Constipation is a fairly common gastrointestinal issue in cats. However, it can sometimes be an indication of an underlying health issue, and shouldn't be ignored. In this post, our West Salem veterinarians discuss the causes and treatments of constipation in cats and when you should be concerned.
Constipation in Cats
Most cats defecate every 24 to 36 hours. If your feline companion is using their litter box less frequently than that, or has irregular feces, they are probably experiencing constipation. This is a common condition that can often 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
Some causes of constipation in cats include:
- 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
- Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
- 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
- Walking stiffly
- Peeing more
- Weight loss
If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms with or without constipation, consult a veterinarian.
Available Treatments for Cat Constipation
Some constipation cases are mild and only caused by changes in diet and environment, but other, more severe cases could have more dire causes and require veterinary intervention.
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. Your vet will order diagnostic tests in order to identify the cause of the constipation and treat any potential underlying illnesses.
At-Home Remedies for Treating Your Constipated Cat
Our West Salem vets have provided these at-home remedies you can try for your cat when they're constipated:
- 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 your cat's bowel habits over the course of two weeks or so. If you notice them straining to use the litter box or they make hard or irregular stool, follow up with your veterinarian right away!