Constipation in cats can make them feel uncomfortable and restless. It can also be a health concern. Our Lancaster vets share signs of constipation in cats, causes, and tips for treating the condition.
What is constipation in cats?
Most cats will poop approximately every 24 to 36 hours. If your cat is pooping less frequently, strains when she attempts to poop or doesn't leave any deposits in the litter box, constipation is likely the issue. It's a common problem in cats that's usually mild enough to be remedied with at-home treatments.
Don't worry if it happens once in a while, but if it keeps happening or if your cat hasn't pooped for more than 48 to 72 hours, your should contact your vet. Constipation can indicate serious health issues and be very uncomfortable, even severe in some cases.
What causes constipation in cats?
Constipation can occur if things aren't moving normally through the intestines. Factors contributing to your cat's constipation may include:
- Pain or other issues in the spine
- Anxiety or stress
- Arthritis pain
- Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
- Not enough fiber in her diet
- An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
- Kidney issues
- 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
- Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease
- Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
- Perianal 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.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Typically cat poop is usually solid, brown, and slightly wet, so it sticks to the litter.
Signs of constipation in cats include hard, dry stools that end up inside or outside the litter box (the discomfort of trying to pass these stools may have your cat leaving the litter box before actually being finished).
Other signs of constipation can include:
- Entering and exiting the litter box multiple times when needing to go
- Straining or crying in the litter box
- Avoiding litter box
- Not being able to poop at all
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 is a symptom of other health issues, you may also see signs of the underlying condition, which may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Drinking more or less water
- Difficulty jumping up
- Muscle loss
- Weight loss
- Peeing more
- Walking stiffly
If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms with or without constipation, consult a veterinarian.
How to Treat Constipation in Cats
Constipation in casts can vary in severity. Some cases can be managed with diet changes and home remedies, while others require immediate veterinary attention. Severe constipation can lead to serious problems. If your cat is constipated, acting promptly to prevent lasting harm is important.
For the treatment of constipation in cats, the underlying disorder must be identified and, if possible, corrected. Impacted feces should be removed, and recurrences prevented. The inability to pass urine or feces, or pain when passing urine or feces, is considered a veterinary 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.
Let's stress that veterinary expertise is needed to safely and effectively perform the enema - these should not be done at home as some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.
Some cats suffer from chronic constipation or megacolon, a condition where the colon's muscles are weak, causing an enlarged intestine. If medical treatments don't work, surgery may be needed to remove the affected part of the intestine.
Remember, always consult your veterinarian for proper care and treatment for your constipated cat.
How to treat constipation in cats: At-Home Remedies
These at-home remedies may help to relieve your cat's constipation:
- 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 the 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)
Should I watch my cat for constipation?
Track the frequency of your cat's litter box deposits and stool consistency at least twice a week, then weekly or biweekly.
Contact your veterinarian if you notice hard, dry feces or if your cat is straining while defecating or exhibiting other symptoms of constipation, especially if diarrhea is present, as dehydration can quickly become a problem