Friday, November 27, 2015

When was the last time you spent three days collecting poop? #Kittybiome

Earlier this year I heard of a very interesting project being funded on KickStarter. The Kittybiome is
"a citizen science study of the kitty microbiome to better understand how microbiomes differ among cats, whether those differences reveal insights into cat behavior and biology, and how the kitty microbiome depends on and may shape the health of your cat."

I am a big believer in the human microbiome and how important it is to our own health. We have 100 trillion bacteria in our gut alone; that is ten times the number of cells that make up our body. I think there is so much we have yet to learn all we can about this symbiotic relationship and I imagine we have a lot to learn about that in the cat as well. (fyi, even Little Bub is participating!!) There is so much we can learn from poop!

I wanted to sign up, but which cat do I pick? Jack who is 13 with urinary issues and previous thyroid issues (at the time I didn't know he was hypo thyroid), Muffin who has been very healthy her entire life, Fleurp who is sporadically anemic? etc.. how do I choose. At $99 a pop to test them, I was reluctant to test all seven of them, but I really wanted to, so I contacted the people running the campaign and asked if they were interested in the fecal matter of seven raw fed cats.

After a little back and forth, they offered to let me test all seven of my cats for a reduced price and they threw in a few really cool perks (not shown is a pen with a laser pointer in it)

Every time I see that logo I think of Lisa.. 

I was so anxious to get the collection tubes that I didn't even consider the logistics of trying to get poop samples from seven cats and understanding which sample came from which cat, etc.. and then it arrived.

They wanted fresh samples, which is totally understandable, and they wanted clean samples, meaning they wanted you to dissect your kitty's poop and take a 'fresh untainted sample' from inside, with no bacterial contamination from the litter.  Well this was going to be 'fun'.

The only way I could know which poop belonged to a specific cat was to lock him or her up with a litter box... but doing that one at a time would take at least a week (actually more but we'll get to that in a minute) and how could I lock one kitty away from us? wouldn't that be mean?

So I locked everyone up. At the time Jack wasn't walking up and down the stairs to the litter box area, so I left him in the main part of the house with a box. I dug up a few clean foster litter boxes and scored some disposable boxes, and locked all of the cats up in different rooms with a box and went to work.

You don't think it was that easy do you? ha ha ha.  do you even own cats?

Samples of the poop

Well, we did have some success right off which made things a bit easier. As poop was collected the cat in question would be let out into the main part of the house where they could go downstairs and use the regular litter boxes. Day one and I collected three samples.  I ended up rotating the cats and in the end I found that the guest room was the 'magic room' for collecting samples as the last four cats all donated once they were put in that room.  Skippy took the longest.  It was two days before he finally pooped.  I was getting to the point that I fed him some canned food to help 'push it through' since cat stools tend to be bigger on canned food.. 

yes, a poop close up, just what you were hoping for right?

The poop above belongs to Skippy. Can you tell that the poop on the right is smaller and drier than the poop on the left? It really is amazing the difference in raw verses even a good quality canned food.

I found two very interesting things while doing this project. First that my cat's poop actually does stink. I have been saying for years that it doesn't because on the whole you can not tell.. but when you get all up in it's space and cut it open and inspect it and dig out small samples you can smell it.. and sadly it doesn't smell as good as kitten belly. 

My poop does NOT stink momma!!

The second thing I noticed was that my cats poop even less than I thought. Cutting those 'deposits' open I found that a lot of them were mostly fur. I did the collection in the heat of summer, so it wasn't like they were shedding. I know that cats ingest a lot of fur while grooming because their tongues. They are built to clean meat from bone and help hold on to small prey, but it also causes all lose fur groomed from the body to be ingested. When your cat has good digestion going on, that intake of fur isn't a problem and it is forced out the "back end" with the unused bits of food. I knew this, I had seen it occasionally while working at the vet and processing stool samples brought it, but I still found it fascinating that it was a factor in all of my cats. Since they go so infrequently because so much of their food is utilized and there isn't much waste, it only seems logical once I realized it.

All of the poop of all seven full grown cats is in this post.  Stunning how little of it there is, isn't it?

So I collected all of the samples. They provided a few extra containers in case things were damaged being sent to me, and so I also sent them samples of Skippy's canned food poop, and Angelo's poop - a 12 week old foster kitten I had in the house who pooped right in front of me when I was about to process my cat's poop.  I sent their poop off in a padded envelope and two Ziploc baggies, and I'm still waiting to hear the result. I really have no idea what information I'm looking for nor what I will get.. but I helped contribute to the collective knowledge of cat health, and hopefully they make some wonderful discoveries in their whole body of data.

If you would like to participate, you can check them out over at Fundrazr. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Wow, our mommy is mentioned in a POOP article! Coolio!!!

  2. Hahaha interesting,xx Rachel

  3. I am impressed with your persistence and determination! MOL...

  4. We can see this is going to be an interesting project. ;)

  5. Like Summer, I also am impressed with your determination. Looking forward to reading the follow-up post when you get the results.

  6. Hmmmm Very innerestin'. Weez not furmiliar wiff this but can't wait to hear what you find out.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Lexi

  7. That is very interesting. I can't wait to hear the results.

  8. Intersting ! You did all that work with great concern, we're impressed ! Purrs

  9. It will be interesting to hear the results. I'm pretty certain I wouldn't be able to pick the poop because I know my cats poop stinks!

  10. I am very impressed with your sampling of seven plus cats!


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