sensitively to certain proteins in the diet.
Parasites If the pussy
has intestinal problems, worms (roundworms or tapeworms) or single-celled parasites (giardia, coccidia) may be responsible. The parasites enter the body when the cat drinks puddle water, in which there are single-celled organisms, or a worm-infested mouse eats.
House tigers without an exit can also become infected, because worm eggs also enter the apartment via the soles of the shoes. If the parasites have settled in the cat’s intestines, they cause digestive problems.
Viruses and bacteria are common triggers of diarrhea. Viruses such as parvovirus, coronavirus, feline leukemia virus and feline immune deficiency virus, as well as bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, cause infectious diseases in which stool changes occur.
Organic diseases If diarrhea occurs
regularly, this can be an indication of an internal disease, including hyperthyroidism, inflammation of the pancreas or renal insufficiency. Chronic inflammatory bowel disease or an intestinal tumor can also trigger diarrhea.
There is a risk of poisoning not only for free-roamers, who can become victims of poison baits outside. House tigers can also poison themselves. Because cats like to nibble on greens, whether it’s birch figs, orchids or yucca palm. But these and many other ornamental plants are poisonous for velvet paws. This also applies to bouquets of flowers, especially daffodils, lilies and tulips.
In some plants, poisoning only occurs when the animal eats them more often, in others contact is sufficient. That’s why houseplants and cut flowers are unfortunately taboo for cat owners.
ATTENTION: Poisoning is manifested by diarrhea, vomiting, increased salivation, tremors, seizures and paralysis. If these symptoms occur, the cat is in mortal danger and should be taken to a veterinarian’s office immediately!
Hot summer days are not a pleasure for velvet paws. Cats have only a few sweat glands and therefore try to achieve cooling through panting breathing or increased cleaning. Midsummer temperatures literally put your body under stress, which speeds up digestion and promotes diarrhea.
Cats usually don’t like it when something changes in their everyday life. They already react sensitively when, for example, a new piece of furniture is purchased. If there is even a move, many animals get into stress. They then nervously sniff at the packed boxes or crawl anxiously under the sofa. Some velvet paws are hit by the stress right on the stomach and they get diarrhea.
When does a cat with diarrhea need to go to the veterinarian?
One-time liquid feces are not yet a cause for concern. Sometimes diarrhea is only caused by stress, for example, because mistress has a new partner or a move takes place and the familiar environment of the house tiger changes. However, if the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, a veterinarian should be consulted as a precaution. Cats dehydrate quickly if they lose a lot of fluid for several days. Only a veterinarian can determine whether an organ disease or infection is the actual cause of the stool problems and needs to be treated accordingly.
In apartment cats, diarrhea appears in the litter box. How can stool problems be detected in free-roamers?
If the cat usually does its business outside in nature, it is important to take a closer look at the back of the animal more often. If the coat is smeared with feces, this indicates diarrhea.
What should the pet owner consider when feeding to support the recovery of the cat?
In the first few days, in any case, administer only light food. The classic is rice with unseasoned chicken. A special diet food for the sensitive gastrointestinal tract also promotes regeneration. If the cat has hardly any appetite, it helps to fry the wet food briefly in the pan and then (slightly cooled) put it in the bowl. My special tip: Warm up a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream in the microwave and then pour it over the meal, which every cat has eaten enthusiastically so far.
Sufficient fluids are important, but many house tigers drink too little. How can this be improved?
Cats like stale water and find different sources of drinking exciting. Therefore, not only fill the water into a bowl, but also offer it in a jug or a (cleaned) watering can. Tip: Add a little glucose or a small piece of liver sausage to the water makes drinking even more appealing. Cats also find a small indoor fountain attractive.
Do you still have recovery tips away from eating and drinking?
In addition to the right diet, of course, relaxation also promotes the healing process: If the pussy wants to have her rest first, pet owners should accept this. If, on the other hand, the house tiger seeks the proximity of his mistress or master, the petting is very good for him. Cuddling relaxes animals and humans, so they both benefit from it.
5 important hygiene rules for diarrhea
- Set up an extra litter box
- Put old towels or kitchen paper around the litter box – in case the house tiger gets something wrong
- Place washable pads on the cat’s berths
- As soon as diarrhea is in the litter box – always clean immediately!
- Wash your hands regularly