What can I do about my cat’s flatulence?

The crude word for flatulence is “farting”. I guess you know that. But these articles are written for an international market. The website is seen in 86% of the world’s countries. I have to make sure that people all over the globe understand what I am saying. Technically it is referred to as ‘flatus’ or the passing of gas.

But the point about feline flatulence is that it can be embarrassing or distressing for owners. So, what causes it?

Feline flatulence can be caused by allowing your cat to drink cow's milk
Feline flatulence can be caused by allowing your cat to drink cow’s milk. Image: MikeB

Overall advice

A change in your cat’s diet may correct the problem. If not consult your veterinarian. PLEASE READ ON for some details.

Fermentable foods

It’s caused by eating highly fermentable foods. These might include beans, cauliflower, cabbage and soybeans. I don’t see cats eating these foods very often or at all unless something has gone very wrong in the human-to-cat relationship.

Cow’s milk

But there is a cat food product which is very likely to be the cause: cow’s milk. In humans, cow’s milk causes bloating and therefore farting. This is because a lot of people are lactose intolerant. The same applies to domestic cats.

It is a shame that we still see so many photographs of domestic cats drinking milk because their kind and considerate owner thinks that they’ll enjoy it. They do enjoy milk because it contains lots of fat but it is not a good idea to give your cat cow’s milk.

In an earlier post (link) I said that “All domestic cats beyond the age of weaning are lactose intolerant”. Kittens’ intestines produce lactase; the enzyme that digests lactose. This capacity declines from birth to weaning and without lactase, lactose is not digested. The default position is that adult cats are lactose intolerant and should not be fed standard milk.

Plain water is best or one of the commercially prepared cat milks. To the water you can add a little bit of oral health medication which is available online. If you are providing milk I’d change immediately.

RELATED: Cat Relinquishment Because of Flatulence! Ironic that cats are sometimes abandoned for flatulence when the problem is likely to be caused by the cat’s owner!

Malabsorption syndrome

In addition to cow’s milk, diets high in carbohydrates and fibre contribute to flatulence. And flatulence also occurs with malabsorption which means the cat’s digestive system absorbs the digested food poorly. And this is related to incomplete digestion of carbohydrates. It may be due to malabsorption syndrome, a medical condition which occurs due to some underlying disorder of the small bowel, liver or the pancreas.

With this condition the cat doesn’t absorb the end product of digestion from the small intestine. The absorption of nutrients from the stomach into the bloodstream requires digestive enzymes and a healthy bowel lining.

When there is a failure to absorb food, it leads to sloppy, unformed stools containing lots of fat. This may be the problem and a veterinarian’s advice is required. The treatment will depend upon the underlying cause which may be pancreatic disease. Cats with malabsorption syndrome should be on a low-fat diet. Suitable home-made diets might include boiled chicken or lamb with supplements as directed by veterinary nutritionist.

You can also buy prescription diets such as Hill’s Science Diet i/d.

The treatment for flatulence after ruling out malabsorption syndrome is to change the cat’s diet to make sure that it is highly digestible, low in fibre and the caregiver should avoid treats which may promote flatulence.

The cat owner might consider switching to a commercially prepared cat food that is highly digestible such as the one mentioned above or a diet for food allergy or food intolerance. You will also find prescription diets that such as hypoallergenic dry cat foods.

Gulping air

Another possible cause is gulping air while feeding. This can be moderated by free-feeding to help prevent greedy eating and gulping air. This wouldn’t work for an obese cat because you don’t want them to eat all they want to eat. You’ve got to control the amount that they eat.

Medicine

My reference work on veterinary medicine, tells me that a “medication combined with simethicone and activated charcoal (Flatulex) is available for people and can be used in cats”. This medication should not be given to cats with liver or kidney problems.

Obesity

Finally, obese cats are more likely to have flatulence and therefore the obvious answer is to reduce their weight through careful dieting and for their cat to remain on that new diet for the rest of their lives.

Note: Reference book: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook Third Edition.

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