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Vet Vanessa Howie discusses common causes of diarrhoea in cats, how to care for elderly moggies and how to help cats that have allergies.

Last week Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie took over our Facebook page for an hour, answering live questions from our followers.

Here are just a few of the questions she answered:

My cat has had diarrhoea for about a week now. What's best to do?

He's eating and drinking normally and doesn't show any signs of other illness as he seems fine! 

Diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things, both infectious and non-infectious. Common causes include worms and dietary problems. Stress can also be a major cause of diarrhoea. You don't mention how old your cat is or whether he has had diarrhoea before.

I would recommend that you get him checked by your vet as he has had diarrhoea for a week. In the meantime, getting him on a bland diet such as plain boiled chicken or white fish and making sure he has been wormed will help. This leaflet may be useful – Digestive disorders – vomiting and diarrhoea.

black cat eating

Photo by Alan Wu via flickr / Creative Commons


My female cat has just been spayed and now she eats everything in sight, including my other two cats’ food if they leave anything.

I am worried about her putting on weight. Is this normal and is there a way to help prevent it?

Neutering doesn't generally cause a cat to have an increased appetite; however it may cause the metabolism to slow down a little due to the change in hormone levels. This change in metabolism can contribute to weight gain and I would recommend reducing the about of food your cat gets if she does start to increase weight.

An increased appetite can be caused by other things such as worms and I would advise that you talk to your vet about your cat’s increased appetite if it continues. Microchip feeders can help limit how much food your cat can eat if your cats are microchipped.


Are there ways of making life a little more comfortable for very elderly cats, particularly when health problems begin to develop and can these be dealt with as they occur?

Our elderly cats advice provides lots of information on this subject. There are many health problems which can be easily diagnosed in elderly cats and then managed with medication. I would advise that as your cats get older that they have more regular check-ups at your vets, for example, every six months to check their health.

elderly tabby cat lying on gingham blanket

Photo by Diana Parkhouse via flickr / Creative Commons


My kitten keeps biting my older cat’s ears. How do I teach her to stop?

It sounds like your kitten is showing normal kitten behaviour, probably trying to get your older cat to play with her. Usually, you'd expect the older cat to let the kitten know when this behaviour is not acceptable or when they have had enough, for example, the older cat may bat the kitten with its paw.

You can try to divert the kitten's attention to other play such as using fishing rod toys and this may help to steer the kitten away from biting ears. Try not to react yourself when the kitten does this though as it may reinforce the behaviour, particularly if it appears to the kitten that she is getting rewarded for her actions.

You may find the following leaflets helpful to read – Understanding your cat’s behaviour and Cats living together.


My three-year-old cat has allergic reactions to flea bites – her skin scabs and she loses her fur.

She is treated with Advocate and wormed monthly, but she still has loss of fur in small patches on her back end and scabs around her head and neck even though the last reaction was months ago. The vet gives her steroid injections and it clears slightly but they haven't really given us answers. She is healthy otherwise, on a diet of dry food and plain water. Can you offer any advice?

Allergic skin disease can be very difficult to manage. Cats can be allergic to a number of things including, fleas, food and other allergens such as house dust mites.

It's important to get your cat on regular monthly flea treatment and your vet can advise which is the best one to use.

Food trials to rule out a food allergy are usually a good starting point.

Treatment is usually about managing the condition rather than curing it. Adding an omega 3 & 6 supplement may help to improve the skin and reduce the amount of steroid needed to keep on top of the allergy. Our Itchy cats and skin disorders leaflet may be of help too. Do speak to your vet about getting a plan in place for your cat's long term management.


You can find more information about cat care and behaviour in our Essential Guides and do check out our free e-learning course

Please note we are unable to make diagnoses over the internet – if you are concerned about your cat’s health, please consult your local vet.

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