Joel-the-cat’s story—healing digestion & skin conditions

joel_shiny Joel-the-cat’s story—healing digestion & skin conditions
Joel shining in the sunlight

This is Part 2 of “Joel-the-cat’s holistic healing story

Dr. Richter said Joel should get an ultrasound and I didn’t like the sound of that.

When we took Joel to the doctor because of seeing some blood on his stool, the doctor had felt something in his abdomen. A questioning look had flashed across Dr. Richter’s normally casual, confident countenance.

In that instant, Robert and I exchanged glances and I started welling up with tears because we couldn’t go through that again, and we were already so attached to little Joel.

A couple days later, when Dr. Richter came into a waiting room tell me the ultrasound results, I started crying before he even spoke. What a nervous wreck!

In the next moment, I was drying my tears because he announced it was just very severe constipation!

Joel had become so backed up that it was getting dangerous though. Long-term intestinal blockages become life threatening, and it was prohibiting him from being able to take in more food and process nutrients.

We had to go to drastic measures. The vet tried laxatives and they didn’t help. Food? He was eating raw Primal cat food at the time, which is a very high-quality product. When an enema failed too, the vet introduced the last resort. Namely, a procedure that is no fun for anyone involved: they had to go in there and pull the blockage out.

The procedure worked, and it revealed a potential source of the problem. They found many tiny ground bones, which came from the food Joel had been eating.

So, what did we learn here?

We still weren’t sure exactly how to prevent the problem from happening again.

I developed a “refrigerator sheet” for tracking the date of every new food and supplement change we introduced and what Joel’s reaction was to it. We needed this because we were also trying to figure out what was triggering his skin condition too.

The sheet confirmed that every time we introduced food with ground bones, Joel got serious constipation again. Too risky.

[I have to explain that there are very healthy cats all over the world eating a raw diet that includes ground bones. In fact, the Feline Nutrition Education Society supports it. However, what we learned is that ground bones may not be good for some cats. Note that I have seen some people advise against ground bones for cats with chronic kidney failure (CRF), and we are keeping an eye on Joel’s kidney health. ]

Natural approaches that transformed Joel’s digestion:

pumpkin-150x150 Joel-the-cat’s story—healing digestion & skin conditions
Transferring to jar keeps it fresher in the fridge
  • Grain-free, bone-free food; no more than 1/3 dry.**
  • 100% pure canned pumpkin, a supplement I learned about from holistic vet Anne Reed, DVM. It’s an easy, natural way and to get more water into the stool and get things moving. Joel needs about a teaspoon per day with his meals. He loves it.

We also find that organic, pasture-fed goat or cow kefir seems to help too. Kefir has an abundance of probiotics which are naturally corrective for digestion imbalances.

What did we learn about his skin condition?

As I mentioned in Part 1 , Joel had a strange skin condition—scabby rash-like bumps on his ears, chin, and body. Also, his coat was pretty rough and dull for a 6-month old kitten.

His holistic vet wasn’t sure what it was and frankly he wasn’t that interested in doing tests. Why? He said that, regardless of the condition, we could treat it with conventional antifungals or anti-inflammatories, but then the issue would likely come back. I also figured the last thing this kitten’s body wanted was more meds.

So we agreed to first try treating the issue at a deeper level—by supporting his immune system. It worked!

Natural approaches that transformed Joel’s skin and fur coat condition:

  • For 3 months, Dr. Richter had Joel on a Colostrum supplement. This substance, which is the “first milk” or “pre-milk” created by nursing mammals, supplies growth and antibiotic factors. It’s how babies get their first protection against pathogens. For a month or two he was also on a natural vitamin-mineral supplement for pets made by Standard Process.
  • Grain-free food.**
  • High-quality unscented fish oil added to his food. I really attribute his new soft, shiny coat largely to the essential fatty acids (EFAs). (In their traditional diet, cats ate wild creatures that had a lot of EFAs in them.)

What made it worse:

  • Any foods or treats with grains, but even some grain-less canned foods with potatoes reactivated the ear condition.
joel_goodmorning-300x270 Joel-the-cat’s story—healing digestion & skin conditions
Joel says good morning

Happy results

Without ever taking any meds for his chronic digestion and skin conditions, Joel now has:

  • Silky soft shiny fur
  • No ear or skin eruptions
  • Normal litter box activity (constipation is not a problem as long as he gets canned pumpkin—I am looking into similar foods for variety)

**If you’re curious, I have been examining all manner of  homemade cat food strategies . Joel’s issue with bones complicates this–otherwise raw Primal would have been quite convenient and healthy. I am slowly researching some down-to-earth, convenient homemade cat food strategies that I will share when they are ready.

Love to hear your thoughtful thoughts! Leave a reply...


  1. I am a rescuer and raw feeder – have only been feeding raw for a short 3 1/2 months. But it sure has changed my cats’ appearance and behavior (15 cats) in wonderful ways.
    Please use the guidelines posted in this site for feeding cats. The bone must be very finely ground, is different than bone for dogs, and we don’t even use bone – we use finely ground eggshell powder which is so easy to make or to buy cheaply from Alnutrin.

    Go to this site: to learn about how to feed a proper, science based raw diet.

    Eggshell powder MUST be used to replace bone. But the formula per pound of meat is easy to follow (1/2 teaspoon per pound of meat or poultry).

  2. Poor little Joel – thank goodness it turned out to be something that can be addressed with diet change, and yours and Robert’s dedication!

    I’m going to be very interested to hear what your research on home-prepared food turns up. I’ve never heard of the ground in bones being a problem, and this has me concerned, since I feed, and recommend, Primal and Nature’s Variety raw. Both diets have ground in bones.

    I also found it interesting that Joel reacted to the grain-free diet with potato in it. Seems to me that that’s yet more proof that cats and carbs don’t mix.

    1. Thanks Ingrid! It’s always great to hear from you. Yeah, holistic vets recommended those raw packaged foods to us too and I do think they are great.

      Joel is indeed a very special case when it comes to ground bones. I believe as long as a cat doesn’t get severely constipated on the ground bones, then they are just fine for that cat. And yeah, those potatoes are sneaky carbs, aren’t they?

      The simplified homemade food plan quest continues in our house, but it sure is slow going!