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Diarrhoea and Vomiting in Maine Coons

A common question amongst new or potential Maine coon owners is, do Maine coons have sensitive stomachs? Although the Maine coon is known to be a hardy breed of cat, a sensitive stomach does seem to be a common trait. There are a number of different reasons for this such as dietary, behavioural and infectious issues as well as other more complex medical conditions.

In this article we will discuss the various reasons that your Maine coon may experience episodes of both diarrhoea and vomiting. We will also walk you through a number of different things you can do as an owner to protect your Maine coon’s digestive health.

Just a quick disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian. I am simply a Maine coon owner who has personal experience of this problem. I’ve discussed these problems in depth with my veterinarian, researched and talked with other Maine coon owners about these issues. This article is the result of this knowledge complied into an easy-read guide for those of you in a similar situation.

When to take your Maine coon to see a Veterinarian

Short episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting (lasting <24 hours) are not uncommon and will not necessarily require input from your veterinarian. These will usually pass within a day and your Maine coon will be just fine afterwards.

If your Maine coon seems to be having a digestive issue then it is a good idea to keep a diary of bowel movements and episodes of vomiting. This could Include anything of note such as smell, colour, consistency and timing in relation to eating. Also take note of any key dates such as timing of worming treatments or changes in diet. All of this information can be really useful for your veterinarian in order for them to reach a speedy diagnosis.

Take note of how much your Maine coon is drinking and how often they are passing urine, this will give you an idea of how well hydrated they are. Diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration quickly, especially in warm weather.

You should seek urgent veterinary advice in the following circumstances:

  • If there is blood in the stool
  • If they have recently been started on a new medication
  • If they have other medical conditions such as kidney failure
  • If your Maine coon is not drinking or is displaying signs of dehydration
  • If they seem to be in pain, for example not letting you pick them up or touch their stomach
  • If the diarrhoea or vomiting is persistent and lasts more than 24 hours, or if it is increasing in frequency

Have a lower threshold for seeking veterinary advice with Kittens, elderly cats and those with serious pre-existing health issues. If a Maine coon has diarrhoea or vomiting which last more than 24 hours then you must call your veterinarian to ask their advice.

Vomiting: Common Causes and How to Treat them

Eating Too Much

Kittens have very small stomachs and so cannot eat much at a time, although they may not realise this themselves. If your kitten seems to be eating with gusto, but then vomits shortly after their meal then quantity may be an issue. Try providing them with 3-4 small meals per day rather than the standard 1-2 large meals that an adult cat would eat. For more information you may want to read our previous article: How Much Should I Feed My Maine Coon?


Eating Too Quickly

Mealtime is one of the most exciting moments of the day for a Maine coon. Our Kittens get so excited that they climb all over me while I am putting the food into their bowl, and sometimes knocking the bowl clean out of my hand! When the food arrives they guzzle it down with gusto. This is especially a problem in multi-cat households as cats may be worried about someone else getting their paws into their food. Unfortunately, eating this quickly can lead to regurgitation of food.

A good solution for this is to use a ‘slow feeder’. This is a device that you place in the bottom of the food which provides small obstacles which the cat needs to eat around (alternatively you can buy a specially made food bowl). This slows the eating process as the cat needs to think about what they are doing. Taking longer to eat means that they will eat less food and will consume it more slowly, reducing the risk of vomiting. Click here to see a good, inexpensive example on Amazon.


Eating Something They Shouldn’t

Maine coons are always munching on something that they shouldn’t do. Every now and then this will result in an upset stomach. The usual culprits for this are:

  • Human foods, in particular dairy products
  • Foreign objects such as toys or pieces of plastic or other packaging they may find around the house
  • Toxins such as cleaning products, anti-freeze or houseplants

Hairballs

Maine coons are a very furry breed of cat, but they are also very good at keeping themselves well-groomed. As a result, Maine coons are prone to developing hairballs. These lumps of fur sit in their stomachs, causing discomfort and can lead to vomiting. Vomiting caused by a hairball is often obvious as it will appear as more of a furry lump.

Travel Sickness

Cats are prone to getting motion sickness. If you have traveled with your cat in the last 24 hours and now they are vomiting then this may be the culprit. It’s often advisable to avoid feeding your cat prior to any journey you might be making. Travelling on an empty stomach is much less likely to result in vomiting. Do make sure that they have access to plenty of fresh water whilst food is being withheld.

Parasitic Infection

Infections are a common cause of digestive distress in cats, particularly in Kittens due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Parasitic infections are amongst the most common with vomiting presenting as a symptom. Your veterinarian may suspect worms or a gardia infection. Worms can be treated with a simple worming treatment given once a month.

Gardia is not quite as simple to treat. This requires a 5 days treatment with a liquid medication given orally. It may not work first time around, as was the case with our Kittens who kept passing the infection between themselves. Repeat treatment can be given a week later if required.

Diarrhoea: Common Causes and How to Treat them

Too much wet food

If your Maine coon is eating a lot of wet food, as well as drinking plenty, then it may be that there is just too much liquid in their diet. All of the fluid does not have time to be absorbed by the time the food has passed through the gut. This can result in loose stools. You could try cutting back on the wet food aspect of their diet for a few days to see if this improves things.

Dietary Sensitivity

It is not uncommon for Maine coons to develop sensitivities to foods which they have previously been quite comfortable eating. Over time the gut can become irritated by some ingredients in popular manufactured foods. Check the labels of foods you are feeding your Maine coon, looking in particular for any mention of gluten, grains or diary. Consider switching to a different food for 2-3 weeks to see if this improves the situation.


Medications

If your Maine coon has been recently started on any form of medication, and now has diarrhoea, then the two may be linked. Contact your veterinarian to discuss whether this could be a side effect of the medication for advice about what to do next. Ironically this is often a side effect of some antibiotics as along with any infection they can also strip the gut of the good bacteria needed for it to function properly.

Bowel Obstruction

It seems strange to suggest that a blocked bowel can result in diarrhoea, but think about it like this, if a blockage occurs in the bowel then all that can pass around the sides is fluid. This can present itself as diarrhoea.

Bowel obstruction may be the result of ingesting a foreign object, development of a large hairball which has passed through the gut, or something more sinister such as development of a tumour.

Bowel obstruction is an emergency and will likely require surgery, depending on the cause. This is why it is important to seek veterinary advice if diarrhoea persists past the 24 hour mark.

Gut Infection

Infection of the gut can come in many forms: gastroenteritis caused by a virus, bacterial infection cause by consumption of spoiled foods or parasitic infection caused by ingestion of worms or the gardia parasite. Even if your Maine coon is an indoor pet then they can still come into contact with these pathogens, unknowingly brought into the household by others.

Kittens are much more prone to developing a gut infection than adult Maine coons. This is because they do not yet have a fully developed immune system to defend themselves against these infections. If you have a kitten who seems to struggle with recurring infections then you may find that this simply improves as they get older.

Bacterial infection is more unusual, and as mentioned previously, antibiotics can often worsen diarrhoea as they strip the gut of its good bacteria. Your veterinarian will often want to prove a bacterial infection by taking a stool sample prior to offering treatment with antibiotics.

Systemic Illness

Many illnesses can present with diarrhoea and therefore this may be a symptom of a condition somewhere else in the body. Examples of this include hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis or kidney disease. These diseases require further investigation and cannot be managed through simple treatments at home. It is therefore important that you consult with your veterinarian if diarrhoea is not improving following the use of simple home remedies and dietary changes.


Preventing and Treating Diarrhoea and Vomiting at Home

Prevent Hairballs

Maine coons have a lot of fur and as a result they shed a lot. It is inevitable that some of this fur is going to end up being ingested when they groom themselves. Managing shedding and preventing hairballs in Maine coons is a whole topic in itself, so let me provide you with some helpful links to go into this topic in more detail:


Regular Flea and Worming Treatments

Parasitic infection can have a dramatic effect on the digestive system of a Maine coon, particularly in Kittens. Even if you are keeping your Maine coon as an indoor pet then you should still be giving them a regular treatment to prevent the common parasitic infections. They don’t have to go outside in order to become infected. Infections can be walked into the home by humans and dogs which can then lead to infection in your house cat.

Treatments should be given once a month and these come in a couple of different formulations. The most popular option is the ‘spot-on’. This is liquid which is squirted directly onto the skin on the back of the neck, where the cat can’t reach to lick it off, giving it time to be adsorbed. Another option is to give an oral flea prevention treatment but this can often be more difficult to administer.

Provide a Large Litter Box and Consider Getting More than One

Plenty of litter box space is particularly important if you have more than one cat in the house. If one Maine coon does have a gut infection, then sharing a litter box can lead to cross-infection. If your Maine coon accidently stands in the business of an infected cat, then this will lead to the infected material getting on their fur. The grooming then required to clean themselves will result in them ingesting the parasites, causing infection in their own gut. This is the reason that all cats in a multi-cat household should be treated if an infection is identified.

We had two large litter boxes when our Kittens ran into digestive issues. Even so, they kept ending up in a mess and needing to be bathed in order to clean them up properly. In the end we built our own, super litter box (it looked more like a child’s sand pit) with plenty of space for both of them to walk around at the same time, if needed.


Our workload improved instantly as they had plenty of room to move around and bury their goodies. Better still, as they each had their own space, there was no more standing in each other’s business. Once they had both completed treatment for a potential gut infection, they improved dramatically but we decided to keep the larger litter box because it was just so much easier for hygiene purposes.

Ensure Your Maine Coon is Drinking Plenty of Water

Be sure to provide your Maine coon with plenty of fresh water. If you are concerned that your furry friend has an upset stomach, take note of how much they are drinking and how frequently they are passing urine. If you have any concerns with regards to this then you should speak to your veterinarian,

If your Maine coon is not a big drinker then you could consider getting a water fountain to entice them to drink more. You can see my recommendations here in this guide: Best Cat Water Fountains.

Rest their Stomach

As difficult as it might be to ignore the pestering, you know what is best for their little tummies. Temporarily stop providing your Maine coon with treats and consider making a change to their normal diet. Do not remove food altogether. This has not been shown to help and has the potential to just cause your cat more distress.

If you are providing our Maine coon with a mixed diet of wet and dry foods then you could cut out the wet food temporarily. Of course, the caveat to this is that they must be drinking plenty of water to make up for the hydration they are missing out on from the wet food.

A bland diet gives the gut lining time to heal. There are a number of digestive care foods available and these are great for resting an upset stomach. Generally, they need to be continued for around 3 weeks in order to see their full effect as this is how long it takes for the lining of the gut to regenerate.

Here are some examples which were recommended by my own veterinarian:

Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food



Click here to check pricing and availability on Amazon.

Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food


Click here to check pricing and availability on Amazon.

Royal Canin Feline Care Nutrition Digestive Care Dry Cat Food


Click here to check pricing and availability on Amazon.

Probiotics

Probiotics are given in order to replenish intestinal flora i.e. the good bacteria needed for the gut to function properly.

You could try offering your Maine coon 1-2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt as a way of providing them with a probiotic. A worry with this is that many cats react badly to dairy products, which may only worsen their digestive upset.

Our veterinarian recommended Fortiflora. This is a feline probiotic produced by Purina. It’s a sachet of probiotic in powder form which has a nice meaty smell (and I presume flavour). It can be mixed in with wet food or sprinkled onto dry food. Our cats seemed to rather enjoy it!

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It comes in a box of 30 sachets as it needs to be given for at least one month in order to have its full effect. Your veterinarian may recommend a longer course of treatment depending on your own cat’s situation. Click here to read more about the product and check pricing on Amazon.


Changing the Diet Longterm

For some owners, just nothing seems to work when it comes to resolving diarrhoea. Many have ended up finding success by switching their Maine coons from manufactured foods to a completely raw diet.

A combination of muscle meat, edible bone and organs are given and this is in a typical ratio of 75/15/10 %. To begin with you may find that giving an increased amount of edible bone, whilst leaving out the organ meat can help to firm up the stools. Once stools have returned to normal then the ratio can be altered back to the usual 75/15/10.

If you do plan to give this a try, then be sure to educate yourself beforehand and make the switch slowly. You can read about switching to a raw diet on our Ultimate Maine Coon Feeding Guide.

Pumpkin is another trick which many Maine coon owners use to firm up stools. This can be given as a pumpkin puree or as a powdered pumpkin supplement which can be mixed in with the food. Click the links below to see examples of both on the Amazon website:

Firm Up Pumpkin Super Supplement (Label says for dogs but popular and safe for use in cats too)

Pumpkin Puree Digestive Supplement Pouches for Cats

Don’t Give Up!

Diarrhoea and vomiting in Maine coons can be exhausting, especially if you have more than one poorly kitty. We went through weeks of mess, worry and frustration when our Kittens were poorly (and all of this happening while I was pregnant and during the COVID-19 crisis!).

Talk to your veterinarian regularly and keep trying different things. Eventually something will work! I hope all of the advice above has been useful and helpful. Thanks for reading!

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