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How to cure a cat of constipation

Constipation in cats can cause discomfort and restlessness – not to mention become a health concern. Our Somerset County emergency vet share signs of constipation in cats, causes and tips for treating the condition.

What is constipation in cats?

Most cats will poop approximately every 24 to 36 hours. If your cat is pooping less frequently, strains when she attempts to poop or doesn’t leave any deposits in the litter box, constipation is likely the issue. It’s a common problem in cats that’s usually mild enough to be remedied with at-home treatments.

If it happens infrequently, there’s no need to worry, but you should contact your vet if it becomes a common problem or if it’s been more than 48 to 72 hours since she’s had a bowel movement. Constipation can sometimes be a sign of serious health issues, not to mention be uncomfortable (and severe in some cases).

What causes constipation in cats?

Constipation can occur if things aren’t moving normally through the intestines. Factors contributing to your cat’s constipation may include:

  • Pain or other issues in the spine
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Arthritis pain
  • Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
  • Not enough fiber in her diet
  • An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
  • Kidney issues
  • Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
  • Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze and hard, dry stool builds up inside)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Allergies
  • Nerve problems
  • Narrow places, tumors or other problems inside the colon
  • Cancer
  • Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes or kidney disease
  • Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
  • Perianal disease

Though elderly cats experience constipation more often than kittens, the condition can develop in cats of any breed or age who eat a low-fiber diet or don’t drink enough water.

What are symptoms of constipation?

Normally, cat poop is well-formed, rich brown in color and is moist enough that litter will stick to it.

Signs of constipation in cats include hard, dry stools which end up either inside or outside of the litter box (discomfort of trying to pass these stools may have your cat leaving the litter box before actually being finished).

Other symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Entering and exiting litter box multiple times when needing to go
  • Straining or crying in the litter box
  • Avoiding litter box
  • Not being able to poop at all

If you notice signs of discomfort when your cat uses the litter box, contact your vet as this may indicate serious urinary tract issues.

Since constipation is a symptom of other health issues, you may also see signs of the underlying condition, which may include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Drinking more or less water
  • Hiding
  • Difficulty jumping up
  • Muscle loss
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Peeing more
  • Walking stiffly

If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms with or without constipation, consult a veterinarian.

How is constipation in cats treated?

Though some constipation issues are mild and can be treated with changes to diet and lifestyle, along with at-home remedies, some may be severe and need the attention of your vet. Serious issues may become emergencies.

Constipation must be treated as soon as possible to decrease the risk of permanent damage as a result of prolonged distension of the colon.

To treat constipation in cats, the underlying disorder must be identified and if possible, corrected. Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. The inability to pass urine or feces, or pain when passing urine or feces, is considered a veterinary emergency. Your veterinarian may first run any applicable diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief, and prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter meds.

Let’s stress that veterinary expertise is needed to safely and effectively perform the enema – these should not be done at home as some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.

If your cat’s constipation is long-term or she’s suffering from obstipation (the inability to empty her colon on her own), she may have megacolon, an enlarged intestine due to a defect in the colon’s muscle strength.

Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that does not respond to medical treatment may need to have the section of the large intestine that’s affected removed.

How to treat constipation in cats: At-Home Remedies

These at-home remedies may help to relive your cat’s constipation:

  • Minimize stress and anxiety
  • Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of intestines
  • Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and allow intestines to move things normally
  • Try fiber-rich foods, a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger as natural remedies
  • Provide probiotics
  • Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
  • Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)

Should I watch my cat for constipation?

Track the frequency of your cat’s litter box deposits and stool consistency initially for at least twice a week, then weekly or biweekly.

If you see hard, dry feces, or if you notice that your cat is straining while defecating or exhibiting other symptoms of constipation, contact your veterinarian – especially if diarrhea is a factor as dehydration may quickly become a problem.

We all relate to how uncomfortable constipation can be, so it’s not hard to imagine what your kitty feels if he’s having the same issue. Also like humans, cat constipation might be an occasional annoyance for your feline friend, but it could also be an indication of a greater health problem.

So don’t break out the butter, olive oil, or any other crowdsourced cat constipation remedies just yet. Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, is a longtime practitioner of feline-exclusive medicine, and owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel in Aurora, Colo. She explains why your poor kitty might have a problem, what to look for, and how to provide the best relief.

What Causes Constipation in Cats?

Although veterinarians don’t always know what causes constipation, Anthony says professionals see it more frequently in cats with particular conditions, such as:

  • Frequent hairballs
  • Low-fiber diets
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney or intestinal disease

“Kidney disease often results in body water loss and overall dehydration, which can manifest as constipation,” Anthony says. “Intestinal disease can alter motility, slowing the passage of digested contents and resulting in a drier stool.”

Your kitty might also have some physical discomfort that prevents him from positioning properly in the litter box, so he might avoid going altogether. Anthony says senior cats with arthritis often have this problem, because squatting is too challenging for their joints. Additionally, cats might have impacted anal glands. “If these scent glands become distended, they can cause a mechanical blockage to the exit of stool as well as discomfort when defecating,” Anthony says.

Signs Your Cat Is Constipated

Cats are often quite private about taking care of business (and we have an ‘outta sight, outta mind’ approach to the whole affair ourselves!) But in order to spot cat constipation signs, you have to familiarize yourself with his poo.

“There is a misconception that if a cat is constipated, the stool inside is a larger diameter than a normal stool. While this can be the case, sometimes stool from constipated cats is very small,” Anthony says. “This is because a small, hard stool is difficult for the colon to move outward. The longer stool sits in the colon, the more water is pulled out.” This creates an uncomfortable cycle: the colon removes water (that’s its job), the poo gets harder and drier, and kitty can’t pass it.

Litter doesn’t stick to dry poo, so that’s one sign. Another is that it’s often very dark brown, but diet might alter color. Here’s a twist: Anthony says some pitiful kitties strain so hard that they push liquid feces around the harder stools and appear to have diarrhea.

If your cat seems sluggish or meows in discomfort when you pick him up or try to pet him, it’s time to spy on his bathroom habits (his pride will recover eventually!) Anthony says you might notice:

  • Strain while he uses the litter box.
  • He’s not passing a good amount of stool (which is usually at least a few inches).
  • Defecation outside the box.
  • He vomits after trying to go.

Any of these symptoms are reasons to visit your veterinarian right away.

Anthony adds that some pet parents bring in their cats because they’re straining to urinate but who are actually constipated. Based on your poo inspection, if you suspect constipation but see a few drops of urine, Anthony says this is often a secondary result to the cat using all of his abdominal muscles to push and the bladder being relatively empty, but a vet will make sure.

Best Way to Help a Constipated Cat Poop Again

Take him to your vet. There! Easy! The Cornell Feline Health Center indicates a vet will evaluate your cat’s hydration levels, assess overall health, and eliminate other possible clinical causes.

Another reason why a professional exam is the best remedy for cat constipation is if the condition is more serious, the vet team takes immediate action. “Constipated cats may need an enema at the vet clinic to help them defecate. This is a liquid that softens and lubricates the passage of feces,” Anthony says. “Some cats can get so ‘blocked up’ that they are unable to move the stool. This is called obstipation and requires fecal extraction by a doctor under sedation/anesthesia.”

And no, you shouldn’t have to palpate a cat for constipation relief. Leave anal gland care to the professionals. (Whew!)

There are home remedies for cat constipation that you’ll probably find online, and your vet will likely recommend the safest and most effective options. “Often, adding fiber such as pumpkin or psyllium and/or stool softeners (polyethylene glycol 3350) can help, as will increasing dietary moisture with canned food or low-sodium broths,” Anthony says. “No changes should be made prior to visiting a veterinarian, however, as dietary recommendations should be made with the whole cat in mind.”

Long-term constipation can often be avoided with a high-fiber diet, so ask your vet for help to create a more balanced and, uh, passable menu.

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Alycia Washington is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with nearly a decade of experience as a small animal emergency veterinarian. She currently works as a relief veterinarian for various emergency and specialty hospitals. Dr. Washington recognizes the importance of education and also works as a freelance veterinary writer.

What Is Constipation in Cats?

Constipation is a medical term that means difficult or infrequent passage of feces in the colon. This may lead to troublesome bowel movements, including straining and discomfort. For cats, owners may notice fewer stools being passed or even no stool at all. If passed, the stool may be very hard and dry.

The colon is the main area in the gastrointestinal tract for water to be absorbed. When feces are kept in the colon for an extended period of time, the retained feces become firm and dried out. This, in turn, leads to difficulty passing the stool and discomfort.

Symptoms

  • Straining
  • Abdominal pain/crying when defecating
  • Inappetence or vomiting
  • Small amounts of liquid stool or blood

This last sign may be confusing to cat owners. A constipated cat may strain so hard that a small amount of liquid feces or blood may be passed and mistaken for diarrhea. However, this liquid is actually passing around the hard stool, and the cat is constipated.

Causes of Constipation in Cats

Constipation may occur regardless of the cat’s age and health status. Cats are notoriously poor drinkers and, especially when fed a dry kibble diet, they are at higher risk of developing constipation. Any condition that leads to dehydration can also lead to constipation. Being sedentary and overweight are also risk factors. There is a very serious condition that can occur in overweight, middle-aged cats, called megacolon. Other issues that can lead to constipation include:

  • Hairballs or ingestion of foreign material
  • Pelvic pain or pelvic injuries resulting in a narrowed pelvic canal
  • Avoiding the litterbox
  • Breed, especially Manx

Megacolon in cats

Megacolon in cats is the result of serious constipation in cats. It is seen most often in middle-aged male cats that tend to be overweight.

In these cats, the colon loses appropriate nerve function and this results in a stretched-out and weak colon. Because the colon is dilated and much large than normal, feces may back up in the cat to truly astounding proportions. Adding to the issue, the colon lacks the ability to successfully push the feces out.

Megacolon is often diagnosed as a primary condition but may also occur secondary to long-standing and untreated normal constipation. This occurs because the colon becomes distended and weak due to large amounts of feces being trapped inside it over time. This stretching damages both the nerves and muscles of the colon, which affects its ability to contract.

The possibility of chronic constipation turning into megacolon is a serious concern and all constipated cats should be treated aggressively and in a timely manner.

Diagnosing Constipation in Cats

Any cat suspected of being constipated should see its veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will take a thorough history of what has been happening at home and do a complete physical exam.

A constipated cat will often have an enlarged colon full of hard fecal matter that the veterinarian can palpate. This may not be possible in overweight cats, so a quick and non-invasive x-ray will show the extent of the constipation and how dilated the cat’s colon may be.

X-rays will also be used to try to identify any physical causes of the constipation such as a foreign body obstruction, pelvic or sacral injuries, spinal issues, or tumors. In some cases, a more detailed look with an abdominal ultrasound may be necessary.

Treatment for Constipation in Cats

After the cause of the constipation is found, a treatment plan will be formulated with your veterinarian. Typically, constipated cats will require enemas and intravenous fluids. Miralax or another laxative may be added to help soften the feces enough to allow the cat to pass them.

If laxatives, enemas, and rehydration with fluid therapy do not enable the cat to defecate, manual extraction of the hardened feces by a veterinarian may be required. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia .

If a cat’s constipation recurs or becomes a long-term problem, dietary management or medications may be needed to prevent a recurrence. There are prescription diets, both in kibble and canned form, that may aid the cat in passing softer stool. Oral laxatives may also be administered at home and may work to soften the stool and encourage the cat to defecate.

In cats with severe cases of megacolon, your veterinarian may prescribe pro-motility agents to aid the cat’s colon in contracting and propelling feces out of the rectum. It is essential to keep up with your cat’s bowel movements to avoid more serious complications. Encouraging the cat to drink as much as possible or adding water to its food may also help ease its constipation issues.

Some cats may become constipated if their litter box is left dirty, and they do not feel comfortable defecating in it. Other cats in the house that may be guarding the litter box or attacking the constipated cat while they are in the box can also be an issue. It is important to have one litter box per cat plus an additional in your home. This will ensure there is always a litter box for your cat to use so that it will not willfully abstain from defecating.

If your cat has long hair and frequent hairballs that are contributing to its constipation, there are diets and supplements that can help the hair pass more easily through the gastrointestinal tract. Frequent brushing to remove as much of the hair as possible, before the cat can ingest it via grooming, can help tremendously to reduce hairballs.

Prognosis for Constipation in Cats

The majority of constipated cats respond to fluids, enemas, and medication or manual removal of stool. Surgery as a treatment for constipation in cats is rare but possibly necessary. Tumors or foreign bodies may need to be removed from the colon surgically. Also, in cases of megacolon that are refractory to traditional treatments, surgery may be recommended.

Surgical correction of severe and refractory megacolon involves removal of the affected portion of the colon, in a procedure called a partial or subtotal colectomy. Cats may have chronic diarrhea or fecal incontinence after this surgery, but the overall prognosis is good.

Constipation in cats is common and, in most cases, is easily treated. You should pay attention and learn the normal frequency of defecation for your cat to enable you to notice if there is an issue.

Typically, most cats will have a bowel movement every day to every other day. If you notice your cat is suddenly not defecating normally or is straining in the litter box, you should make an appointment with its veterinarian right away. Prompt treatment of constipation in cats can avoid future more serious complications.

Constipation. Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.

Although cat constipation is a fairly common problem, the causes and symptoms can be wildly different from one cat to the next. Discover what you need to know about this condition to help treat it quickly and prevent it from making sudden appearances into your cat’s life.

If you suspect your cat is constipated, you’re no doubt eager to figure out what has caused it and how you can provide some relief to your beloved cat. In this article we look at the essential information you need, from early symptoms all the way to veterinary cat constipation treatment and ways you can prevent the discomfort to help your cat get back to their usual happy self.

What is constipation in cats?

Cat constipation is when an abnormal accumulation of faeces in the colon occurs, causing difficult bowel movements. Generally, it will either present as a reduced ability to pass stools, or the complete absence of them all together. The faeces remain in the colon, and as one of the main roles of the colon is to absorb water, the stools that stay here become very hard and dry, which makes them even harder for your cat to pass.

Cat constipation symptoms

A cat who hasn’t produced stools for more than 24 hours is likely to be suffering from cat constipation. However, sometimes owners might not be up to date with their cat’s bathroom routine as some felines are known to like going to the toilet outdoors as well. Therefore you might not notice the infrequency of their toilet habit straight away. These are some of the other symptoms of cat constipation you may want to keep an eye on:

  • Tense abdomen
  • Hard, dry, small stools
  • Straining which can be mistaken by owners as difficulty urinating sometimes
  • Lack of appetite (occasionally)
  • Hunched posture

Is your cat, um, backed up? Animal experts share their best strategies and natural remedies for helping ease a feline’s elimination woes.

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Sometimes, no matter how much straining and pushing there is, the necessary result isn’t happening! Just as with the condition in humans, cat constipation is rather common and diet plays an important role. “The root cause of cat constipation is often improper nutrition,” points out Dr. Kim Bloomer, an animal naturopath and author of the site Aspenbloom Pet Care.

The term “constipated” means that the cat has infrequent bowel movements or ones that are difficult to pass. It may be caused by a diet too low in fiber, a lack of clean, fresh water or hairballs or other small items in your cat’s digestive tract. “The cat could also be suffering from a blockage present from birth or that developed due to injury or illness or a myriad of internal imbalances,” notes veterinarian Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council and past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Other reasons that prevent a cat from pooping might be “painful lesions, such as strictures, masses or perianal disease,” says Anthea Appel, a New York City-based naturopathic/homeopathic animal consultant.

In general, elderly cats suffer this ailment more often than kittens, but a cat of any age or breed that eats a low-fiber diet or doesn’t drink enough water can develop it. For prevention, pet owners should be in close contact with their vets about the best diet for their cats.

Strategies to try to help a constipated cat

Increase water intake

Ensure that your cat always has access to fresh water, as dehydration is big cause of constipation.

Regularly brush your cat

Most cats groom themselves rather well, but lending a helping hand can curb hairballs and lessen the chance of constipation. Excess fur in your cat’s GI tract can cause this ailment, so try brushing your pet a few minutes a day or bringing them to the groomer if you don’t have the time.

Encourage exercise

A lack of movement means the muscles aren’t working in your cat’s colon and this can worsen constipation. To fix it, get your cat moving by offering cat toys and encouraging them to jump, roll and chase things around the house.

Natural remedies for cat constipation

Help your feline ease elimination woes with these six natural remedies, but make sure to talk with your vet before introducing any new foods into their diet. Ask your cat’s doctor about appropriate additions and amounts.

1. Fiber-rich foods

For cats, fiber is very important and this substance is often lacking in domestic cat diets. Some to try are bran cereal or an over-the-counter product like psyllium (in stores, this is marketed as Metamucil). Adding a bit to your pet’s food each day can help regulate their bowel movements. Try this after talking to your vet about your pet’s constipation.

2. Pumpkin

A teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day may also help add the fiber your pet needs to go again. You can add this to your pet’s diet any time but especially if you notice that your cat is having difficulty with elimination.

3. Ginger

Consider ginger as an herbal remedy, says Appel. Check with your doctor about giving it in small amounts (about 1/4 teaspoon) for a short duration. Ginger can be mixed into your pet’s food once a day to help set their digestive tract back in motion if you notice they seem stopped up.

4. Licorice

Like ginger, this aromatic root has natural laxative properties. One dose (usually 2 ml, depending on the preparation and your cat’s weight) can be given in the evening for overnight relief.

5. Aloe vera juice

In small doses (about 1/2 teaspoon), aloe juice can help uncomplicated constipation, says Appel. But be careful, as giving too much may cause diarrhea in some animals. Talk to your vet about this before you try it.

6. Canned food

Nix the dry food. Hard kibble is moisture free, which can be a problem for your feline friend. (Too little water can cause constipation). To remedy this situation, try to wean your pet from dry food and feed him only the canned variety. Be patient, as the transition to a new kind of food can take a few weeks.

Peek in on your cat using the litter box and make a note of which of these remedies seems to help.

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Constipation, defined as infrequent or difficult emission of hard, dry fecal matter, is a common problem of the domestic cat. It is important to treat it fairly aggressively to prevent progression.

A variety of problems, including ingestion of indigestible material (i.e. fur), obstruction of the GI tract by foreign bodies, tumors, or strictures (narrowings), electrolyte disturbances, neuromuscular disease, and the side effects of various drugs can predispose to constipation in cats. In many cases, the specific cause of constipation in cats is undetermined, and in these cases, the condition is referred to as idiopathic constipation.

Treatment of constipation in cats involves making sure that an affected cat is well hydrated, the elimination of causative agents where possible, medical management using laxatives, enemas, and drugs that increase intestinal motility, dietary modification, and, in severe/unresponsive cases in which the colon becomes distended and unable to function properly (megacolon), surgical removal of affected portions of the colon.

Laxatives work primarily by either increasing the water content of stool or lubricating the stool so that it passes more easily. Enemas involve the irrigation of liquid through the anus and into the colon to increase fecal water content and to stimulate colonic contraction (peristalsis) to promote fecal evacuation. Enemas may be given at home to compliant cats (with appropriate training by a veterinarian), but some cats may require sedation and veterinary assistance for enema administration. Intestinal motility modifiers increase the rate and force of peristaltic contractions in the intestines.

Dietary modification usually involves the addition of either soluble or insoluble fiber (or both) to the diet to improve intestinal motility. Insoluble fiber (i.e. cellulose) works by increasing the bulk of the stool, thereby distending the colon and stimulating colonic contraction. The main disadvantages of insoluble fiber are that they lower fecal water content and that they may lower nutrient digestibility. Insoluble fiber (i.e. canned pumpkin, psyllium) is fermented in the colon, leading to the production of short chain fatty acids, which may directly promote contraction of colonic smooth muscle. Over supplementation with soluble fiber can lead to overly liquid stools (diarrhea) and can also negatively affect nutrient absorption. Fiber supplementation can be achieved by either adding fiber to the existing diet or by switching the diet to a purpose-produced high fiber diet.

Severe, non-responsive cases of constipation may progress to megacolon and obstipation (a condition characterized by permanent loss of function of affected colon). In these cases, surgical resection of the affected portions of colon may be necessary to prevent translocation of bacteria from the GI tract to the bloodstream, which can be life-threatening.

Constipation can be managed medically, surgically and through a high fibre diet

Constipation is defined as difficult, painful or reduced defecation over a period of time ranging from days to weeks or months (Washabau and Day, 2013). Cats should easily pass their faeces daily with stools observed being brown, formed and, if in a litter tray, soft enough so that some litter adheres to them. If the cat is straining in the litter box or if their faeces are dry and hard, this may be an early indication of a problem (Keeler, 2009).

The colon has numerous roles, including the absorption of water and electrolytes and storage for digestive waste, by means of coordinated neuro-hormonal mechanisms including segmental contractions mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and the peristaltic ones generated by the parasympathetic; it also periodically eliminates that waste (Danks, 2015). The fact that the large intestine contains a diverse ecosystem and microbiome of its own can often be overlooked; each gram of faecal matter contains 10^10 microbes (one million times that of the distal small intestine) and it’s these which maintain the delicate environmental balance in short-chain fatty acids, water, hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide on which colonic function depends (Freiche, 2013). A study conducted across rescue centres in the UK found that 5.6 percent of cats suffer with constipation and that increasing age was a risk factor, as was seasonality, namely winter (German et al., 2015), potentially due to the increased amount of time spent inside and not exercising.

Clinical signs

Some cats are observed making multiple, unproductive attempts to defecate in the litter box, while other cats may sit in the litter box for prolonged periods of time without assuming a defecation posture. Dry, hardened faeces are observed inside and outside of the litter box. Occasionally, chronically constipated cats have intermittent episodes of haematochezia or diarrhoea caused by the mucosal irritant effect of the faeces remaining in situ. Owners may observe this as small amounts of loose stools being passed around a hardened impacted stool and misinterpret this as their cat suffering with diarrhoea rather than constipation as the primary issue. Prolonged inability to defecate may result in other systemic signs, including anorexia, lethargy, weight loss and vomiting (Washabau and Day, 2013). If constipation remains untreated for long enough, the condition may progress to obstipation, which is defined as intractable constipation that has become refractory to cure or control (Foley, 2017); this may further develop into acquired secondary megacolon.

If constipation remains untreated for long enough, the condition may progress to obstipation, which is defined as intractable constipation that has become refractory to cure or control; this may further develop into acquired secondary megacolon

If your cat is constipated they could be very uncomfortable and restless, it is also a very serious health concern. In this blog, our Stockton vets share the causes and symptoms of cat constipation as well as how you can help your beloved kitty.

Constipation in Cats

The majority of cats usually poop every 24 to 36 hours. If your kitty poops less frequently, has to strain to poop, or doesn’t poop at all, they are probably constipated. It’s a common condition among cats and is generally usually mild enough to be treated with at-home remedies.

If it doesn’t happen to your feline friend often there is probably no reason to be worried however, if it happens frequently or if they haven’t had a bowel movement in 48 – 72 hours you will need to schedule an appointment with your vet. Sometimes constipation can be a symptom of a serious health issue, and make your kitty very uncomfortable (and severe in some cases).

The Causes of Cat Constipation

Constipation can develop if things aren’t moving through the intestines normally. Other elements that can contribute to your cat’s constipation are:

  • Not enough fiber
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Pain or other issues in the spine
  • Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
  • Arthritis pain
  • Kidney issues
  • An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
  • Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
  • Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze and hard, dry stool builds up inside)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Nerve problems
  • Allergies
  • Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
  • Cancer
  • Perianal disease
  • Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)

Cats of any age or breed that eat a low fiber diet or don’t drink enough water can become constipated but, elderly cats experience constipation more often than kittens.

The Signs & Symptoms of Constipation in Cats

Normally, cat poop is well-formed, rich brown in color, and is moist enough that litter will stick to it.

Signs your cat may be constipated include hard, dry stools that end up either inside or outside of the litter box (the discomfort your cat feels trying to pass these stools may make them leave the litter box before they are actually finished).

Other symptoms of constipation can include:

  • Entering and exiting litter box multiple times when needing to go
  • Avoiding litter box
  • Not being able to poop at all
  • Straining or crying in the litter box

If you notice your cat showing signs of discomfort when they use the litter box, contact your vet as it could indicate serious urinary tract problems.

Because constipation is a symptom of other health issues, you might also see signs of an underlying condition, which could include:

  • Drinking more or less water
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty jumping up
  • Muscle loss
  • Hiding
  • Walking stiffly
  • Peeing more
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms with or without constipation, consult a veterinarian.

Available Treatments for Cat Constipation

Even though some constipation cases are mild and can be treated with lifestyle and diet changes, in addition to at-home remedies, some situations can be severe and require veterinary care. These serious issues can also become emergencies if they are not treated.

Constipation has to be treated as fast as possible to lower the risk of permanent damage as a result of prolonged distension of the colon.

The underlying problem has to be identified and fixed (if possible) in order to treat your cat’s constipation. Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. The inability to pass urine or feces, or pain when passing urine or feces, is considered a veterinary emergency. Your veterinarian may first run any applicable diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief, and prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter meds.

We need to stress that veterinary expertise is mandatory in order to safely and effectively perform the enema – these should not be done at home as some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.

If your cat’s constipation is long-term or they are suffering from obstipation (the inability to empty their colon on their own), they may have megacolon, an enlarged intestine due to a defect in the colon’s muscle strength.

Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that doesn’t respond to medical treatment might need to have the infected section of their large intestine removed.

At-Home Remedies for Treating Your Constipated Cat

Below are at-home remedies that could help relieve your cat’s constipation:

  • Minimize stress and anxiety
  • Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of intestines
  • Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and allow intestines to move things normally
  • Try fiber-rich foods, a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger as natural remedies
  • Provide probiotics
  • Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
  • Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)

Watching for Your Cat’s Constipation

Track the frequency of your cat’s litter box deposits and stool consistency initially for at least twice a week, then weekly or biweekly.

If you see hard, dry feces, or if you notice that your cat is straining while defecating or exhibiting other symptoms of constipation, contact your veterinarian – especially if diarrhea is a factor as dehydration may quickly become a problem.

Constipation-difficult or infrequent bowel movements-is one of the most common health problems associated with a pet’s digestive system. Cats usually have at least one healthy bowel movement every day. But if your cat is passing dry, hard stools, straining when trying to defecate or making unsuccessful trips to the litter box, please see your veterinarian. These symptoms may indicate an underlying health problem.

How Can I Tell if My Cat Is Constipated

If your cat suffers from any of the following symptoms, please consult your veterinarian. These signs may also be symptoms of urinary disorders, so it’s important that your vet helps you to determine the cause right away:

  • Straining or crying out in pain when trying to eliminate
  • Small, dry, hard stools, possibly covered in mucous or blood
  • Frequent, unproductive trips to the litter box
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Displays of abdominal discomfort
  • Lack of grooming

What Causes Cats to Become Constipated

There are many reasons why your cat may have trouble eliminating:

  • Low-fiber diet
  • Dehydration
  • Hairballs/excessive grooming
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Tangled hair on the buttocks
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as string, cloth, bones, etc.
  • Side effect of medication
  • Tumor or other intestinal obstruction
  • Neurologic disorder
  • Obesity
  • Abnormal colon shape or motility

How Can I Treat My Cat’s Constipation?

Depending on what’s causing your cat’s constipation, your vet may recommend one or several of the following treatments:

  • Stool softener
  • Laxative
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, please). It is important to note that cats do not take kindly to these procedures, and some over-the-counter enemas contain substances that can be toxic to cats. This is a procedure best left to your veterinarian.
  • Medication to increase the contractile strength of the large intestine
  • Manual evacuation of the bowels
  • Surgery to remove obstruction in the bowels
  • Veterinarian-prescribed, high-fiber diet
  • Adding fiber to your cat’s diet with canned pumpkin, bran cereal or a product such as Metamucil
  • Increase in water consumption
  • Increase in exercise

Which Cats Are Susceptible to Constipation?

Elderly pets often suffer from infrequent or difficult bowel movements. However, the condition can occur in any cat who doesn’t eat adequate fiber, get enough water or exercise, or suffers from one or more of the causes of constipation.

Can Constipation Hint at Larger Health Problems?

Yes. Constipation should always be investigated, as it can be a symptom of diabetes, hyperthyroidism, an obstruction of the rectum or a hernia.

How Can I Prevent My Cat from Becoming Constipated?

Feed your cat a healthy high-fiber diet with minimal treats, provide access all day to clean, fresh water and make sure she gets exercise. Brushing your cat regularly will minimize chances of hairballs, which can lead to constipation.

SLIDESHOW

What Can Happen if Constipation Goes Untreated?

If your cat’s constipation is not alleviated, obstipation-the inability to empty her colon on her own-can occur. In this state, the colon is packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing unproductive straining, lethargy, appetite loss and possibly even vomiting. This can result in the swelling of your cat’s colon and loss of the colon’s motility.

In this Article

  • Cat Poop: What’s Normal?
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

You can learn a lot about your cat’s health from their poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, watch for a few key signs when you scoop out the litter box.

Cat Poop: What’s Normal?

Most cats will poop at least once a day. If they’re healthy, their poop should:

  • Be deep brown in color
  • Feel not too hard or too soft or mushy
  • Not smell too foul, though some odor is normal

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might have it. Sometimes, it comes and goes quickly. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or come back on a regular basis.

Diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem unless you have an older cat or a kitten. But if it lasts longer, your cat can get dehydrated, which can be dangerous.

Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:

  • Changes to their diet or food allergies or intolerances
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Worms (intestinal parasites)
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.

The treatment your cat will need depends on what’s causing their diarrhea. Some will need prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisolone, to control inflammation. Your vet may recommend a special diet if they thinkВ a food allergy or intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or colitis is the problem. For some cats, a deworming medication or probiotics may also be needed.В

To prevent diarrhea, don’t give your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt — many cats can’t digest them properly. Also, if you switch the brand or type of food you give them, be sure to introduce it over several days by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until they are eating only the new stuff.

Constipation

When a cat is constipated, they’ll strain a lot when they try to poop or won’t be able to produce anything for the litter box. You don’t need to worry if it only happens sometimes. But if it’s more common for your pet, you should contact your vet.

Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:

  • Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
  • Kidney problems
  • Feline megacolon — when the colon gets very large and its muscles no longer squeeze, making hard, dry stool build up inside
  • Something blocking their colon, such as string or bones
  • Diets that don’t have enough fiber
  • Problems inside the colon, such as tumors or narrow places
  • Spine problems or pain

To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give them more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to their regular food. Or they might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest. HAirball medications might also help.

It also helps to make sure they gets more exercise and drinks more water so that waste will move through their system more readily.

You should talk to your vet about any poop problems your cat has, but this chart may help you figure out what may be causing them: