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What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Cats?

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Are you looking to learn more about what exactly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is in cats? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Cat inflammatory bowel disease is not really a single disease. Instead, it’s a condition made up of a number of gastrointestinal disorders. Basically, if your cat has IBD, it means they have all kinds of chronic tummy trouble.

Causes of IBD in Cats

The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease in cats is unknown, but some suspected causes are genetic factors, hypersensitivity to bacteria, and immunology factors. In any case of IBD, the intestines become inflamed and aren’t able to function properly.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms in Cats

There is a variance in symptoms of IBD in felines since many different parts of the digestive system may be affected. If your cat has IBD, they may experience some combination of the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite, which can mean eating much more or much less
  • Bloody stool
  • Gas
  • Rumbling and gurgling abdominal sounds
  • Lethargy

Cats with IBD likely also suffer from abdominal pain, but unfortunately, they have no way of communicating to us that they’re experiencing this symptom.

An innovative collar created by PetPace can help with this problem. The collar allows you and your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s vital signs, activity level, calories burned, changes in position, and more.

Certain postures and positions signal pain in pets, and knowing whether or not your furry family member is in pain can assist in diagnosing many medical conditions.

It’s essential that you take your feline friend to their veterinarian if you begin to notice any of the common IBD symptoms. Cats can be notoriously good at hiding when they don’t feel well. If you do notice anything different about their habits, don’t ignore them. Keep a close eye on how your cat may be acting differently and inform your veterinarian about your observations during your cat’s appointment—this could help with diagnosing your pal.

gray tabby cat lying on white carpet

Diagnosing IBD in Cats

To diagnose IBD in your cat, your veterinarian will likely perform a variety of diagnostic tests. Because symptoms of IBD are common for many other diseases and food allergies, the diagnostic testing can be extensive. Your veterinarian will probably also ask about your cat’s medical history and the frequency and severity of their symptoms to aid in diagnosis.

A veterinarian will normally examine the intestines for a definitive diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease if all other illnesses that present the same symptoms as IBD are ruled out with testing. Examinations may include X-rays, ultrasounds, an endoscopy, or a biopsy of intestinal tissue samples. 

With it being necessary to run so many different tests, your cat may become slightly stressed or nervous. Although you may not be able to fully eliminate their hesitations, it is still worthwhile to try and ease your pal’s nerves. It may help to bring along a favorite toy or treats to your cat’s appointment. It can also be beneficial to use soothing tones, and some cats may prefer that they stay in your lap or near you while at the veterinarian’s office.

Cat IBD Treatment

IBD cannot be cured, but it can be managed pretty well in cats with dietary changes or medication, or a combination of both.

Dietary Changes

Sensitivity to food antigens can contribute to intestinal inflammation. Your veterinarian might recommend special foods without any potentially aggravating ingredients to help control your cat’s IBD, which can include both commercial food and home-cooked recipes.

Prebiotics and probiotics may also help ease your kitty’s tummy trouble. These substances promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract. They’re available at pet stores and online in the form of supplements. Please discuss with your veterinarian before starting your cat on any supplemental regimen.

Since it can take several weeks to start noticing symptomatic relief in your cat, you’ll want to adhere strictly to the dietary changes – that means no treats or table scraps. Eliminating all other food but the special dietary food will make it more apparent whether or not the changes are helping.

Thankfully, there are now dozens of food options available for your cat. If it so happens that your cat is still having tummy troubles after switching their meal plan, don’t hesitate to try out a different food brand, a different flavor, or maybe try out a new homemade recipe.


Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed for cats suffering from IBD. These steroids have strong anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and they cause few side effects. They’re most commonly given to felines by mouth.

Getting cats to swallow pills can be tough. Here are pill-giving tips if your feline family member turns their nose up at medication:

Disguise It

Some cats will easily swallow a pill that’s mixed into their food. The smell and taste of the food can mask some of the icky medicine flavor and trick the cat into gobbling the pill up.

If you mix a steroid pill into your cat’s special dietary food, make sure to check their food dish after they’ve finished eating to see that the medication was ingested.

If your cat isn’t impressed enough by their regular food to willingly swallow a pill with it, ask your veterinarian about recipes you can try at home that also fit your cat’s special dietary needs. Something new and different in your cat’s food dish could outweigh their distaste for the medication.

You can also try some homemade cat treat recipes, which may do the trick of hiding your cat’s medicine.

Place the Pill in Their Mouth

If your cat is too cunning to take a pill with food, you can always try putting it right in their mouth and coaxing them to swallow. This can be a more challenging strategy and requires patience and calmness. Cats are sensitive to emotions, like nervousness, and can become agitated in an uncomfortable situation.

Here’s how to go about helping your cat swallow a pill:

  1. Coax your cat into a closed-off room or space in your home.
  2. Swaddle them in a towel with their head protruding for safer and easier handling.
  3. Using your thumb and middle finger, gently open your cat’s jaw.
  4. Place the pill on your cat’s tongue and close their mouth.
  5. Lovingly stroke your cat’s throat to encourage them to swallow the pill. Speaking softly to them can help too.

Neither option worked? Try these extra ideas on how to give your pet a pill.

Afterward, watch to see if your cat licks their lips. This is a sign that they’ve swallowed the pill. Be sure to give them plenty of water to help it dissolve. Some medications increase thirst, so making sure your cat drinks plenty of water can also be beneficial for this reason.

If getting your cat to swallow their pill still proves too difficult, notify your veterinarian. They may choose to inject the corticosteroids instead.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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