Gas is a perfectly normal body experience for just about all mammals including humans. Cats are no exception to this and it is not unusual for a cat to fart. Gas is a natural by-product of the digestion process. Some enters through the mouth when your cat is eating but some is produced by bacteria in the gut as food is being broken down. It has to go somewhere! Therefore, it is expelled out through your cat’s bottom as a fart.
This is perfectly normal. However, if you have noticed that your kitty is farting a lot more than normal or seems to have an excessive amount of gas, it could indicate that there is an underlying problem that you need to discuss with your vet.
The medical term for excess gas is flatulence and it is more common in dogs than it is in cats. It can develop when an excessive amount of fermentation takes place in the gut, when a cat swallows too much air by eating too fast or if they have an intestinal disorder. No farts smell good! However, flatulence often produces very foul-smelling gas and this may be accompanied by other symptoms.
What Causes Flatulence in Cats?
Feline flatulence has many possible causes. Here are the main ones.
- Dietary causes: Something in your cat’s diet may be causing the problem. Check out the ingredients list of the food that you regularly feed your cat. Does it contain wheat, corn, soybeans, or fiber? If it does, this could be the cause of the issue and a diet change may help. Some cats do better on a low fiber diet.
- Dairy products: Many cats cannot tolerate dairy products. Look for these on ingredients lists and on the ingredients of any treats that you feed your cat. Try swapping to a dairy-free diet.
- Other food allergies and intolerances: There could be other cat food ingredients that your cat has an allergy or an intolerance to. Have a chat with your vet to see if you can work with them to identify what is going on.
- Infections: Cats can suffer from intestinal infections just as humans can. They can happen at any age but are more common in younger cats because their immune system is not so well developed. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Your cat may have additional symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea too.
- Eating spoiled food: If your cat has eaten some food that has been hanging around for some time, it could irritate the gut and cause flatulence.
- Overeating: Eating too much can overload the gut and result in food not being digested properly. This can lead to a lot of gas being produced.
- Eating too fast: When a cat gulps down their food, they take in more air than when they eat at a more moderate pace. If this is the cause, you can take measures to slow your cat down when they are eating.
- Poor food absorption: Perhaps your cat has a disorder of the intestines that means that they do not absorb their food in the correct way. Malabsorption can also lead to a lack of nutrients in the blood. It can also result in excess gas and farting.
- Constipation: If your cat is constipated, their poop is hard and travels slowly through the intestines. In some cases, this results in a build up of gas and flatulence.
- Hairballs: This is a common issue for many cats. The hairballs can alter the way that food moves along the digestive tract and this, in turn, can cause flatulence.
- Intestinal parasites: There are a number of intestinal parasites that can affect felines including roundworms and hookworms. They alter the delicate balance of the intestine and excessive gas can be the result.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This is a condition that causes inflammatory cells to invade the intestinal lining and cause it to thicken. This makes it harder for a cat’s gut to move food along and can lead to a build up of gas.
Flatulence can also be a sign of gastrointestinal cancer or pancreas problems. Some of these causes are issues that you can try to sort out yourself but others need help from your vet.
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Signs that Your Cat Has Flatulence
Now you know that flatulence is a typical digestive response to something that has stimulated the gut, it would also be useful to look at the signs that indicate that your cat has flatulence. The most obvious sign is that your cat will fart but surprisingly, 99% of the gas produced by the intestine is odorless.
Here are a few of the key signs of a digestive problem in cats.
- Borborygmus: This is the medical name for low rumbling sounds coming from the lower abdomen. It can sound like a growling or gurgling noise.
- Excessive farting: If you can hear your cat constantly farting, it indicates that their gut contains an excessive amount of gas.
- Foul odors: Do your cat’s farts smell worse than normal? This can indicate an intestinal disturbance.
- Abdominal pain: Does your cat appear to have abdominal cramps? If they do, it can mean that they have flatulence.
- Bloating: Can you see that your cat’s abdomen is distended? This will look like their stomach is sticking out and their skin will feel taught in that area. It means that there is a lot of gas (or something else) trapped in their digestive system. You need to see a vet about this.
- Vomiting: Cats do occasionally vomit and can bring up a fur ball but if this is happening regularly it is a sign that something is wrong.
- Diarrhea: Take a quick look in your cat’s litter tray. Are their poops very runny? Perhaps they have blood or mucus mixed in with the poop? This is something that you need to see your vet about right away.
You should also head off to see your vet right away if your cat has pain when you touch their belly, refuses to eat, has excessive drooling or scoots across the floor.
How Your Vet Will Diagnose Feline Flatulence
If you have spotted changes in your cat’s normal gas levels or you have noticed any of the key signs listed above, it is time to talk to your vet.
They will start by taking a full health history, making a note of any existing or previous health problems. They will need to know about your cat’s eating patterns. They also need to know what and when your cat eats and how this relates to the symptoms that your cat is experiencing. Sometimes, specific foods trigger flatulence and your vet will be trying to identify them. You may find it helpful to make a note of your cat’s diet. This is called a food history and is a record of what your cat eats, how much they eat and when they eat. It is also helpful to keep a diary of their symptoms.
Your vet will probably physically examine your cat and perform a range of health checks including taking their temperature. They may request some further diagnostic tests. A fecal (poop) sample may be tested to determine whether they have worms or an intestinal pathogen. They may also want to carry out tests on their urine or some bool tests such as a complete blood count which will look at all of the cells in the blood. They may need to request a biochemical profile of the blood or X-rays or scans of the abdomen.
If IBD is a possibility, they will have to carry out a gastric biopsy to have a look at the cells lining the intestinal tract. This can be done through abdominal surgery or it can be done using an endoscope. The endoscope is a procedure that passes a tiny tube into the intestines so that your vet can see what is going on and take samples for analysis. It is not as invasive as surgery but does still present risks. If you are unsure about anything, get your vet to explain it to you.
Treatment for Feline Flatulence
The appropriate treatment for your cat’s flatulence will depend on what is causing it. It could be very simple or it could be quite long and drawn out. Always follow your vet’s advice.
- Diet management
Diet management can be very useful and is the obvious place to start. If your vet has confirmed that diet is the cause of the problem, there are several things that you can do. One quite simple approach is to reduce the amount of fiber and soy in your cat’s diet. You will probably have to switch brands to achieve this. However, changing from one cat food to another is not something that you can do quickly because that can cause additional problems. It needs to be done gradually over a period of a few weeks. This gives your cat’s digestive system time to adjust. Start by mixing a small portion of the new food with the old food. The next day, add a little more of the new food and a little less of the old food. Carry on doing this until you have completely changed over to the new food.
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- Feeding adjustments
Another approach is to deter your cat from overeating by offering smaller meals and feeding more frequently. This will stop your cat from getting too hungry and gulping their food and over-eating. An automatic food dispenser can help when you want to do this but are away from home for long periods. In households where there is more than one cat, it would be a good idea to feed them alone. When cats feel that they are competing for food, they will eat too fast and are likely to overeat.
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The tests that your vet has carried out may indicate that your cat has a food allergy. You need to find out what the offending food is and eliminate it completely from your cat’s diet. Often, vets will recommend that cats start on a hypoallergenic food trial. This is a great way of determining if a food allergy is the cause of the symptoms.
- Medical treatments
The tests may have indicated that your cat has a medical issue that needs to be treated. It could be a chronic condition, an infection or a disease. If your cat has been diagnosed with IBD, this can be helped by managing their diet carefully. Your cat may also need a course of corticosteroids. These are a drug that will suppress the immune system and reduce the inflammation that is causing the symptoms. Antibiotics can also be useful in treating IBD but are only used if other treatments are not successful.
Antibiotics will be prescribed by your vet if your cat has a bacterial infection. They are not effective against viral infections. If your cat is prescribed antibiotics, it is important that your cat takes them as directed. You may need to hide the pill in their food but always check to see that they have eaten it. If antibiotics are not given correctly, it can lead to a longer infection and drug-resistant bacteria developing. Antibiotics can cause side effects such as diarrhea. If this occurs, talk to your vet and get some advice on how to deal with it. Your cat may be swapped to a different antibiotic.
If the tests show that your cat has a parasitic infection, there are drugs that they can take to get rid of it. The correct drugs will be chosen based on the fecal sample results. Always finish the course to make sure that all of the parasites are cleared from your cat’s intestines.
Finally, there are a couple of things that you can do yourself. Make sure that you keep your cat away from the garbage and encourage them to get regular exercise.