by Amber Drake

New Research Connects Cat Behavior to Gut Health

New Research Connects Cat Behavior to Gut Health

Published: September 2022 | Updated: April 2024

As a cat owner, you know that your kitty's behavior can be unpredictable. One minute, they're purring on your lap, and the next minute, they've taken off, running after some unseen prey or escaping your cuddles for the next hour. 

Cats' behavior is complex and often out of our control—but there are ways that we can help our cats keep their gut health in tip-top shape and thereby improve their overall well-being. 

Plus, there has been a connection established between gut health and behavior, and new evidence is suggesting a strong correlation between poor behavior and gut dysbiosis.

Understanding Your Cat’s Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome is a vast and complicated world, and it can be difficult to understand how your cat’s health is affected by it. Your pet’s gut microbiome is made up of trillions of tiny organisms, or microbes. These microorganisms live in the digestive system and help with digestion, immune function, metabolism, and more.

The balance between good and bad bacteria affects your cat's behavior—and if you're wondering why your kitty seems so grumpy lately, this may be the reason why. 

When the balance between good bacteria (probiotics) and bad bacteria (pathogens) is disrupted by stress or diet change, negative symptoms may appear in your feline friend's behavior: they might start acting depressed or anxious; they might stop eating regularly; they might even have diarrhea!

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to restore balance back into their systems: adding probiotics like S. boulardii to their diets will help replace lost beneficial microflora while reducing inflammation caused by pathogens like Salmonella spp., E. coli, or Listeria.

The Difference Between Us and Our Cat

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are biologically unable to digest plant-based food. Their short intestinal tract is more similar to wolves than to humans. Because cats have a shorter digestive tract that lacks bacteria and enzymes needed for the breakdown of plant matter, it's important that you feed them a diet appropriate for their biology.

Cats also have a different microbiome than humans—the collection of microorganisms living on our skin, inside our mouths, and in other parts of our bodies. They're less likely to be allergic compared with people because they aren't as exposed to allergens like dust mites or pollen. However, if your cat does develop an allergy (or asthma), it could be in part because he hasn't been exposed much yet at home!

Are Cats Social Animals? New Facts About Cat Behavior

Recent research from Japan studied 3 different groups of 5 cats living together over a two-week period. The goal of the study was to determine if social behavior was linked to each cat’s hormones and gut microbiome.

After collecting waste from each cat, data showed that cats with high levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and testosterone, were more likely to try to escape and displayed less willingness to engage in social behavior with other cats in their group.

Cats with lower levels of cortisol and testosterone displayed more tolerant behavior and were more willing to engage in social interactions. 

Interestingly enough, the researchers also found that the cats who had more frequent contact with each other (i.e. more social interaction) had more similar gut microbiome profiles than those who were less social. 

In other words, while more research is needed, science is recognizing that there is a link between the behaviors of cats, hormones AND the gut microbiome.

Cat behavior gut health


Signs of a Gut Imbalance in Cats

The symptoms of an unhealthy gut in your cat can be quite vague, and they may not always be easy to spot.

The most common signs are:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Cramping, hair loss, and weight loss (if your cat is not eating or drinking enough)
  • Lack of appetite or lethargy that's out of character for your cat (they might just want to nap all day). If this happens suddenly, it could be a sign that something is wrong with their digestive system.

Additional Stressors on Cat Gut Health

  • Stress: Stress is a common cause of behavior changes, especially in cats. Your cat may be stressed out by the addition of a new baby or dog to your home, moving to a new house, or any number of other factors.
  • Separation anxiety: Isolating your cat from the other pets in your home can prompt him or her to express unusual behaviors such as scratching, meowing, and urinating outside their litter box.
  • Overstimulation: If you interact with your cat too much, he or she might get overwhelmed and lash out at you. This could include biting, clawing, and spitting as ways of dealing with their frustration over being overstimulated by humans!
  • Illness: If there's something wrong with your cat's health—whether it's due to an underlying illness like kidney disease that affects his moods or behavior—you may notice some change in his normal state when it comes time for dinner. 

Help Your Cat Maintain a Healthy Gut 

Feed your cat a diet rich in fiber along with a high-quality daily diet.  Don't feed your cat table scraps that could aggravate their digestive system, such as spicy and fatty meals. 

Even if you believe it's just an occasional pill or two, avoid giving your cat human medications—most human medications are not designed to be given to our pets. 

And, yes, you CAN improve your cat's gut health. There are many ways to do it:

  • You can buy special food for your cat that contains prebiotics or probiotics.
  • You can make your own food for your cat with special ingredients that promote gut health, like bone broth, apple cider vinegar, and probiotics (yogurt or kefir).
  • You can try switching up their diet entirely by adding new foods into their regular meal plans (some cats may need a little help getting used to this).
  • Exercising more. Exercise can help keep cats physically fit, which in turn helps them manage stress better, which in turn improves their moods and behaviors.

Healthy Gut, Happy Cat

The gut is an organ of the body that processes food and absorbs nutrients. This means that a cat's gut health can affect their behavior because if something is wrong in their gut, it may cause them to feel sick or uncomfortable.

 A healthy gut does more than just digest food though—it also regulates digestion, helps maintain the immune system, produces vitamins and hormones throughout the body, and can even affect mood! 

So it's important to look out for signs of unhealthy digestion in your pet cat. If you notice anything abnormal while they're eating or acting strangely after eating a meal (like lethargy or excessive flatulence), that could mean something is off in their digestive tract.

If you suspect your cat has an unhealthy digestive tract but don't know what steps to take next to fix it up again, don't worry! There are lots of things you can do at home right now:

  • Feed your cat high quality kibble (or wet food) with meat as its first ingredient instead of corn syrup or soybean oil derivatives, which are known variables associated with inflammation in cats' bodies due to their high glycemic index (GI). 
  • Look for foods where fresh meats feature prominently on labels rather than simply being listed as "chicken flavor," which means there may be no real chicken present at all! 
  • Or, you may also consider feeding your cat a raw diet.

Add an Antibiotic-Resistant Probiotic for Cats

S. boulardii, found in Daily Cat, is an antibiotic-resistant probiotic (meaning even if your cat has to take antibiotics, the probiotic will continue to balance their gut health). 

It works by boosting your cat's immune system, helping them fight off illness and disease more easily than they might have without it. It also helps to keep their digestive system healthy and stable, which is important for keeping your cat healthy overall!

Daily Cat is a probiotic supplement for cats that helps them maintain a healthy digestive system. It can be used as a preventative measure or in response to an existing problem. And because it’s safe for use on all types of cats, from kittens to seniors, you can give your feline friend the gift of better health even if they already seem to have everything under control.

Help Your Cat Feel Better

Cats are just like humans—they can get sick, and sometimes it’s hard to know what the cause of their pain or illness might be. But there are things you can do to help them feel better, which includes making sure that their tummies are in tip-top shape

If your cat’s behavior has been changing lately and you think it could be related to their gut health, then talk about it with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to diagnose any potential issues and offer suggestions on how to best treat them!

Read More:

Exploring Factors That May Underlie How Domestic Cats Can Live in Groups

New Study Links Cat Hormones and Gut Microbiomes to Their Social Behavior

The Effects of Nutrition on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Cats and Dogs

Cats Communicate With the Help of Bacteria Living in Their Butts

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