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Gastro-intestinal Disorders (such as IBD)

Care of cats with sensitive stomachs

Proper nutrition is important for all cats. Most gastro-intestinal problems develop from an unsuitable diet. To alleviate symptoms:

  • Eliminate all common intolerances from the diet: grains (corn, rice, wheat and their derivatives)
  • Eliminate common allergens (fish, beef, etc.) - stick with poultry and/or rabbit


Cats are obligate carnivores. They have no nutritional need for carbohydrates. Many gastro-intestinal problems are exacerbated by inappropriate items in the diet. The most common triggers are grains (corn, rice, wheat) and derivatives thereof (gluten, flour, starch, etc.) Vegetables and fruit can also be problematic.

Of meat sources, more natural proteins are less likely to cause issues. Poultry and rabbit are good options. Beef, fish, pork, and lamb are more likely to cause allergic reactions, as they're not part of a cat's natural diet.

When a canned diet fails, a limited-ingredient raw diet of poultry or rabbit can often clear up problems almost immediately. Look for a nutritionally complete frozen raw diet, complete with vitamins and minerals. If making your own is an option, use a reputable recipe such as those found on catinfo.org or catnutrition.org.

Supplements and Medication

Cobalamin (vitamin B12) injections have been shown to be very effective at treating gastro-intestinal disorders. Injectable cobalamin is only available by prescription, but often the injections are inexpensive and can be given at home. Often they're needed weekly, and the timing may be decreased over time. Injectable supplementation is much more effective than oral, as it bypasses the inflamed gastro-intestinal tract and is absorbed in its entirety.

Oral folate (folic acid) supplementation can also be useful. Folate is generally available over-the counter and is inexpensive.

Some find probiotics and omega fatty acids helpful.


Steroids and other immune-suppressing drugs can also relieve symptoms, but may also have undesirable side effects. If such drugs are necessary, cyclosporine and budesonide may result in the fewest systematic side effects.


The majority of gastro-intestinal problems clear up quickly once a proper diet is established. The longer the cat consumes the problem foods, the longer it may take to alleviate the symptoms. High fiber and hypo-allergenic diets that contain grains and steroids may only delay the inevitable and create larger problems later.

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Case Studies

Ralphie and Rumpelmintz both have intestinal disorders. Ralphie is asymptomatic now, after treatment with proper nutrition and vitamins. He's also off all medication. He was so sick when Lynette adopted him he was considered for euthanasia, and is now perfectly healthy. Rumpelmintz still has occasional symptoms - but they're much less frequent and severe.

A foster cat, Buster, had such terrible chronic diarrhea he was slated for euthanasia as no foster homes or adoption facilities would house him. A grain-free raw diet cured his diarrhea completely.



For futher information, visit:

Feeding Cats for Health - Anne of catnutrition.org

Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition by Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM

Cobalamin - diagnostic use and therapeutic considerations - Texas A&M GI Lab

Feline And Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease - Chronic Diarrhea And Vomiting In Dogs And Cats

Pet Food Companies Under Attack From Leading Pet Insurer - food intolerances on the rise

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Intestinal Lymphoma in Cats (This portion of the lecture notes is pretty far down the page... )

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the Cat

Winn Feline Health - Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the Cat

Winn Feline Foundation Report on Role of Diet in the Health of the Feline Intestinal Tract and in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Corticosteroids (Steroids): Benefits vs. Risks

When to say "no" to steroids

Yahoo! Feline IBD group

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Other Gastrointestinal Issues by Dr. Larry Siegler

Gastrointestinal Function Tests in Dogs and Cats - Antech Diagnostics

Feline triaditis

Feline GI Pearls

Constipated Cats - Little Big Cat (Dr. Jean Hofve)

Megacolon - American College of Veterinary Surgeons

All About Constipation - Tanya's Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

Date last updated: 12/3/2016

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