Ask the Cat Doc: Rotating Foods, Blind FeLV+ Kitten, Cat Refuses to Use Litter Box, and More

Ask-the-Cat-Doc-with-Dr.-Lynn-Bahr

Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit their website.

How often should you rotate foods in your cat’s diet?

I’d love for Dr. Bahr to elaborate about rotating foods in your cat’s diet. How often should we change foods/brands – monthly, quarterly? I also have a struggle getting my cats to eat any canned food other than Fancy Feast. They grew up eating it (before they came to me) and strongly resist my attempts to switch them to something of better quality. If I offer them something else they just ignore it and eat only their dry food, so I tell myself that eating any wet food is better than no wet at all, but I’m wondering if that’s really okay. Thanks so much for such a great source of information! – Anna

Hi Anna,

Thank you so much for your question regarding food rotation. The difficulties you are experiencing getting your kitties to eat a quality diet is a common problem many cat owners face. That is because cats acquire preferences in food texture and taste early in life, and like your babies, often resist change as adults. This is especially true for kittens that never had the opportunity to experience a variety of diets while they were developing their taste palates.

Like many people I know, cats don’t take to change well. Therefore, it is best to take it slow when attempting to introduce new foods. You can start by putting a small amount down every day for a minimum of a week or two. The idea is to train them into thinking that the new food is no longer new.  Some cats can be nudged into tasting the new diet this way. Others may need more coaxing by warming the food slightly to “mouse” or “blood” temperature or having some favorite treats placed on top.

While we know immediately when our cat dislikes a food, it takes time and patience to learn what diets they really like. Start by offering different textures as well as flavors. You can easily experiment by first seeing if they will eat any of your own foods. Many cats enjoy eating our meats, fish, or vegetables and it is just a matter of trial and error to determine which ones they like. Cats that ignore chicken may be interested in prime rib instead, while others may prefer salmon if given a choice. I have met cats that like cherry tomatoes, melon, spinach and ice cream. I even had a patient that took his meds every day in mashed potatoes with temptation treats sprinkled on top. The goal is to see if you can interest your cat to accept different foods and to figure out which ones they like best. This will help you figure out your cats’ preferences for texture, temperature, and flavor so that you can begin to pick out appropriate commercial wet foods for them. Ultimately, it may allow you to transition them to a raw diet they enjoy.

I have a mantra that you cannot trick, force, or starve a cat into a new diet. They will always win that battle. And like you, I believe that most commercial wet foods are better than no wet at all.  Finally, it is more important that cats eat sufficiently (even if it is a poor diet) than starve themselves to death. With that being said though, keep trying. Don’t give up on the possibility that your cats may come to see the light one day soon.  You may just need to give it more time and become a little more creative in your offerings. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Blind FeLV positive kitten

Two years ago we adopted a kitten blind and positive for Felv. As we have 4 other cats, all negative, we all vaccinated with the V5 before her arrival. Everyone is living very well and healthy. Here in Brazil some veterinarians advise to give our kitten Felv + a medicine called INTERFERON, but because she is blind I think taking the medicine every day leaves her very stressed. Do you advise to keep this medicine? Is there something natural? Thank you! – Maria Carolina Gavioli

Hi Maria, you are so wonderful for adopting a blind kitty that also has feline leukemia. Thank you for having such a kind heart. Unless your cat is symptomatic I typically do not recommend Interferon for healthy cats with FeLV. Reducing your cat’s stress is more important to her overall health and the best way to make sure she remains happy and healthy is by making sure it is kept to a minimum. The natural way to help her is by feeding a quality diet and making sure she is kept active, engaged, and entertained both physically and mentally. Fresh air, sunshine, and lots of love will fulfill her needs so that she remains healthy. Because FeLV cats are living with a compromised immune system it is important to keep their stress to a minimum and avoid immunosuppressive drugs if possible. You were correct to question the benefit of Interferon for your baby and it may not be the best choice for her. She is lucky to have such a smart and caring mom.

Cat fights with brother and aggravates older cat

I adopted brother and sister cats about 8 years ago. The male is sweet and friendly. The female likes me, but I can’t pick her up. She likes to be petted. She loves my nearly 15 yo Siamese female cat who grooms her, but it is getting on her nerves. The younger one will not leave her alone and throws herself on my Siamese who has arthritis. I can push her away with difficulty, but back she comes. She also will hiss and fight with her brother for a favored spot. He gives in and she always wins. What can I do with her? – Judy Lust

Hi Judy, your baby girl sounds like she is gushing with personality and energy. I recommend you celebrate her character while finding ways to keep her active, engaged, and entertained. She sounds like a normal cat that does not like to be picked up, enjoys being groomed, and occasionally beats up on her brother. Those are all typical cat behaviors.  However, I understand your desire for her to be less of a nuisance to her housemates. I believe you can best accomplish that by keeping her mind and body stimulated with more opportunities to play, hunt, chase, forage, climb, run, and pounce with furniture and toys that help her express her natural desires. She may be looking for outlets to expend energy by picking on her brother or over grooming your Siamese. There are some helpful tips in a recent blog I wrote about kitty boredom. You and your other kitties will all be much happier if you are able to redirect her energy by engaging her in more playful activities as opposed to trying to stop her behavior all together. What a lucky owner you are to have the joy of living with three wonderful cats. You are blessed.

Cats in windowless basement apartment

I’m in a situation with my cats where I live in a basement apartment with no windows. It’s been 2 years with 1 more to go. I’m very sad and worried about them. I play bird videos and even bought a SAD light. We went from tons of windows and sun and wildlife to nothing. Can you help? Thank you. – Claudette

Hi Claudette, your current circumstance makes me sad too and I understand your angst. I believe strongly that cats need fresh air and sunshine to remain happy and healthy. Unfortunately, until you are able to secure a more suitable location for your kitties, the only suggestion I have is to play with them constantly making sure they are running, jumping, pouncing, and chasing, and to make sure you are providing them with places to climb and hide. You can bring the outdoors in for them by bringing home branches, grass, leaves, and other items from the outside for them to explore. If your cats have the right temperament and personality to adapt to a harness or stroller they might be good candidates for taking them on adventures outside. Hopefully, your current situation is only temporary and you will soon be able to find a sunnier place for them to live. In the meantime, you may want to seek out retired neighbors or ones who work from home who have windows that might enjoy allowing your cats to spend playdates with them. Good luck!

Cat stopped using litter box after bout with diarrhea

I have a question for Dr. Bahr: My 2 year old kitty recently had diarrhea; it may have been from my mistakenly purchasing the wrong food. Since a check with the vet and a round of antibiotics, she has had a little bit of blood next to her stool every time she poops. Moreover, she refuses to use the litter box when she goes #2 (she does pee inside the box thank goodness). She used to poop on the couch next to where I usually sit or on the kitchen table (YUCK!!); now, she simply goes next to one of the littler boxes. I took her back to the vet for another check and he said nothing is wrong. I also got some Feliway plug ins. But this isn’t normal. Any ideas? – Kathleen

Hi Kathleen,you are correct to assume that the problems your cat is having is not normal and I think you are a smart mom for knowing that. I would need a lot more information from you in order to properly diagnose what is going on and how to treat it. Did this come on suddenly or has she always defecated out of box? What is the consistency of the stool – hard, soft, or normal? How often does she defecate? What are you feeding her? Do you have other cats or is she an only child? These are just a few of the questions that would lead me in the right direction of diagnosing and treating this issue.

Without knowing the particular details it is hard for me to help you specifically. However, your little girl is certainly trying to tell you something and perhaps it is time for a second opinion. If there are any feline only veterinarians in your area I would suggest you start there. Hopefully, this will be an easy problem to fix.

Gluten-free cat food

I have a 18 week British Shorthair kitten. What are your thoughts on gluten free food like Wellness Core kitten food. – Arlinda Dungan

Hi Arlinda, congratulations on your new teddy bear and thank you for writing to me. When it comes to feeding cats, I believe in feeding lots of different textures, brands and flavors. Since you have a kitten this is a great time to make sure that he does not get stuck eating one food or brand of food. This is the time to introduce him to everything, including raw food.

Cats in the wild eat a variety of animals like mice, squirrels, birds, and bugs. They primarily scavenger for food and eat scraps and refuse or whatever they can find that is available and tasty. Therefore, it is not natural for them to simply eat one diet or protein source. That is why I don’t recommend you concentrate on a particular brand or whether or not it is gluten free but rather prefer you begin to feed your new kitty a smorgasbord instead. I hope this answers your question and that you will begin offering your new bundle of joy unlimited opportunities to expand his palate.

Feral cat with discharge from his nose

I have a stray/feral cat that I have been feeding for about a year. He hangs around on my back porch, I have provided food and water for him and a nice hated house. However, I have noticed that he has a bloody, mucus discharge from his nose. This has been going on all fall and winter. He will not even allow me to approach him – I’ve wanted to try and trap him to get him to my vet. Any suggestions? – Gail Waller

Hi Gail, I want to thank you for taking care of this stray cat that has no one else looking out for him. You are his angel and he is lucky to have you. Unfortunately, I do not have any suggestions for you unless you are able to get him seen by a veterinarian. Nasal discharges can be have many underlying causes and a proper diagnose is essential for prescribing a successful treatment plan. You may be able to trap him if you begin by simply placing the trap next to his house for a few weeks. Then begin putting food inside so that he comfortably goes in there and eats. Once it has become a routine he is used to, you can set the trap and transport him to your veterinarian. Hopefully, he is just a scared cat and not as feral as you think. That is often the case with many cats living on the streets and this guy could turn into a pussycat once trapped and medically treated. I hope that is the case with your outdoor friend. Thank you again for taking care of him in the best way possible.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
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11 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Rotating Foods, Blind FeLV+ Kitten, Cat Refuses to Use Litter Box, and More

  1. Anne
    April 16, 2018 at 1:26 pm (5 months ago)

    On the topic of the cat that would not poop in the litter box, only pee – why did you not first suggest that at least one more litter box be provided? Some cats do like like to pee and poop in the same box. The cat may have also grown an aversion to the litter box after the bout of diarrhea. My first suggestion would have been to provide another litter box and situate it well away from the original one.

    Reply
    • Chris
      April 20, 2018 at 9:50 am (5 months ago)

      I would also recommend a second litter box. Or perhaps a change in the type of litter. I had a cat that would consistently urinate in another place til l put another box exactly where she was urinating ( guess she wanted it in a certain location although I did not exactly want a box there she won the battle because it worked!)

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        April 26, 2018 at 9:35 am (5 months ago)

        Dr. Bahr’s response:

        Anne and Chris,
        Thank you for making a great suggestion about adding another litter box to help Kathleen deal with her cat who is defecating out of box. The reason I did not make that suggestion was because her kitty has blood the stool every time she defecates. Chronic hematochezia is not normal and I do not think a second litter box is the solution for this situation. However, I certainly agree that giving all of our feline companions multiple litter boxes with choices on where they prefer to urinate and defecate is a wonderful idea for every home and thank you for helping spread the word.

        Reply
  2. Louise
    April 16, 2018 at 11:09 am (5 months ago)

    Hi Dr. Bahr,

    In February my 17-year-old male kitty started on 8mg daily Methyl Prednisolone to treat GI disease. He’s tolerating it well, has gained back some weight and his personality has perked up too. Perhaps as part of his feeling better he’s started picking fights with my other kitty, a 7 year-old female. I think it’s to get attention – he wants the bed she’s lying in usually. I have read your article about kitty boredom and I am working in more play time with him, but do you think he could be experiencing a bit of ” ‘roid rage”? I realize this is kind of a weird question, but wanted to find out if this medication could cause personality changes.

    Thanks!
    Louise

    Reply
  3. Lynne Wyre
    April 16, 2018 at 10:31 am (5 months ago)

    Dr.Bahr, we have two cats, a Siamese that is 9 and female, and a handsome blonde barn cat that is 8, and male. His name is Kitty. He is bad. He is peeing and spraying in the house. This is not new but this phase has been the worst. He has been to the vet each time his behavior gets worse and there is nothing wrong according to the ultrasounds and tests. He pees on shoes that are left on the floor, he sprayed on the dining room table the other day. I have covered all the windows so he can’t see out at night. We live in Florida and he is allowed to go out on our screened in patio and he loves it. He gets a lot of attention from all three of us humans. He is mean to our siamese, Mischa. I have used pheromone plug ins, feliway spray, a calming collar, lavendar on cotton balls placed in area where he pees. I am afraid he is going to ruin our house which we will have to sell one day. He talks ALL the time, and we listen, and we answer him. I don’t know what else to do. He also goes outside of the litter box both pee and poop. We have 3 litter boxes.

    Reply
  4. Jeannette Eads
    April 16, 2018 at 8:51 am (5 months ago)

    Question: I finally have a beautiful, safe yard for my 12 year old Tuxedo to play and do her business outdoors. However she will have no parts of it, not even curious, wont go near the door, however, my 11 year old male tuxedo is loving life to the fullest. Both are fixed, not related and get along with her has the alpha cat. Got any suggestions on how I can coax her outside, Ive tried everything, like carrying her, staying with her, letting her smell the flowers, just leaving the door cracked open for her. Am I wasting my time, in that are some cats just “inside” cats?

    Reply
  5. Carol Graydon
    April 16, 2018 at 7:14 am (5 months ago)

    Jenni Leigh , also has a problem with screaming wen she go’s to the Loo & she is on dry food from the Vet . Carol Graydon

    Reply
    • Kristine
      April 17, 2018 at 9:04 pm (5 months ago)

      Hi Carol, please can you take her to your vet? That is not normal at all! She is obviously in pain if she is screaming when using the box! Please update us. The poor girl!

      Reply
  6. Carol Graydon
    April 16, 2018 at 7:01 am (5 months ago)

    Hello i’m Carol , & I have a Siamese that is now ten years old & her name is Jenni Leigh & she keeps on sucking her tail why is that

    Reply
  7. Patricia
    April 16, 2018 at 3:18 am (5 months ago)

    This is a question for the cat doctor. My spayed female cat has odc. She over washes her area around the spayed area out to her anal area. She has over wash so much, her skin is very red. How can I get her to stop ODC, over washing that area and let it heal?

    Reply
    • Chris
      April 20, 2018 at 9:55 am (5 months ago)

      Has she been recently spayed? If it is a fresh scar it should be checked by a vet if she has been spayed quite a long time ago and just started this Behavior I would think it might be stress and would talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication-

      Reply

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