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Constipation in Cats What to Do

Constipation in cats can be uncomfortable for the pet and concerning for owners. Today, our North Fort Myers veterinarians discuss causes, signs, and treatment options.

Can cats get constipation?

Cats typically poop every 24 to 36 hours. If your cat poops less frequently, strains during bowel movements, or doesn't leave feces in the litter box, they might be constipated.

This is a common issue in cats but can usually be treated at home. If your cat is rarely constipated, there's no need to worry.

However, if it happens frequently or if it's been more than 48 to 72 hours since their last bowel movement, contact your vet. Constipation could indicate a serious health problem and cause your cat discomfort or even severe pain.

What causes constipation in cats? 

Cats can become constipated if their digestive system can't move things through their intestines normally. Some elements that could be contributing to your cat’s constipation are:

  • Not enough fiber in their diet
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
  • An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
  • Pain or other issues in the spine
  • Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
  • Arthritis pain
  • Kidney issues
  • Allergies
  • Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Nerve problems
  • Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Perianal disease
  • Cancer
  • Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
  • Feline megacolon

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.

How can I tell if my cat is constipated? 

Cat feces are normally well-formed, rich brown in color, and moist enough for litter to stick to it.

Signs of constipation in cats include hard, dry stools that end up either inside or outside the litter box. The discomfort of trying to pass these stools may cause your cat to leave the litter box before being finished.

Other symptoms of constipation may include:

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

If you see your cat displaying signs of discomfort when using the litter box, call your vet immediately.

Because constipation could be a sign of another underlying health problem, your cat might also display one or more of these symptoms:

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

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above with or without constipation, you need to call your vet as quickly as possible.

How to treat constipation in cats? 

It's important to remember that some constipation problems in cats are mild and can be treated with changes to their lifestyle and diet, along with at-home remedies. However, other cases can be severe and require veterinary attention, which may warrant a veterinary emergency.

It's crucial to treat your cat's constipation as quickly as possible to lower the risks of permanent damage due to prolonged colon distension. To treat constipation in cats, the underlying disorder must be identified and, if possible, corrected.

The impacted feces should be removed, and recurrences prevented. If your cat is unable to pass urine or feces, or experiences pain when doing so, it is considered an 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.

It's important to note that only a qualified veterinary professional can safely and effectively perform an enema for your cat. Never attempt to do this yourself, as some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.

If your cat deals with chronic constipation, It's critical to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your cat's specific needs. They can provide guidance on dietary changes, medication management, and monitoring your cat's progress to ensure effective treatment of constipation and prevention of future episodes.

Is there a natural laxative for cats that I can use at home?

These at-home remedies could help to alleviate your cat’s constipation:

  • Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
  • Provide probiotics
  • Minimize stress and anxiety
  • Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)
  • 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
  • Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety, and promote normal movement of intestines

Is cat constipation an emergency?

Track the frequency of your cat’s litter box deposits and stool consistency, initially 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 immediately - 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your cat displaying symptoms of constipation? Contact our North Fort Myers veterinary hospital for urgent care.

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