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Does My Cat Have IBS

Updated on September 21, 2015

Portrait of a cat with IBS

Brehan came to me as a rescue cat. He was rehomed because he had separation anxiety and was leaving little parcels around the home. This was something his former mum had done her best to sort out and she had brought him on from being a terrified and semi-feral cat to being a real snuggler. It was not an easy thing for her to do as she loved him but he quickly settled into his new home and started happily leaving little parcels around ours.

Before long, he was into the other cat's food and these parcels became a little less pleasant. Our own cats were used to free access to kibble. He wasn't. He would eat anything he found and put weight on but as fast as food was going in it was also coming out. We restricted our own cats' diet to the food that suited him best. They were not happy. He continued to behave like a feline vacuum cleaner and developed diarrhoea. One day we were horrified to discover bloody mucus in it and took him to the vet. This was the start of our journey into the mysteries of IBS and IBD in cats.

Beautiful Boy Brehan
Beautiful Boy Brehan

Food Rationing for Cats with IBS

Our lovely vet suggested that perhaps Brehan had a food intolerance. This is the most common cause of diarrhoea and bloody mucus in cats. It was definitely rectal bleeding as the blood was red and was probably caused by straining at the end of loose motions. He reassured us it was unlikely to be cancer or lymphoma and even if it was the recommended treatment was the same. He was given a short acting steroid, an antibiotic and he advised a change of food.

Most cat food is in fact a mixture of many different things. He had worked as an advisor in the industry and said an exclusion diet was hard to achieve without preparing the food yourself but home made diets often lacked essential nutrients. He recommended a food with a single source protein and we converted all our cats to James Wellbeloved. We went for turkey initially as I have always found fish to be dodgy for persians. We also tried lamb, but they did not enjoy it particularly and it made the runs worse.

My oh My is this Diet Boring!

Brehan would hang around the cupboards in the kitchen hoping for a change. Dolcippi would only eat Royal Canin Persian 30 and he loved the smell. We would have to put her kibble down and put it back out of his reach whenever she finished. This was not doing her any good psychologically as she had to ask for her food. Brehan meanwhile became expert at hiding in bags and boxes and seizing the chance to steal a few forbidden morsels. We noticed some improvement, but every time he succeeded in stealing his sister's kibble the result would be the same - a sore butt and a visit to the doctor.

Dr Miguel explained that it is a sensitivity to protein that causes the problem. We continued with turkey, turkey and more turkey. We denied him wet food (which was also turkey) and that made no difference. His appetite was enormous and he was clearing plates on a regular basis. Dr Miguel scolded us about him becoming obese. Then one day the penny dropped with me.

In my youth I had chronic stomach ulcers due to a food intolerance. In my case it was potato. One side effect I noticed was that I felt permanently "hungry". Chronic ulcer pain can confuse the signals coming from your tummy so you feel hungry even when not. I wondered if that was the source of Brehan's food obsession. I also wondered if trying a sensitivity diet would help. We had used that when Max was vomiting and it seemed to help. sensitivity diet contains hydrolysed protein which is broken down and passes through the gut more easily. It seemed like a plan, although the vet was less keen. He still recommended the turkey.

A short period on this veterinary diet soon proved completely useless. If anything the problem was worse. So we went back to the turkey and our cats were all wandering round with sad expressions. Still no luck with the runs however. We would have four or five days perfect performance, then back to the diarrhoea again. We would blame each other for leaving Persian 30 or something else within reach.

Life is best with a friend in a comfy chair

What made these foods so bad for my cat?

As the James Wellbeloved was as near an exclusion diet as we could get and the Sensitivity was causing problems, I had an idea. My own food intolerance means I have to read ingredients like a hawk. You would be amazed how many foods - even sweet foods - contain potato starch as a filler. This has taught me to look at packets. I studied the ingredients of the James Wellbeloved wet and dry, the Royal Canin Sensitivity and the Persian 30. I also studied the ingredients in wet food. It hit me like a sledgehammer. The sensitivity diet included rice, the James Wellbeloved dry also included grain. Perhaps my fluffy boy had a gluten intolerance or a grain intolerance?

Back to the drawing board. I tried them all on James Wellbeloved Turkey and Vegetables (No Cereal) and the results were much better. We seemed to have solved the bloody diarrhoea issue, but we had a houseful of bored cats. What next? I threw caution completely to the wind. If it was a gluten intolerance or grain allergy of some other variety, meat would not be a problem.. I researched grain free wet food and discovered Grau and Bozita.

Me? Problem with Food?

Does your cat have a problem with food?

Cats are said to regulate their own appetite but some cats just eat and eat. Is your cat cleaning everyone else's food bowl?

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Discovering safe meats for my cat with IBS

Instead of exclusion, which had not been working. I started to keep a record of all meats eaten and the quality of productions in the litterbox.

Poop Score:

  1. Normal and Firm
  2. Normal, maybe a little soft or skinny
  3. Meatballs or sausages in gravy
  4. Full fledged diarrhoea

So far I have discovered that fish and possibly lamb are dodgy. James Wellbeloved kitten may be too rich. Reindeer has a question mark over it still but my boy is happy. Since going on a grain free diet he has lost weight, his appetite has normalised and he is playing and running around more. My other boy is slowly putting weight on because he is eating better quality food. The girls are no longer bored and Dolcippi likes the new James Wellbeloved kibble almost as much as the Persian 30. We continue to keep that out of Brehan's reach though.

Morning Snack
Main Meal
Evening Snack
Meats included
Dry Food
Poops (Grade 1-4)
Blood/ Mucous
Grau Pute und Lamm
Bozita Elk
Grau Geflugel und Seefisch
Turkey, Lamb, Elk, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Poultry, Fish
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
2, 2,
No No
Grau Geflugel und Seefisch
Bozita Reindeer
Bozita Elk
Turkey, Reindeer, Elk, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Poultry, Fish
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
2, 3 1,
Yes (slight) No No
JW Turkey (Kitten)
Bozita Elk
Bozita Elk
Turkey, Elk, Chicken, Beef, Pork,
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
1, 3, 1
No No No
JW Turkey (Senior)
Bozita Rabbit/ Bozita Reindeer
Grau Kaninchen, Rind und Ente
Turkey, Reindeer, Rabbit, Duck, Chicken, Beef, Pork,
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
2, 2
No No
Grau Kaninchen, Rind und Ente
Bozita Reindeer/ Bozita Elk
Grau Huhn und Kalb
Turkey, Reindeer, Elk, Veal, Rabbit, Duck, Chicken, Beef, Pork,
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
2, 2
No No
Grau Huhn und Kalb
Bozita Elk
Grau Pute und Lamm
Turkey, Lamb, Elk, Veal, Chicken, Beef, Pork,
JW Turkey (No Cereal)
1 2,
No No
Grau Pute und Lamm
Bozita Rabbit

Keeping a Record

Remembering each day to write down exactly what Brehan eats and scoring his poop from 1 (normal firm) to 4 (diarrhoea) is providing me with a record of possible trigger foods. I intend to show this to my vet and see whether he agrees which foods or food combinations are best avoided. For now I am content that all my cats seem healthy and happy on their new grain free regime. To those who say "Grain free cat food is a fad" I simply answer "When is the last time you saw a wild tiger tuck into a bowl of cornflakes?" The evidence is in the chart - a small sample of which I have shared with you. Good luck with your cat's IBS.

A Happy Cat is a Playful Cat

I hope this page helps you with your cat's IBS

Please leave a comment and let me know how you do with the exclusion diet or grain free.


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have been lucky too although my last cat that made it almost 20 years did go missing (she was indoor/outdoor cat) when she was about ten years old for days and when she came home she was dragging and almost dead. She pulled through but always had an allergy after that. I wonder if someone tried to poison her but other than wild rabbits about all she ate was Friskies Special Diet and pretty picky not to even try anything else. Sometimes they are just big mysteries we have to do the best we can with. Hopefully things will work out for you.

    • Paul Ward profile image


      4 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Fortunately, I've never had this problem. I did have two cats that went begging round the neighbourhood (they loved Sunday dinners) but they stayed healthy and didn't even put on weight.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Lisa, Poor Brehan. What a beautiful cat. I hope she gets better. This is a helpful and useful hub for cat owners who have IBS. Unfortunately, mine dodsn't have it. It's back to behavioral for marking and tough love by watching him go to the bathroom, except when I'm asleep. Voted up for useful!


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