Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys


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 Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Splitting and shredded toe nails

We trim our two (inside only) cats’ toe nails roughly once a month. One of the girls lately has had split and shredded nails which seem to be very thin when I trim, both front and back. Like mine during certain times of the year; I can help my own nails with collagen. Might this be an indicator that she is missing something in her diet? I am very cognizant of their calories, and weight is not an issue. I feed Ziwi Peak and Weruva, so *I* think they are getting a good diet. Thanks, Dr.Bahr. – Dinah

Hi Dinah,

What an interesting question you’ve posed and one I have not been asked before. And, I am stumped!  The two things I am confused about is the sudden onset of clinical signs along with the fact that it is occurring on all four paws.

How old is your girl? Aging can often affect the character of nails and cause them to become more brittle over time. And, arthritis can prevent cats from scratching as much as they normally would, which would also affect the quality of the nail. I have seen nails split easily with clippers that are dull, but this would not explain why it is happening to one of your kitties and not the other.

While diet is something that cannot be excluded as a cause, I would not put it high on my list of rule-outs. However, it would be prudent to make sure that there aren’t other medical issues she is dealing with that are preventing her from absorbing her nutrients properly. Does she vomit often? What is the consistency of her stool? Is she on parasite control, etc.?

I would recommend you take pictures of the nails and send them to your veterinarian to see if they have any better answers for you. Let me know what you are able to find out.

Itchy paws and tails

I have a 6 year old neutered Ocicat that appears to have allergies to bug bite or farm crops. The past 3 years his tail has oozing spots that begin near the tip and continues to the base, usually on the under side. He does go outside as we have 42 acres. My Bengal is usually with him and she doesn’t have these issues. My Vet reluctantly gives him steroids, course we are both concerned but neither of us can figure this out. I had read about Stud tail, this happens every year May/June and it is impossible to be around him with all the licking and biting his paws and tail. Help! – Marie Pyle

Hi Marie,

It does sound like your Ocicat is having a rough time with skin issues and your worry is warranted. He must feel awful licking and biting all the time and I am sorry it is affecting your relationship with him as well.

Is he on strict flea control? What product are you using and how often? What you are describing sounds more like a flea allergy to me than an allergy to farm crops but, I have not seen your cat, so I can’t say that for sure. However, I would highly recommend you use an effective product, for cats, that will prevent him from being bitten by even a single flea. And, I would recommend antibiotics if his skin is oozing. Steroids will address the itch but not the infection, and without addressing the bacterial component of his problem, he is going to continue itching in spite of the steroids.  You may also discuss with your veterinarian additional remedies like antihistamines and topical therapies that may benefit him as well. Oozing skin is indicative of infection and often requires multiple modalities to effectively treat it or it can lead to more serious consequences.

Hopefully, you will get his condition under control soon. I know it will make both of you much happier.

Grieving cat

I got 2 kittens 4 years ago, (2016) Flora was 8 weeks and Sparkle 10 months. It was just the 2 of them and they bonded and were very close, literally wrapped around each other, ate, slept, played together. Sparkle was diagnosed with kidney failure in Nov. and I had to have her put to sleep this past March (in the middle of all this virus craziness). Flora misses her and is grieving deeply. She craves more of my attention, has to be in whatever room I am in, sleeps with me still but doesn’t seem to be able to get close enough to me. Wants brushed which she did not before. I tried bringing in another cat for a week, but Flora started vomiting every day, so I returned the other cat to my friend. Maybe I tried too soon to get her another companion, and maybe she will never want one. How can I help Flora with the grieving process? I know she is grieving and hurting and missing Sparkle. I am too. Thanks for any help you can give. – Mavis B. Starner

Oh, Mavis, I am so sorry for your loss and know how difficult it can be to lose a cherished furriend. And, as you are witnessing, it can be even tougher for a bonded cat like Flora.  It is truly heartbreaking, especially since there is little we can do to help our cats with the grieving process.

Time is the best medicine, with lots of TLC in the meantime. Make sure you are playing a lot with Flora, keeping her active and engaged, so that she is less likely to feel the void of losing her furry playmate. Perhaps, this would be a good time for you to involve her in clicker training so that she has something new to do.

Since Flora is still such a young girl, finding her the right companion may be a good option and I would still consider it for her. I am not sure how you introduced the former cat that you brought in, or why it caused Flora to begin vomiting, but I suspect it was done too quickly or inappropriately. Correctly introducing a new cat is best accomplished when done slowly and over time in order for it to be successful. It is very important that the introductions are done properly in order for it to work out for both cats.  I would recommend engaging the services of a cat behaviorist to help you with the process should you decide to try another friend for Flora. And, it is helpful to attempt to match their personalities so that they are more likely to get along.

Flora sounds like a social girl that enjoys companionship and the right furry housemate may be your best answer in helping her get back to her normal, happy self.

Let me know how it turns out for you both.

Throwing up clear liquid on waking up

My cat has recently started throwing up clear or slightly cloudy liquid often after waking from sleep. He is on raw diet, drinks water, poops and pees regularly. He has chest congestion and gets an antibiotic shot couple of times year to keep him clear. Otherwise healthy cat, sleeps, grooms and plays. Indoor and is 14. Blood work 5 months ago was fine and urine test fine. Any thoughts on the throwing up. Thanks. – Name*

Hi there,

I am so happy to hear your 14-year-old cat is doing well except for the recent vomiting issue. A few things come to mind when I hear about a cat like yours that vomits shortly after waking up.

The first has to do with acid reflux, which can occur with an empty stomach. When there is no food for the stomach to break down, stomach acid levels can start to increase. In fact, many people experience the worst of their acid-related stomach pain upon waking up with an empty stomach. If this is the case with your cat, you can help him by making sure he has small amounts of food to eat throughout the night. Alternatively, you can ask your veterinarian to recommend an antacid to be given before bedtime.

You mentioned that he suffers from chronic chest congestion and this could certainly be the cause instead. Inactivity or sleeping with his chest on the ground can cause the congestion to pool which will cause him to cough or vomit clear fluid after getting up. I would consult with your veterinarian to see if this is a possibility with your kitty so that you get it treated before it becomes more of a bigger problem.

Cats that cough will sometimes vomit clear liquid afterwards, too. Check to see whether your cat is coughing, or not, and discuss your observations with your veterinarian. An ultrasound or x-ray may be warranted to see if your cat has any fluid on his chest or evidence of heart disease.

Since the vomiting is a new occurrence for your otherwise healthy cat, I would recommend you have him seen for this problem, sooner, rather than later. Especially, if it is occurring frequently.

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5 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Weak Nails, Itching, a Grieving Cat, and More

  1. How do I get my beautiful torti cat to exercise more?? I adopted her when she was 6 yrs. old, was told she came from a home with 7 other cats. She was very timid when she first came home with me, constantly hiding under the bed. I’ve had her for 3 years now and she’s improved a great deal. She’ll even come out by herself to the other rooms of the house briefly. We show her lots of love and do everything possible for her. She lives in our bedroom, sleeps on our bed most of the day. When I try to get her to clean & comb her, however, she’ll run under the bed. At night she has a huge slider window in the bedroom to look out and spends most of her time looking for animals, coming by, but she doesn’t run, hardly plays beyond swatting, when I use a wand toy. When I can get her, I carry her into the living room which is down a long hallway from our bedroom, put her on the couch. When she jumps off the couch I chase her down the hall so she runs. I’ll clap and praise her & then give her a treat or some food. However, that’s the extent of her exercising. She is not exactly aerodynamic, as she has a large, barrel shaped ribcage. Please give me some advice on how she could get some exercise! A friend’s cat developed diabetes, because he wouldn’t exercise. The vet wanted to know if he moved at all. Thank you for your help and all you do for these wonderful animals!

    • My cat, Max, is a 5 year old neutered orange tabby. He has IBD and I had been managing it with a diet that doesn’t include chicken or fish. Proteins include rabbit, venison, and sometimes beef or lamb. He also takes budesonide 2x a week.

      Recently, he was diagnosed with Stage 2 CKD. My vet wants me to switch him to a prescription hydrolyzed diet to help manage both the IBD and CKD.

      I’m trying to transition him slowly, mixing the new with the old. I literally use a Magic Bullet to mix them together because on it’s own, that hydrolyzed protein has a weird gel-like texture.

      He’s seems to be ok when I blend both with water, but he’s more likely to eat if I blend with beef bone broth, but should I worry about the phosphorous content?

      By the way, I’m not sure if I’m completely on board with the hydrolyzed diet (Hill’s z/d) because I still want to make sure he’s getting enough protein, so that’s the other thing I’m not sure of.

      Plus, this Hill’s has chicken liver, which I’ve tried to avoid in the past, so now I’m a bit confused.

  2. Why does my 16 year old cat yell out in the middle of the night, a blood curdling scream for several minutes.
    After we speak to her, she calms down. She goes downstairs to do this. Her best friend was put down last month, so it could be grief but she has done this for possibly a year. She is very quiet at all other times.

  3. I never thought about acid reflux with cats. Pono used to throw up clear liquid when he woke up quit a bit too. My vet never even suggested that might been part of his problems. He did have pancreatitis.

  4. I had a neutered Tom Cat, Sticky, who was very attached to my Doxie Mix, Tubby Joe. Sticky had been with Tubby Joe since he was a kitten. Tubby Joe, succumbed to cancer @ age 18 (indeed the morning was to take him to put him down). The other 3 animals in the house, 2 dogs and Sticky’s female litter mate, didn’t react too strongly. Sticky freaked out. I had to keep him in for a few days. But I found homeopathic Ignatia Amara 30C really helped him.

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