If your cat is constipated, they can become restless and uncomfortable. This condition may also result in some serious health concerns. Today, our Jacksonville vets listed the potential causes of constipation in cats and how you can help your kitty feel better.
On average, cats will pass a stool roughly every 24 to 36 hours. If your kitty poops less often than this, strains when trying to have a bowel movement, or doesn’t leave any feces in the litter box, they could be constipated. It’s a common problem in cats that’s usually mild enough to be remedied with at-home treatments.
If your kitty 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.
Potential 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:
- Not enough fiber in their diet
- Pain or other issues in the spine
- Anxiety or stress
- Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
- Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
- Kidney issues
- An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
- Arthritis pain
- Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze, leading to a buildup of hard, dry stool inside)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Nerve problems
- 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
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.
Signs Your Cat is Constipated
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 notice signs of discomfort when your cat uses the litter box, contact your vet as this may indicate serious urinary tract issues.
Since constipation can be a sign of another underlying health issue, you may also notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty jumping up
- Drinking more or less water
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle loss
- Walking stiffly
- Weight loss
- Peeing more
If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms with or without constipation, it's time to visit your vet.
Treating Cats With Constipation
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. It is considered a veterinary emergency when your cat can't pass urine or feces or is experiencing pain when passing urine or feces. First, your veterinarian may run any required diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief, and prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter meds.
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 cat’s constipation is long-term or if your kitty is suffering from obstipation (the inability to empty her colon on her own), they may 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 section of the large intestine that’s affected removed.
At-Home Remedies For Cat Constipation
These at-home remedies may help to relieve your feline friend’s constipation:
- Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
- Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of intestines
- Give your kitty fiber-rich foods such as a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger
- Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and allow intestines to move things normally
- Reduce their stress and anxiety
- Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)
- Provide probiotics
Monitoring Your 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 to schedule an examination- 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.