Month: March 2009

Oh, barf!

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Photo by matuzalems
Photo by matuzalems

 One thing you will quickly learn when sharing your life with a cat is that they throw up on occasion. You’re lucky if it is a rare occurrence. Generally, if it does not happen often and the cat seems fine afterwards with a healthy appetite, it’s nothing to worry about. If you cat is listless or won’t eat, don’t take a chance and take him to the vet to get checked out.

Two of the most common reasons that your cat throws up are  hair balls and eating too fast. Lucian vomits his food up when he has a hair ball that he’s having trouble passing. After a few tries, there is usually a hair ball in the mix of barely digested food. Kiggy used to throw up almost daily in the summer when I lived in apartment that got too hot during the day. There’s nothing like finding a pile of goo in stocking feet or worse bare feet. Blech! One word of advice, if your cat is vomiting don’t pick him up! I did that once with Michi to get her off the carpet. It ended up with me running with a cat who projectile vomited all over the walls. Ewwww

My husband loves the cats but he has a strong gag reflex and has a hard time cleaning up the mess. (Or at least that’s what he claims ;¬) ) His aversion to cat vomit actually helped him come up with a winning method of cleaning up the mess.

Hard Floors

  1. Cover the mess with a paper towel or two. (A nice absorbent towel like Bounty works well.)
  2. Leave it alone and let the towel soak up most of the fluid. (If you have wooden floors, you may want to clean it up sooner so that it doesn’t soak into the wood.)
  3. Grab a plastic grocery bag and place your hand inside.
  4. Scoop up the towels, barf and all and flip the bag around so that the mess is inside. This way you don’t actually have to touch the goo.
  5. Dispose in the trash.
  6. If you have hard floors, you can wipe up any remaining mess with a damp paper towel. Use a little dish soap if your floors are tile or something else that can handle it. With wooden floors you may want to try diluted vinegar. 

Cleaning Carpet

If you have carpet, you can follow steps 1 – 5 above. There will likely still be a stain left behind. Club soda works wonders for getting the stain up. Keep club soda in a clean spray bottle handy. The club soda will remain a good cleaning agent even after the carbonation has gone away.

  1. Remove the bulk of the vomit using the steps above
  2. Spray club soda on the carpet 
  3. Blot the stain with a clean white towel. (Old towels or shop towels work well for this purpose. They don’t need to be white, but it helps to see the stain transferred to the towel.)
  4. Keep spraying and blotting until the stain is gone. You should see the carpet get clean and the towel get dirty. 
  5. Let the carpet dry. It should only be damp so it shouldn’t take long. The club soda will not leave a residue like other carpet cleaners that seem to attract new stains in the future.
  6. Give your cat some hair ball remedy and remind him how lucky he is to have you to clean up after him.


Photo by Ocean Yamaha
Photo by Ocean Yamaha

Hairball Prevention 

I’m sure you’ve heard the proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The best way to not have to clean up cat vomit is to prevent the hairball formation. Cats are great groomers and generally keep themselves very clean. Cats clean themselves by licking their fur. Some of that fur ends up in the cat’s stomach. If your cat has long hair this makes the hairball issue more of a problem. Regular brushing of your cat’s coat will help him shed less and help prevent hairball formation.


You Want To Do What With That Brush?

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It may seem strange to brush a cat’s teeth. They don’t have dental care in the wild. So why would they need good dental hygiene as pets?

A pet cat’s diet is vastly different from a cat who hunts for his food. Eating dry kibble and moist canned food is not the same as crunching little mice bones. While cats do not get cavities, they do develop gingivitis and gum disease on a frequent basis. Your veterinarian can clean the tarter off of your cat’s teeth, but this usually requires that the cat be sedated which has some risks and is expensive.

Not all cats will take to a toothbrush with grace. Most likely, he will wonder why you’ve gone mad and will run away, swat and/or bite. I’ve had good luck with my three, but they are generally good about letting me brush them and trim their claws.

There are special toothbrushes for cats and special toothpaste that they actually like. It is usually flavored with chicken or fish, not minty-fresh like ours. While you can use a child’s toothbrush, never use human toothpaste.

There are some great videos online that will help you get started. Patience, a sense of humor and lots of treats are a must.


This video shows a veterinarian giving instructions on how to brush a cat’s teeth. We use the same cat toothbrush. It works very well.

Cornell Cat Health Videos

Cornell University has a series of videos showing you how to ease you cat into brushing.

Feeding Fatty

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Wayne waiting for food

If you live in a multi-cat household, you likely have one or more cats who are gluttons when it comes to meal time. We had this problem when we only had two. Kiggy would eat her dinner and then saunter over, push Michi out of the way and finish hers too. At that time, we had a fairly simple solution. We put Michi’s food up on a shelf. Kiggy had trouble jumping up on anything higher than the couch or bed.

When we adopted Liv and Lucian, they could easily jump up and finish Michi’s food for her. We started feeding Michi on the enclosed patio until a raccoon decided to join in. Poor Michi, she was always low kitty on the totem pole.

Now that we have Liv, Lucian and Wayne, it’s now Liv who is the one who gets pushed aside. Lucian usually eats some of his, pushes Wayne out of the way, who then makes a beeline to Liv and finishes her dinner. Unless we stand vigilant or feed her in a separate room, the boys get more than their fair share.

Wayne is a big cat, but he’s also rapidly becoming a fat cat. Feline obesity is a serious problem worldwide. The current consensus is that a dry food diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is causing our cats to become chubby. We’ve started feeding them more canned food and switched the dry to a low carb version. The theory is that a cat’s natural diet consists of hunting live food that consists mainly of protein and little carbohydrates. It’s been nicknamed the Catkins diet. It makes sense and seems to be helping.

Cat Feeder with too much food!
Cat Feeder with too much food!

We also realized that they beg for food all through the day when we’re home. We work long hours on most days and they go for a long stretch with no food. We purchased an automatic feeder that has six compartments that rotates at programmed times. Now, while we are gone they get a little dry food at regular intervals. Wayne has lost a little weight and he no longer waits by the door howling to be fed the moment we enter.

Here’s the formula that seems to be working:

  • Canned food (has more protein and water)
  • Low-carbohydrate dry food
  • Feed small portions at more frequent intervals