I thought I’d give you an update on our celiac cat. For those of you who missed the story awhile back on our Facebook page, I’ll give you a little background.
We have three cats – Lily is a large, lumbering gray and white tiger cat. She was rescued 5 years ago. Part of her left ear is missing – it was frozen off when she was alone in the world and on her own in the sub-zero winters of northern Minnesota. She is very spoiled and we let her do what she wants, when she wants (mostly she wants to sleep) because she deserves to be spoiled now.
Zoey is our black cat (who sheds only white hair). She was a farm kitten and is still looking for her lost hayloft – on the tops of dressers, fireplaces, the top edge of all the doors . . . she loves to jump and climb.
Our third cat is Puppy. Yes, our kitten is actually a “Puppy”. She is very aptly named – I believe she thinks she really is a puppy. She will wag her tail, play with a ball, take all the shiny, sparkly things she can find and bury them under the beds. (She’s named Puppy because it’s the only name she answers to when we call her.) She is our Celiac cat.
Puppy was six months old and sick when she first came to our house. She was undersized, couldn’t seem to gain weight, had a runny nose & eyes, sneezed all the time and just wanted to be held. We gave her antibiotics from the vet, but her progress was very slow. She gained a little weight and grew a little bit. Since I believe “you are what you eat”, I wondered if some of her symptoms were caused by what she was eating.I tried all sorts of cat foods for her – dry, canned, fresh, organic - just about everything out there. Nothing seemed to make a difference. Her symptoms got worse. She had bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. She began to throw up within 15 minutes of eating canned food and within half an hour after eating dry food.
Of course, as a Celiac (and the grandmother of a Celiac) I read the ingredients on everything. I noticed that “wheat gluten”, “barley” and “oatmeal” were main ingredients on the majority of the cat food - dry and canned. So, if people can have reactions to gluten, I wondered if cats could. I knew I had to try something or Puppy wouldn’t be with us too long. I found a grain-free dry cat food, and grain-free canned cat food. (All 3 cats get a treat of canned cat food in the morning and in the evening.)
After the first feeding of canned grain-free cat food – Puppy didn’t throw up! Wow! After one dayof dry grain-free cat food – Puppy didnt’ throw up! After a week of grain-free food, Puppy hadn’t thrown up once and she no longer had diarrhea. After a month on grain-free food, she was actually gaining weight and was trying to play with Lily and Zoey. That was last fall and Puppy has grown, gained weight, eats “like a horse” and is very healthy.
I was prepared for Puppy to improve, but I hadn’t expected any changes in Lily or Zoey. They were both normal size (actually a little more than normal sized!), didn’t throw up and seemed to be fine. Zoey did have a problem with recurring constipation, but I thought that might be caused because she ate too much dry food which tends to constipate cats, when they don’t have enough liquid in their diet. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make a cat drink water if it doesn’t want to. This is how they ended up with canned food in the morning and in the evening – at least it has some moisture. Lily appeared to be very healthy, somewhat overweight and lazy – just how a spoiled cat should be. Ok, she did shed – quite a bit, but I thought she was just the type of cat who shed a lot – or maybe it had something to do with her being a stray for so long.
After a month on a grain-free diet, Zoey no longer had a problem with constipation. Her coat became shiny and glossy and she actually seemed happier. She didn’t drag around the house any longer. Lily’s coat had always been dull and “sticky” – like she had used too much hair gel and didn’t wash it all out. After a month on a grain-free diet, her coat also became shiny and glossy and she shed a LOT less. While she was eating the grain-filled foods, you could run your hand down her body and come away with a full handful of hair! Now, when you pet her (which she loves) you are left with maybe 5 or 6 hairs. What an improvement!
Of course, I always have to question and test things. I wanted to be sure it was the grain in the cat food that had made Puppy so sick, and had affected Lily and Zoey. So a few months ago, I gave them a can of cat food with wheat gluten in it. Puppy took 2 bites, walked away from her dish – and immediately threw up. Lily sniffed at the food dish, turned up her nose and regally walked away. Zoey isn’t as regal as Lily – she sniffed the food dish, snorted and ran downstairs. I guess the cats can tell when their food isn’t good for them, either.
In the past few weeks, I’m discovering Puppy is apparently as sensitive to gluten as I am. I will get very sick from gluten-free food that has been cross-contaminated by the smallest amount of gluten. Puppy also gets sick (and throws up) from canned cat food that has apparently been cross-contaminated. Most of the choices in the brand of canned cat food I buy have wheat gluten in them. They do have a few choices that don’t have wheat gluten, barley or oatmeal in that particular flavor. But I’m pretty sure they’re all manufactured in the same plant, on the same machinery. I gave the cats a can of this brand of cat food that did NOT have wheat gluten in it. Puppy took one bite and walked away. (She will normally eat anything that doesn’t move!) Zoey took a bite a walked away. Lily, of course, ate half a bowl before walking away. Within 5 minutes, Puppy had thrown up again. Within half an hour, she wes in the cat box with diarrhea – something she hasn’t had for many, many months.
My conclusion is – Puppy is very sensitive to gluten and Zoey doesn’t like the taste of food with gluten in it any longer. Lily went hungry too many times to turn down free food, but even she won’t eat it all. I must continue to buy the more expensive grain-free cat food to keep my babies healthy. Not only is gluten-free people food more expensive, but so is gluten-free cat food. Imagine that!
So, if you have a pet with digestive issues, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, grungy coat – you may want to try a grain-free diet to see if there is any improvement in their symptoms. Our neighbor’s dog is also a Celiac and needs to eat grain free. If I wasn’t already familiar with Celiac disease and various food allergies – what would have happened to Puppy???