Marigold is a sweet, middle-aged, orange tabby cat found as a stray and taken to the city shelter. Affectionate and easy-going, she had everything going for her, except for one thing -- she had constant liquid diarrhea. Even though she was a favorite at the shelter, her cage was constantly a mess, as was her bright orange fur, and it wasn’t long before Marigold was deemed “unadoptable.” Soon after, her digestive issues earned her a spot at the top of the shelter’s euthanasia list.
Lucky for Marigold, on the day before her scheduled euthanasia, she was saved by Cat Town, a cat rescue in Oakland, California. She went through a series of foster homes, but her chronic diarrhea always limited the duration of her stays. That is, until she was fostered by Tracy, who quickly fell in love with Marigold’s sunny personality. Tracy adopted Marigold, promising that she would give her the very best life possible. She tried every medication, diet and supplement recommended by her veterinarian and friends, but nothing worked for long and Marigold would always relapse. This went on for four years.
In the midst of a particularly intense bout of diarrhea over the winter holidays, Tracy was sure it was the end for Marigold. A friend suggested she check out AnimalBiome, a San Francisco Bay Area start-up founded by researchers from UC Davis to help pets like Marigold, who suffer from health conditions that can be tied to imbalances in the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the term used to describe the millions of microscopic living things - including bacteria, viruses, and fungi - that live inside every cat’s digestive tract.
While these bacteria may be small in size, together their impact on every cat’s health is massive. Of course, being located in the digestive system, these tiny organisms help determine how your cat breaks down their food, and how well they absorb it. And their impact goes much further than digestion. They help your cat's immune system to function properly, and they produce neurotransmitters that can affect brain function. Gut bacteria can also influence whether your cat has itchy skin, a soft, shiny coat or a dull one, and whether your cat is active, or overweight and uncomfortable. Learn more about the cat microbiome.
Restoring Balance to the Microbiome
When the microbiome becomes imbalanced, a cat can find themselves on a slippery slope towards a variety of health conditions, including chronic diarrhea like Marigold. AnimalBiome performed a microbiome analysis on Marigold’s stool that revealed that she was missing crucial groups of bacteria that cats need in order to have healthy gut function. Because these bacteria are not found in cat probiotics, AnimalBiome had just developed its Gut Restore supplement, a fecal transplant in an oral capsule. A fecal microbiota transplant is designed to transfer cat-specific beneficial bacteria from a healthy cat to a sick one like Marigold.
Within three days, Marigold’s diarrhea began to lessen, and within a week, she was having normal cat poop - something she hadn’t had in more than four years.
More than half of pets will suffer from a microbiome-related health condition
Unfortunately, Marigold is not alone: more than half of cats and dogs will suffer from a microbiome-related health condition at some point in their lives. Understanding and supporting your pet’s microbiome throughout their lives can help prevent the development of digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, and possibly even psychological conditions like separation anxiety and aggression.
Why taking care of your cat’s gut health is important
Even apparently healthy cats can have microbiome deficiencies that could contribute to chronic health conditions later. The best way to get an understanding of the condition of your cat’s gut health is to have their microbiome tested. The test report reveals the types and proportions of bacteria living in your cat’s gut. And results are compared to healthy cats, so it is easy to see if an imbalance is present.
Our KittyBiome Gut Health Test provides specific recommendations on diet, supplements and lifestyle to restore balance to the gut and relieve symptoms. Often these are small changes you can make now, which over time can have a big impact on your cat’s health. It isn’t just inconvenient and stressful when your cat is sick like Marigold; it’s heartbreaking. When nothing works, many cats with these chronic conditions are euthanized, and some pet parents may give up, which Tracy suspects is how Marigold wound up being found as a friendly stray in mid-life. But now there is a solution.
A balanced, healthy microbiome helps your cat:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Absorb crucial nutrients
- Improve mood
- Promote healthy skin & coat quality
- Support longevity
- Maintain a strong immune system
What affects your cat’s microbiome?
The food you feed your cat, the medications they take (like antibiotics), the environment, all influence the microbiome, among other factors.
What symptoms can be related to poor cat gut health?
- Your cat may develop food intolerances and allergies.
- Your cat may experience skin issues, like itchiness, redness, and dryness.
- Your cat may have a lack of appetite, low body weight, or become obese.
- Your cat may experience psychological and behavioral issues, including aggression and anxiety.
- Your cat may have bad breath which can be a sign of poor oral health and digestive health.
This article was originally published on 3/15/19. It was updated on 2/5/21.
If you liked this article, please consider sharing it.
Learn more about our cat gut health products. Have questions? Contact email@example.com. You might also enjoy reading, How to Support Your Pet During & After Antibiotics.