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Constipation in Cats

Constipation happens when your cat hasn't been able to poop for an extended amount of time. It can be uncomfortable and lead to serious health issues. Our Killen vets discuss constipation in cats, including the causes, symptoms, and tips for treating the condition.

What does it mean if your cat is constipated?

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 are the causes of constipation?

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
  • Allergies
  • Nerve problems
  • Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
  • Cancer
  • 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 symptoms will a cat display with constipation?

Typically cat poop is usually solid, brown, and slightly wet. The litter should stick to it, creating a solid mass that can easily be scooped out.

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 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

Contacting your vet at the first sign of a health issue if vital to addressing potential medical issues before they become more serious.

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
  • Hiding
  • Difficulty jumping up
  • Muscle loss
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Peeing more
  • Walking stiffly

Whether or not your cat is constipated, the symptoms above should be addressed by your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

How is constipation treated?

Constipation in cats can range from mild discomfort that can be easily managed at home to more severe cases that require veterinary care. 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. 

At-Home Remedies for Constipation

There are a few things you can do at home to provide your cat with some relief from 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)

When is constipation an emergency?

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.

Our vets at Center Star Veterinary Services can provide medical treatment to help get your cat's bowels moving again and offer recommendations for at-home remedies to keep them moving.

If your cat begins to show concerning symptoms like excessive diarrhea or vomiting, or constipation has become severe, please visit your vet or contact your nearest emergency veterinarian in Killen right away.

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.

Are you concerned that your cat is experiencing a serious medical condition? Visit the emergency department at our Killen veterinary hospital to receive care for your cat.

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Center Star Veterinary Services offers walk-in veterinary services. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Killen companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services.

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