Monday, May 6, 2013

How To Care For a Cat With IBS


If you're not brand new to this blog, you know that my younger cat, Peach, has feline Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It took over a year of distress and hundreds of dollars in vet bills to reach this conclusion (which, like most autoimmune disorders, is more a guess by elimination than a definitive diagnosis). I've written about her "journey" before, but today I want to talk about long-term treatment for an IBS cat. This post won't apply to many people, but I hope it really helps those who need the information!

Disclaimer: I am not a vet. The following is based on amateur research and LOTS of trial and error. What works for my cat might not work for yours. Also, some say that the proper term for chronic stomach upset in cats is Irritable Bowel Disease, but I'm sticking with IBS for simplicity, so please don't attack me on semantics.

cat meds

Medication. The most crucial need of your IBS cat is a regular dose of prednisolone. The vet will start her on a fairly high dose to get the vomiting, etc. under control. Once she's eating and keeping food down consistently, you can slowly begin to scale back the dosage. The idea is to get her to the lowest dose that will keep her healthy. Peach was diagnosed in January and started on a whole pill twice a day. Over six-week intervals, I've cut that back to a quarter-pill twice a day. I'm currently trying to wean her to one daily dose instead of two, but I can tell she starts to feel puny around day three. So the experiment is ongoing. My vet says some animals only need medicine a few times a week, but it doesn't look like Peach is one of them. We'll see how it goes over time.

Happily, prednisolone is super cheap AND your vet can call it in to a regular pharmacy for convenience. I get mine at the corner CVS for $8 a bottle (which now lasts two or three months!). My first pickup there was hilarious: "Um, I'm picking up medicine for my cat?" Then I had to set up an account with her name and date of birth. It was fun for everyone.

I give Peach her medicine in a pill pocket treat and have never had any problems. She loves the treats and will actually remind me when it's time. The only kind I've found is Feline Greenies pill pockets, and they're fairly expensive – $10 for a bag of 45 (which lasts a month at most) – and only available at pet stores. I alternate the chicken and salmon flavors so she won't get bored. I also split the pills all at once and keep them in an old Tic Tac container. It's easier than digging the fragments out of a deep bottle.

I've read that natural enzyme supplements are good for even healthy cats' digestion. So most days, I sprinkle a little onto the cats' wet food. It dissolves and has no flavor. One large bottle costs about $10, and since you only need a tiny bit, it lasts forever (as in, probably years). I keep it in a salt shaker. The verdict is still out on whether it's really helping Peach, but it can't hurt.

cat food

Food. Your IBS cat should be on a high-protein, grain-free, varied diet. I actually switched both of my cats to grain-free food last fall, before I knew what was wrong with Peach, in case her problem was a grain allergy. That switch might have saved her life.

I provide dry food to my cats constantly (about half a cup in each dish per day) and give them each half a can of wet food in the evenings. I started with Nature's Variety Instinct wet and dry food, but after a few months, both cats refused to eat it anymore. I think it was too healthy. :) So now I get a variety of canned foods. They love Halo Spot's Stew, Canyon Creek Ranch, and Merrick Before Grain CAT (only certain flavors). Their current favorite canned brand is Avoderm, which has a lot of seafood options, but of course is the most expensive. For dry food, the cats like Innova, but I just found out it's been recalled. YIKES. So now I'm trying Blue Buffalo.

Again, I'm not a vet, but one key to feline IBS is to keep the stomach guessing. The more varied your cat's diet, the healthier she'll be. Your cat might be intolerant of certain common meats. I've noticed that beef and some brands of lamb make Peach sick instantly, but she does fine with chicken, especially in combination with other meats (like Before Grain's Quail and Chicken). She also eats fish, shellfish, and venison with no problem. If you're a hunter and have a lot of wild game on hand, giving some to your cat is a really healthy option!

A lot of cat owners swear by raw diets for managing or curing their cats' IBS, but I haven't tried it. If you're interested, there's plenty of information out there (and plenty of judgment, because people on the internet will rip each other to shreds over anything).

I wistfully remember my days of picking up a cheap bag of Purina One and a few cans of tuna while at Target. Now I make special trips to the pet store and spend around $75 monthly just on cat food. It's rough... but she's worth it! I recommend getting a loyalty card and sticking with one store for all your purchases. I chose Petco because it's closest to my house. They give me a $5 off coupon for every $50 I spend, and offer semi-regular 10% off deals on cans. Also, you can set up an order on their website and get automatic deliveries. That would make my life much easier, but they currently only offer canned food by the case. Petco, if you're listening, a mix-and-match option would be GREAT.

In summary, feline IBS isn't curable, but you can manage it easily with food and medication. Since Peach was SO sick for SO long, her quick response to treatment is still miraculous to me. I don't know how much weight she's gained since her all-time low of six pounds, but she started filling out immediately and looks much healthier. She may still have a shorter life, but it'll be of a higher quality than she had before. I'm thankful for every extra day of wellness!

Any questions?


  1. Since I am drawn to pet posts like a moth is to a flame, I devoured this post! So glad Peach is better and you are figuring it all out! The face in that picture makes it much easier to drop big bucks on her, I am sure! She is SO cute!
    Interesting about the wild game. I will see if we have any in our freezer.

    1. :) Thanks, I'm very relieved that she's doing so much better.

  2. My cats finally took to the Blue Buffalo when we went grain free. I've noticed that Maia's puking has finally gotten under control since we made the switch. Sadly, my cats won't eat any cat food that is the mushced up variety, so it's been an adventure finding grain free and sliced/chunked wet food. Natural Choice seems to be working after failing with Blue Buffalo and another brand on the wet food side. I'm glad to hear Peach is still doing well.

    1. Thanks! Cats definitely have strong preferences. :)

  3. I agree with you Brenda, Some products may not work for other cats. I liked the way you wrote your post. Good job! Feline for Cats

  4. My cat Sapphire seems to have the same thing. She won't eat any food other than the Scientific Diet prescription dry food. She had a steroid shot initially but nothing since. I find she occasionally poops in the litter box and then is 'surprised' by something else which obviously was still in her colon. This unexpected extra usually gets deposited on the carpet. I wonder of more regular steroid pills/ shots would avoid this.

  5. thank you for going to the trouble to share ur information...we are at the beginning of dealing with what seems to be IBS...its frightening and we just want him to feel good, okay again...thks for hope and guidance...glad Peach is winning...

  6. Our cat's IBS sky rocketed when we switched to blue buffalo. She lost 4 lbs! The vet said that most vets highly recommend that you stay away from that brand because it promotes alkalinity in cats - which is exactly what you don't want. They've also linked blue buffalo to kidney stones in cats, and in studies with dogs, it actually led to numerous deaths. I was surprised to find this all out, but I consulted with 2 vets who told me the same exact thing. I'm in the process of slowly getting her off blue buffalo and onto a cat food prescribed for IBS. Strangely enough, it's less expensive. Look into it - this may help Peach progress a little further! I hope this helps :)

    1. Wow, that's crazy! Thanks for the information. She wasn't on Blue Buffalo for long... I now have her on Merrick. She's gained weight and is doing great!

  7. I worked in an animal hospital...the vets Want your pets on prescription food forever so they make the money. Usually Hills brand or some others. Not good. Most vets dont believe in no grain either because they do not sell it. Hills is a terrible brand.

  8. My cat is 4yrs old and diagnosed w/ibs. Tried science diet worked for a month. Vet switched to royal canin prescripted made it a month. Both are dry foods. Now back to square one... Any other suggestions that !sy work

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  11. Please stay away from vet prescribed dry foods. As mentioned above, they make money from selling these (Hills, Science Diet, Royal Canin, etc) and there is literally NO food in them. I have a cat with IBD and she started on Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie. In combination with a steroid it definitely helped but my other cat was eating it too and that concerned me. Every vet said that was "fine". Ultimately my IBD cat (who has a beautiful chocolate brown coat)started to get patches of white throughout her coat - because she was not getting any nutrition from this "food".

    I have gradually switched her to Acana (Pacifica) and she is doing fine (+ it is a great food and I have no concerns about my other cat eating it, in fact it is quite the opposite.) I have added a digestive enzyme/probiotic (once a day) and have also been able to wean her down significantly on the steroids (from once a day to once every 5 days) I am not a vet but work at a locally owned holistic pet supply store The BEST thing you can ultimately do is a raw diet for IBS/IBD (Primal, Stella & Chewy both also make a dehydrated raw formula which you can feed as is or you can hydrate. Even look at Ziwi Peak which is air dried raw)in combo with a digestive enzyme/probiotic and even B12 which helps support their immune system. Honest Kitchen also makes a great food but it can get pricey (as can Ziwi Peak, Stella and Chewy and Primal unfortunately). The good news is it helps their gut and they eat less because they are satisfied and full.

  12. Most experts now tell us that the best cat food diet is raw food prepared carefully at home, but the same experts also tell us that the worst cat diets are raw food prepared at home without enough caution

  13. how is your kitty? my cat has IBS really bad. trying new foods and have eliminated anything with chicken or fish. fish oil is just about in everything but she seems to do ok with rabbit, sometimes beef, venison, and we are trying duck now. i take her in every few days for subcutaneous fluids and an anti-nausea shot. have found that mirtazapine (taken every 3 days) has definitely helped also for the days she doesn't have the appetite to eat.

    1. My kitty finally passed about two years ago. :( I'm glad you've found something to sustain yours, and hope these different foods help her!

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