When cats are constipated, it could be a sign of a serious health concern, as well as make your kitty uncomfortable and restless. In this blog, our Mooresville vets discuss the signs and causes of constipation in cats, as well as what you can do to help.
Constipation in Cats
On average, cats poop about every 24 to 36 hours. If your kitty doesn't pass a stool as frequently, strains when trying to pass a bowel movement, or doesn’t leave any poop in their litter box, they may be constipated. The majority of constipation cases in cats are generally mild enough to be treated at home.
If your feline companion gets constipated infrequently you probably don't have any reason to be worried, on the other hand, it's best to call your vet if this becomes an issue or if your cat hasn't had a bowel movement in more than 48 to 72 hours.
Constipation could be an indication of a serious underlying health problem and might be making your cat very uncomfortable or causing them severe pain.
Causes of Cat Constipation
Your cat can become constipated if their digestive system can't move things through the intestines as normal. Below, we've shared some reasons why your cat may be constipated:
- Not enough fiber in their diet
- Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
- Anxiety or stress
- An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
- Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
- Arthritis pain
- Pain or other issues in the spine
- Kidney issues
- Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze, leading to a buildup of hard, dry stool inside)
- Nerve problems
- Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
- Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
- Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Perianal disease
While constipation is more common in senior cats than kittens, cats of any age or breed, as well as those who don't drink enough water, or eat enough fiber can become constipated.
Signs & Symptoms of Constipation in Cats
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 they are done their business.
Here are some other signs and symptoms of cat constipation:
- Not being able to poop at all
- Straining or crying in the litter box
- Avoiding litter box
- Entering and exiting litter box multiple times when needing to go
If you see your cat exhibiting signs of discomfort when they are using the litter box, call your vet because this could be a sign of a serious urinary tract problem.
Since constipation can be a sign of another underlying health issue, your kitty may also have one or more of these symptoms:
- Difficulty jumping up
- Drinking more or less water
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle loss
- Walking stiffly
- Peeing more
- Weight loss
Treatments for Cat Constipation
While you can treat some mild constipation issues at home with lifestyle and diet changes, as well as some at-home remedies, other cases could be severe and require veterinary attention. Serious issues may become emergencies.
Constipation has to be treated as quickly as possible to decrease the risk of permanent damage as a result of prolonged distension of the colon.
The underlying disorder must be identified and if possible, corrected, in order to treat your cat's constipation.
Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. Pain when passing urine or feces, or the inability to pass urine or feces is considered a veterinary emergency. First, your veterinarian may conduct any required diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief. If needed, they may also prescribe medication or recommend over-the-counter remedies.
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 feline companion's constipation is long-term or if your cat is suffering from obstipation (the inability to empty their colon on their own), they might have megacolon, which is an enlarged intestine due to a defect in the colon’s muscle strength.
Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that do not respond to medical treatment may need to have the affected section of their large intestine removed.
At-Home Remedies for Treating Constipated Cats
Here are some at-home remedies that might be able to relieve your cat's constipation:
- Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
- Minimize stress and anxiety
- Provide probiotics
- Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and let the intestines move things normally
- Try fiber-rich foods, a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger as natural remedies
- Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of the intestines
- Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)
Monitoring Your Cat for Constipation
Take note of how often your cat leaves deposits in the litter box and the consistency of their stool at least twice a week initially, then weekly or biweekly.
If your cat's feces are hard and dry, 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.