Ask the Cat Doc: Frequent Vomiting, Spraying Cat, Cat Chews Hair and Bites Feet

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

Dr. Lynn Bahr is back! After taking a two-month hiatus to focus on her Dezi & Roo business, Dr. Bahr is resuming her column and will answer your questions once a month.

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.

Cat vomits frequently

My cat Eebie has been throwing up on & off for years. He is on Hills prescription i/d. Tried changing his food to blue buffalo grain free fish & potato, but it didn’t work & he didnt like it. He has bartonella & when changed his food to the blue buffalo he started scratching again & now he also shakes his head often. The vet ruled out fleas. Within the past few months he started lying on his stomach uncomfortably mostly after he eats or drinks, but now it’s become more frequent, even not after eating or drinking. The vet tried told me to go on to wet food twice a day but he threw that up too. I’m now thinking an xray should be done or another test, to make sure it’s not something serious. Would appreciate your advice. Thank you, Devorah.

Hi Devorah,

I am so sorry to hear Eebie is not feeling well and it sounds like he might need more help than your vet is currently able to provide. While cats occasionally vomit, it is considered abnormal if they do so more than 1-2 times a month. All cats who suffer from chronic vomiting, and especially those who have done so for years, have intestinal problems that require medical attention.

There are numerous conditions that manifest as frequent vomiting and they should be ruled out first, before assuming Eebie is suffering from food allergies. I would encourage you to seek a second opinion, either from a feline only veterinarian or an internal medicine specialist. They will know what diagnostic tests are most reasonable to help identify Eebie’s problem and how to help him feel better.

Was his Bartonella treated and did he have a recheck to assure it was resolved? What is his body condition score – is he overweight, underweight, or just right? Have there been any fluctuations in weight? Without more details about his condition, I am unable to specifically address what his problem might be. However, I am sure that a competent veterinarian, with expertise in feline medicine, will be able to diagnose and treat him correctly and I urge you to seek their help asap. It is easier and less expensive to treat conditions like Eebie’s sooner than later. Good luck and let me know what he ends up being diagnosed with.

Cat is spraying walls

My kitty Rudi has been spraying all over our walls since we moved. He’s a neutered male 11 year old rescue. He’s been checked for urinary tract infection and other illness and is healthy. We are also transitioning him from an indoor/ outdoor cat to strictly indoor kitty. Any advice or suggestions would really help as I feel Rudi is really unhappy.  (Jennifer Freitas)

Hi Jennifer,

You are right to believe that Rudi is unhappy. When cats spray vertically on walls it is typically a sign that they are feeling insecure and need to assert their territory. Rudi has had to deal with several new changes that are likely affecting his ability to cope appropriately with them. Since you have ruled out the possibility of any medical issues, I recommend you consult with a feline behavior specialist. Fortunately, Dr. Marci Koski now answers questions like yours right here on The Conscious Cat’s Ask the Behaviorist column. I am sure she will have some good advice for you. Rudi is calling out for help and I am grateful to you for listening to him. Good luck.

Kitten Chews Hair and Bites Feet

Why does my 1 year old kitten eat my hair? She will also bite at my fiancé and my feet when we are trying to sleep. Is this something she will grow out of? Or is this something that I need a cat behaviorist to address? (Courtney)

Hi Courtney,

Your little bundle of joy is now a full-fledged teenager and just like human children of this age, she is full of energy, excitement, and looking for ways to stay entertained. If she is an “only child”, then you and your fiancé are the only companions she has to exercise and play with. When she is biting your feet or chewing on your hair, she is asking you to engage with her.

Indoor cats are limited in their ability to hunt, climb, run, explore, chase and investigate new surroundings and rely on their owners to make sure they are kept active, engaged, and entertained. I recommend you actively play with her at least times a day until she is tired out. You might also want to consider adopting another kitten close to her age that she can bond and play with. It is important to keep her stimulated throughout life with toys, games, and activities that help her stay physically and mentally happy and healthy. If you want to tips on how to keep you baby from waking you up at night you will find some here.

I would prefer she NEVER grow out of wanting to play and suggest you redirect her propensity to bite feet with more appropriate games that keep her entertained. Her behavior is appropriate for her age and I don’t believe you need to seek out a behaviorist yet. Instead, arm yourself with information on how to keep indoor cats stimulated and you and your kitty will be much happier living together. Remember, she is confined to life within four walls, which gets boring quickly, and will need added enrichment designed to keep her happy and healthy.

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13 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Frequent Vomiting, Spraying Cat, Cat Chews Hair and Bites Feet

  1. Gerry Bishop
    March 20, 2019 at 7:56 am (7 months ago)

    Hello Doctor,I have a 14 year old female spayed cat.She seems since yesterday to be having a problem jumping onto the sofa.She gets as far as her front pews on but then can’t seem to pull the rest of her up.Have started her on You Move as of today. She likes Applause fish flavour and also Purina Gourmet Melting Hearts.She eats well and walks normally.Recently she does not groom herself as well as she used to.She is an indoor cat.Would be grateful for your advice.Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Lindsey
    February 19, 2019 at 8:53 am (8 months ago)

    Hello! My 15 year old female, Tootsie, had her first seizure 2 weeks ago. She had a second one this past Thursday. I scoured the internet for possible reasons & came across FARS (feline auditory reflex seizures). In this condition, specific noises set off seizures! The seizure could be so mild that it goes unnoticed, or it could be a full blown, fall out on the floor, convulsing seizure (which she had 2 of). She did start with ear & facial twitches about a month ago. After researching, those are most likely seizures. I’m almost positive that these 2 full blown seizures were triggered by noise (the first time, it was keys jingling; the second time, it was tongue clicking to call her). The list of noises that set these seizures off is very specific & very common! Does anyone have any experience with this? At what point do I turn to medication? In the clinical trials, Keppra had the most success, but it’s dosed every 8 hours, which will be hard to do with my job. Her quality of life hasn’t changed. I just hope the seizures don’t occur more frequently. My male, Lewis, tries to attack her when it happens & I’m afraid of what he’ll do if I’m not there to intercept him! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Kathleen May
    February 6, 2019 at 2:32 am (9 months ago)

    Ask the Cat Doc: My 7 yr od spayed female Maine Coon mix rescue cat has developed an odd behaquite some time. She is healthyvior whilst voiding. She always goes in the box but when facing a certain direction she often (not always) raises her back end mid-stream and ends up voiding on the floor. My vet said she doesn’t know what could be causing it. I have a 4 yr old neutured male too, and there have been no changes to speak of in a long while. She is healthy. Do you have any ideas what could be causing her odd behavior?

    Reply
  4. Nancy West
    February 4, 2019 at 9:05 pm (9 months ago)

    RE; The Cat that Vomits Frequently:
    Have you tried a different, single source/ limited protein diet such as rabbit? I found that switching to a different protein source (exclusively rabbit in both canned and dry food) helped my cat. This means NO other proteins except rabbit for a period of time. I did it for 6 months. Warning: read the ingredients because food companies often try to slip in poultry, beef, or fish. When I couldn’t find it in stores, I ordered directly from Amazon or Chewy.com. I believe the brand I used was “Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit.” I also gave my cat a daily “probiotic” made for cats. I mixed this in his food daily, and continue to do so. This can really help too.

    Reply
    • Mandy Lee
      February 4, 2019 at 10:44 pm (9 months ago)

      She is on Dr. Mercola probiotic, and VitalCat rabbit and Primal duck. She has been on only duck/rabbit since last May. I’m at such a loss. I’d love to let her be cone free but I don’t want a bloody cat face every day. Sigh.

      Reply
      • Nancy West
        March 20, 2019 at 7:49 pm (7 months ago)

        Duck is a form of poultry. Maybe try rabbit only for a week or two…

        Reply
  5. Mandy
    February 4, 2019 at 12:32 pm (9 months ago)

    Hello!

    I have a rescue cat who is about 6 (no one is exactly sure) who at one point was someone’s pet. Her person died, the family cleared out the house but left pets behind to fend for themselves. Dory, my cat, survived on her own until a kind neighbor called the rescue organization that saved her. She was bloody in the field behind the house. Her face and back of neck raw open wounds. They think a flea collar bridled in her mouth and caused a burn reaction on her pretty face. She now has what I joke are “joker lines” at the sides of her mouth that caused permanent scars up to the apples of her cheeks. The back of her neck has a spot where fur no longer grows but it’s healed and is now healthy skin. I’ve had her for a couple years now; she’s happy and seems healthy overall. We’ve had laser treatment on the skin where the hot spots are, we’ve done steroids, we’ve narrowed food down to cool protein foods feeding only dehydrated food with no byproducts or allergens. She’s had skin biopsy done and everything comes back with no issues to note. The issue is she still scratches, and often. We keep a cone on her most of the time to save her little face. She is inside only, an only cat.

    I’m at a loss. I’d like to not pump her full of Prozac or other drugs but fear it’s the only option to stop the phantom pains she seems to feel. Any further suggestion is helpful.

    Reply
    • Cheri Collins
      February 4, 2019 at 5:51 pm (9 months ago)

      My first guess would be allergy causing itching, not pain. Cats can and do take cetirizine, an antihistamine a lot of humans take for allergies. My Rosie has scratched the hair and skin off the worst spots when having a bad time with an allergy. She’s not going to let me “pill” her, so I had it compounded into an ear gel. It’s an over-the-counter drug, but you would need to ask your vet what dose to try, if you can pill your kitty. It will be less than the human dose, so you will need a good pill cutter.

      Reply
  6. Alyce Schmid
    February 4, 2019 at 8:53 am (9 months ago)

    I have an almost 18 year old cat who has had cardiomyopathy since she was 3 and has been on heart meds the entire time. She has a history of vomiting which is a big concern with giving her meds. By trial and error I discovered she could not tolerate fish. The problem is most foods have fish in it and even just added fish oil can set off the stomach upset. All cat food, wet and dry, and treat sthat come into the house are now fish free, even for my 2 other cats. Gracie in the past year has also been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which means more meds. Sometimes when the thyroid goes off she may show signs of upset, but all in all she does well, but I have to be diligent in ready labels. I’m lucky that my cats are not finicky eaters, and I also have to be careful since I eat alot of fish, tuna and salmon, that she doesn’t get into the food that I cook.

    Reply
    • Marge
      February 4, 2019 at 12:31 pm (9 months ago)

      From what I have read, fish should be limited for any cat. Salmon may be okay, but limit/exclude other fish. Granted fish could be lurking in many foods, but as you noted, being diligent, or going for limited ingredient foods might help. Another option for some is making your own food. Then you know what is in it! Canned food is preferable to dry food, as that causes too many problems for many cats (mostly urinary issues, but it can cause other problems – getting rid of it helped several cats in my household with bowel issues. They had been getting both canned and dry, but the dry food was ditched years ago – could not wean them off, had to cold-turkey them! It also cleared up ideopathic hypercalcemia, another urinary system issue.)

      Not sure if Gracie’s heart issues would exclude her from RadioIodine treatment, but FYI for you and others, when my Katie was 18, she was already going down the CKD path – but with very slow progression. She was, at that point, also taking meds for hyperthyroidism (hyperthroidism can wreak havoc on ALL organs, including the heart and kidneys. Dry foods should NOT be used for CKD cats at any stage.) The medication may keep the T4 “numbers” in line, but Katie was still losing weight. After going from 12-12.5 to about 7.5, I said no more and went for the RadioIodine treatment. I do regret not making that decision sooner, but being unschooled in hyperthyroidism, I was scared off by the vet pointing to the CKD and heart issues (second heart specialist check on the heart AFTER ditching the dry food while being on T4 meds, the heart issue went away.) The RadioIodine treatment was 2 years ago. No recurrence of the thyroid issue since. The CKD is still slowly progressing. We found some lung tumors in April (probably unrelated to anything), so it is now a race between those and the CKD (cannot biopsy or remove/treat without surgery and between her age and the fact that she only gained back a small amount of that lost weight while being “medicated” AND with no cure for CKD, I will not put her through surgery.)

      That said, she is still with us now two years later and will be 20 sometime next month (found as a stray kitten, likely about 8 weeks old, has been with us since!)

      Although it can be expensive (consider the cost of all the meds and rechecks to fine tune the meds in comparison – one time or multiple times, the medication method can end up being MORE expensive), this IS the best method. My point here is that even an older cat can benefit from the RadioIodine treatment for hyperthyroid. Determining if a cat is eligible will depend on multiple factors as to whether a kitty can benefit from this treatment, especially if there are any other medical issues. Also, while the medication (we used the dermo method, as the oral meds can cause stomach upsets) can keep the thyroid levels in the normal range, it will NOT cure the problem. A secondary issue is if the thyroid has a tumor that is/or can become cancerous migrates. RadioIodine can treat that, if done soon enough, before any migration.

      Some people have sworn off RadioIodine treatment, claiming that it caused CKD. This is not true. What hyperthyroidism can do is MASK the CKD (and potentially other issues and/or can cause organ issues/failure.) Medication should be used first, to get the T4 under control and THEN perform a check for CKD before considering RadioIodine. Depending on how far the CKD has progressed would help to determine if kitty would benefit. As noted, Katie’s CKD was VERY early stage and despite waiting about 8+ months (while using medication), she is at this point in time probably high stage 2, possibly early stage 3, TWO years after the RadioIodine.

      Best of luck in your quest to do best for Gracie (and the others)!

      Reply
  7. John Wissinger
    February 4, 2019 at 8:02 am (9 months ago)

    Dr. Bahr I am feeding a feral cat every morning with 9 lives pate Ocean Whitefish and Bar S Bologna with Chicken and Pork will it hurt her she eats 2-3 slices a day. Thank You

    Reply
  8. Lucia Faria
    February 4, 2019 at 6:39 am (9 months ago)

    Hello Dr. Bahr!

    We got a new kitty a month ago, she’s a 4 month old british shorthair, everything is ok except for a weird little noise she makes when purring. Its high sound is separate from the purring, it sounds a bit like a bird chirping.

    I showed my vet an audio of her purring and he listened to her lungs and throat, he suspects the sound comes from the nose. I suspect it too because I can hear the high-pitch noise coming from it. She doesn’t always do it, actually she hasn’t done it as much as she did before, just wondering if you had any more insight or if you think there’s something we should check or worry about.

    I check her breathing and it seems fine, but I’m very intrigued as to why she’s making that noise!

    Hope you’re well and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

    Reply
  9. Serbella McGee
    February 4, 2019 at 3:45 am (9 months ago)

    My Loki is a Maine Coon cat. He didn’t like being picked up until I bribed him with treats. Now he tolerates being picked up. which is more than I hoped for. He’s a grumpy old man, even tho he’s only 5 years old. He has shown a lot of interest in the outside world. Sometimes I think he’s bored. I bought a Kitty Holster and a leash, and I introduced the harness to him over a period of two weeks. I sprinkled catnip over the harness. I also used the clicker, clicked it and gave Loki a treat every time he came near the harness. He would lie down on the harness, and he didn’t seem bothered by it until I put it on him. Then he cried and refused to move.
    I thought that was normal, so after 20 minutes I took the harness off. I’ve put him in the harness several times since then, and the result has been the same. Once I put the Kitty Holster on him and then fed him. He hid for 20 minutes, then he came out and took his usual seat in the window. He roamed around the apartment but he panicked when it was time for me to take the harness off. Each time I talk to him and give him treats but he’s not thrilled with this at all. Afterwards he sometimes acts skittish around me, as though he thinks I’m going to grab him.

    I don’t want to torment him. I realize that Loki might not ever adjust to the harness, but I would like to give this a fair try. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    Reply

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