Constipation can be a serious health concern in cats. If your kitty is suffering from constipation, they could be uncomfortable, restless, or even in pain. Here, our vets in Walnut Creek discuss the possible causes of cat constipation and how you can help.
Constipation in Cats
On average the majority of cats will pass a stool roughly every 24 to 36 hours. If your kitty passes stool less frequently, strains when attempting to have a bowel movement, or doesn’t leave any poop in the litter box at all, they could be constipated. Constipation is a common issue in cats that’s generally mild enough to be treated with at-home remedies.
If your feline friend becomes constipated infrequently there’s likely no cause for concern, but you should contact your vet if it becomes a common problem or if it’s been more than 48 to 72 hours since your cat had a bowel movement.
Constipation can be a symptom of a serious underlying health issue and may be causing your cat considerable discomfort - or even severe pain in some cases.
Common Causes of Constipation in Cats
Constipation can occur if your cat's digestive system isn't able to move things through their intestines normally. Factors contributing to your cat’s constipation might include:
- Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
- Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
- Pain or other issues in the spine
- Not enough fiber in their diet
- Anxiety or stress
- Nerve problems
- An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
- Kidney issues
- Arthritis pain
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
- Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
- Perianal disease
- Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease
- Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze, leading to a buildup of hard, dry stool inside)
While senior cats suffer from this condition more frequently than kittens, cats of any age or breed with diets low in fiber or who don’t drink enough water can develop constipation.
Signs & Symptoms of Cat Constipation
Normally, cat feces is well-formed, rich brown in color, and 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 - the 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:
- Straining or crying in the litter box
- Not being able to poop at all
- Avoiding litter box
- Entering and exiting litter box multiple times when needing to go
If you see your cat displaying signs of discomfort when they are using the litter box, call your vet because this could be a sign of urinary tract problems.
Because constipation could be a sign of another underlying health condition, you might also notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Drinking more or less water
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty jumping up
- Muscle loss
- Walking stiffly
- Weight loss
- Peeing more
If your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms above with or without constipation, you need to bring them to the vet.
Treating Constipation in Cats
While some cases of constipation are mild and can be treated with lifestyle and diet changes, in combination with at-home remedies, some situations could be severe requiring veterinary care. Serious problems could even 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.
In order for your cat's constipation to be treated, the underlying issue has to be diagnosed and corrected (if possible).
When you bring your cat into Ygnacio Animal Hospital for constipation your vet will conduct a comprehensive physical checkup for your cat so the underlying cause of your kitty's condition can be diagnosed. It's important to bring your pet in for routine checkups so your vet can detect any underlying conditions early before they become more serious.
Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. It's considered a veterinary emergency when your cat can't pass urine or feces, or they experience pain when passing urine or feces. First, your vet may conduct any applicable diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief, and prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter medications.
A qualified veterinary professional can safely and effectively perform an enema for your cat - NEVER attempt to do this yourself - some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.
If your kitty has long-term constipation or if they are suffering from obstipation (the inability to empty their colon on their own), they may have megacolon, which is an enlarged intestine caused by a defect in the strength of the colon’s muscle.
Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that do not respond to medical treatment may need to have the section of the large intestine that’s affected removed.
Treating Cat Constipation: At-Home Remedies
These at-home remedies may help to relieve your feline friend’s constipation:
- Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and allow intestines to move things normally
- Give your cat fiber-rich foods, a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger as natural remedies
- Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
- Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of intestines
- Minimize stress and anxiety
- Provide probiotics
- Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)
Monitoring Your Cat For Constipation
Start by tracking your cat’s litter box deposits and stool consistency at least twice a week to start, 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 since dehydration can quickly become a problem.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.