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Gabe, the hero of our story
Last month we noticed our male Siamese cat Gabe acting a bit funny. He was acting strangely standoffish, and looked a bit “off”. In the past Gabe had suffered from a blocked urethra due to struvite crystals, but palpation of his abdomen did not show evidence of a full bladder or seem to cause Gabe any discomfort (other than the annoyance of me pawing at his tummy!)

A few days after we noticed Gabe’s changing behavior, Gabe didn’t eat his canned food at dinnertime. Gabe ALWAYS eats his canned food; in fact, he begs for it and scarfs it down like he’s starving. I thought perhaps he was just being fickle and no longer liked that particular flavor of food. My husband and I passed it off, and didn’t think much more of it until that evening when there was a trail of blood outside of the litter box.

I had already gone to bed when my husband noticed the blood. It was just a few mucousy drops, but it was still very alarming. My husband woke me up and told me about the blood, and I immediately noticed Gabe wasn’t laying at the foot of the bed in his usual location.

“Where’s Gabe?”, I asked in a panic.

I searched the bedroom for Gabe, and my husband searched the basement. We called out his name to no avail. A few moments later I heard my husband’s voice yelling, “Please come down here!” In the basement I found my husband standing over poor Gabe, who was crouched under the stairwell looking positively awful. His coat looked lackluster and dull, his eyes were wide and frightened, and he was clearly attempting to hide. I reached down to pet Gabe, and he let out a pitiful meow. Something was clearly very wrong.

We made the immediate decision to take Gabe to the emergency vet clinic on the other side of Madison. The blood outside the litter box coupled with Gabe’s hiding in the basement had us fearing the worst. As my husband drove us to the clinic, I began to Google Gabe’s symptoms on my iPhone. The more I read, the more I became convinced Gabe was suffering from a flare-up of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease.)

When we got to the vet clinic, a nice nurse took us into an exam room and weighed Gabe. He was down to 8 pounds, and was very dehydrated. Gabe’s temperature was also unusually low. The vet did an examination, checking for any evidence of urinary discomfort (due to Gabe’s history of struvite crystals). Though Gabe was clearly not well, the physical exam did not show anything unusual other than some slight hardening of the intestines. The vet’s diagnosis? Gabe was suffering a flare-up of IBD.

The vet gave us a few options of how we could treat the issue at hand, and we decided to treat the immediate flare-up with some painkillers, subcutaneous fluids, a bland diet, and some probiotics. The vet informed us that IBD is something Gabe will always live with, and there are numerous ways to diagnose the root cause. A full blood panel could be done, an intestinal biopsy could be taken, etc. My husband and I both decided that at 12+ years of age, we have no desire to put Gabe through a barrage of invasive tests just to prove what we already know. I decided to go back to the drawing board, and do some research.

After hours of researching IBD, I came to realize that Gabe’s issues were probably caused by his diet. I had been feeding the cats canned food for dinner every evening, but it was always flavored with some sort of fish. As it seems, many cats cannot tolerate fish and in fact are allergic to it. I had no idea! My cats were also on a primarily dry food diet. Though the food I was buying was high-quality, I learned that dry food diets are in no way ideal for cats. In fact, most cats on dry food diets go through their lives partially dehydrated. Dry food diets can be linked to diabetes, obesity, renal failure, and IBD. I decided to go for the gusto and switch the cats over to a canned diet only.

The trio of moist food munchers
I scoured the canned food aisle at my local Mounds Pet Food Warehouse to find canned foods without fish, without grains, and with as little vegetable content as possible. I bought a smorgasbord of different varieties to find out which would most tempt the cats. I knew the cats were not going to be happy about having their kibble buffet taken away, but after all I’d read I knew it was what I had to do.

Let me tell you…the transformation has been amazing. After cutting out the kibble and switching to canned, the health of the cats has visibly improved. Gabe’s IBD symptoms disappeared, and his chronic yeast infection in his ears has subsided. Our Birman’s tear staining stopped, and her intermittent diarrhea has not returned. All three cats are more active than they’ve been in years. I could hardly believe the difference the diet change made! I’m now experimenting with a raw diet for the cats, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll keep you updated on the diet changes!

The moral of the story? Ditch the kibble! Gabe says so!

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