Excessive lip licking and head twitching after eating - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 06:15 PM Thread Starter
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Excessive lip licking and head twitching after eating

Atari is an eleven year old diluted tortie. We got her from a shelter about six months ago. We knew she had some health issues at the time, like Struvite (bladder crystals) and a lot of vomiting in the shelter. We took her home, being okay with that. They told us it was stress, but two months, approximately 10 vet visits and I think every single type of (overly-expensive) vet rated kitty food it turned out she was simply allergic to the type of food needed to treat her Struvite. We have her on Anallergenic food now, and the vomiting is over finally!

On to the actual issue. Some time after she stopped throwing her kibble back up, I started noticing that she is now excessively licking her lips, twitching her head as she does it. It almost looks like there is something stuck in throat that she can't get out, yet after a few minutes she stops and everything is fine. She does this after every meal. I always make sure she has a full bowl of water too.
Another thing she does is rub her teeth and gums against objects. None of the cats I used to own ever did that so forcefully.
Since we did get at an older age, I have no way of knowing whether she did this before or not, but it's left me wondering if she is having some dental issues. Her breath is fine, so that should rule out a bad tooth or gum problems. The vet even commented on her nice set of teeth during a few of those visits.

Since she is such a skittish little thing if we take her outside, I'd rather not take her back to the vet until her next checkup in a couple of months. Yet it is leaving me puzzled as to why she keeps doing it.

Do any of your cats show the same behaviour as my Atari?

~ Pepper, the overly worried catmommy


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Last edited by Pepperae; 08-24-2017 at 06:18 PM.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-02-2017, 02:07 AM
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Hi Pepper,

How is Atari doing now? Is she still doing the lip-licking?

My cat did something similar during a bout of not eating, vomiting, and nausea. It wasn't twitching her head as much as turning it, like she was trying to stretch her mouth open as wide as possible to get at something stuck behind her back teeth with her tongue. The vet thought it had something to do with her being nauseated. It did stop once she was feeling better, but if I remember, that was when I brought her in thinking something was wrong with her teeth/mouth. The vet did an exam, didn't find anything, but did say that there are limits to a visual exam. So even though he didn't think anything was wrong, I insisted on a dental. He was right, her teeth were fine, but it was worth my peace of mind.

If Atari is eating well, not vomiting, peeing and pooping normally, then it's probably nothing to worry about. Having said that, I'm with you. I'd worry anyway. Rubbing her teeth and gums against things, in combination with the lip-licking, does seem to suggest that something may be bothering her. If you really suspect that something is not right, be adamant when you go to the vet and insist on a dental and/or x-rays. There's a member whose kitty had digestive issues for many, many months, and his vet insisted there was no obstruction, bloodwork was fine, but when she insisted that they do an x-ray, lo and behold, a foreign object in his tummy.

My kitty is also super easily stressed, so I always hesitate about bringing her in when it's this kind of vague maybe something's wrong, maybe not situation. Sometimes I just call, explain what's going on to whoever answers the phone and ask them to ask the vet whether I need to bring my kitty in or not. They all know how easily stressed she is, and they're always willing to chat by phone and spare us a visit if possible.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-02-2017, 07:26 AM
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I have noticed that over the years that when cats start to lick their lips if means they feel nauseous, and it's usually the first sign that they're about to vomit. Perhaps with Atari, because she vomited so much for who knows how many years, that it's become a habit with her....she's expecting she's going to vomit, but then the nausea passes and she doesn't now that she's on a good food for her. Cats will remember tastes or things that made them vomit.....I had one cat that ate some sort of beetle that made him vomit, and after that one time every time he saw that same kind of beetle again, he would look at it, keep his distance, not bother it and then start to gag, as he remembered its awful taste. Whether Atari will ever get over this is difficult to say, my boy never got over that one kind of beetle.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2017, 11:50 AM Thread Starter
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Hello spirite and catloverami.

@spirite:
Although she appears to be quite healthy, Atari is still doing both the lip-licking and head-twitching after every meal without fail. She has not thrown up once since my last post, and she is both pooping and peeing like a champ. She is very active as well; tearing up her cardboard boxes, annihilating her toys and bolting through the house. Ever since we changed to her current diet, she went from a scared little kitty hiding underneath the couch, to a forceful presence in the room. Meowing and demanding attention, owning the room she is in. It's such a marvellous thing to see how something so small can change their entire being.

I had two vets looking at her during those visits, and I am inclined to put my trust in what they said. They both took their time to look her over even if nothing seemed wrong with her outside the vomitting. I like to believe that over time, I can tell a good vet from a lesser one. I had an unfortunate experience with my first kitty, Mioe. She had reached the respectful age of twenty-four, but she was clearly suffering from kidney failure. She was painfully meowing all the time, had lost control of her bladder and she no longer seemed to be... happy. She was three years older than me, and I'd been taking care of her since I was able to... so I knew it was her time. I had planned to take her to the vet to let her peacefully drift off, but they told me I was being selfish and that I just didn't want a 'defective cat'! The nerve! I had been crying for days, knowing we were going to the vet. But after that, it was so hard to go to another vet. I wish I had now, because about two weeks later she was partially paralysed and seizing badly. I had to rush her to the same vet to have her put to sleep and couldn't do anything but softly pet her as I told her it would be alright soon. It's been six years, but I still tear up when I think about the way she looked at me that day when I held her. So yes, I have learned my lesson about being adamant with a vet and I promise I will if I ever feel they are not doing enough!

@catloverami:
I never consider that it might have slipped into her eating ritual as an unfortunate habit after years of being sick! That is a very helpful suggestion! Suffering from tics myself, I know how easy it if for something like that to slip into your routine.

The shelter was not able to give me a lot of information about her previous home, except that she, along with another kitty, had been left behind. The other one was healthier and younger and therefore made it through the adoption system some time before her. Considering that they were left behind, it would not be too far-fetched a thought that they were unwilling (or perhaps unable) to afford all the veterinary bills and food she needed. Although she has very different tasting food now, she could certainly have picked it up along the way.

In a way, it's a form of self-preservation. Whether it's a beetle that tastes bad and must therefore be avoided, or salivating because you know that you're going to be throwing up soon. It certainly makes sense! Taking that into consideration, even her odd behaviour of rubbing her teeth against stuff could be seen as her showing signs of the life she had with her previous owner. If that is all, I would be very relieved. Even if it's unfortunate that she picked up those habits due to someone not properly caring for her.


As she does seem to be completely fine after some time has passed, I believe I will hold off on dragging her off to the vet for the time being. It worries me more than it truly bothers her probably. It has taken her so long to truly adjust to moving in with us, that I really would not want to risk putting her in another stressful situation unless it is absolutely necessary. However! Considering her age, I will be taking her in for an annual check-up in a few months (maybe a little earlier just to sooth my worries). Unless she shows any signs of distress beforehand of course.

Thank you both for your responses (and sorry for my rambling). I do feel a little less worried now, although it will never entirely pass until she stops.


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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2017, 01:18 PM
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Oh my goodness, is that Atari in your signature pics? What an absolute sweetie! And those little fangs are too adorable for words.

I'm glad to hear that she's still doing well. catloverami's theory about the lip-licking just having become a habit makes a lot of sense, especially since she seems happy otherwise, and nothing suggests that she might be in pain. Cats are creatures of habit, after all. I witnessed overgrooming become a habit that was impossible to break in one of my kitties.

What an awful experience with your previous vet though. I can't believe they told you that you were being *selfish* for wanting to end her suffering! If anything, I would think that they would considered it selfish if you hadn't wanted to. At 24 years old, she certainly wasn't "defective" and we know when our kitties are just not right. I brought mine to the vet recently for just that reason - she just seemed unhappy. Thankfully, my vets are supportive and have emphasized that owners know their kitties best and just know when something is off. In this case, it seems to have been that one of her rib heads was slightly out of place, which is obviously uncomfortable, but that was diagnosed by a holistic vet. A chiropractic adjustment made all the difference.

If you continue to be concerned, maybe a holistic vet or animal behaviorist would be helpful?
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-08-2017, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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Indeed it is, thank you! She can look so silly sometimes, but those fangs melt my heart every time.

She is, however, still healthy and seemingly un-bothered to this very day. And after several days have passed, so has my anxious feeling about her being in some kind of discomfort. Although I'll remain aware, being able to put a reason behind her actions made it all a lot better. Obsessive behaviour is always tricky with pets though. I hope that you ended up finding some way to help your overgrooming kitty in some way or another! There's nothing like watching them lick themselves raw.

I have never returned to those vets, for obvious reasons. Their actions ended up causing my kitty so much suffering. As if being forced to say goodbye to a member of your family is not hard enough as it is!
I'm glad to hear that they found what was troubling your kitty however. Watching them live up again after helping them out just warms your heart, doesn't it? I could never be happy if one of my kitties was unhappy.

A holistic vet might be something to consider in the future though. Animal behaviourists aren't that common out here in The Netherlands unfortunately. At least, I have never managed to track one down. But it's certainly worth taking another look at!


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