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How Can I Help My Constipated Cat?

How Can I Help My Constipated Cat?

Is your cat constipated? If so, they could be feeling uncomfortable and restless. Constipation can also be a serious health issue. In this blog, our knowledgable vets in Ypsilanti share the possible causes of cat constipation, as well as ways you can recognize it and how you may be able to help your kitty.

Constipation in Cats

The majority of cats will pass a stool roughly every 24 to 36 hours. If your feline friend poops less often, strains when trying to have a bowel movement, or doesn’t leave a single piece of feces in the litter box, they could potentially be constipated. This is a relatively common issue among cats that’s generally mild enough to be treated with home remedies.

If your cat infrequently becomes constipated there’s probably no reason to be worried, but don't hesitate to call your vet if this turns into a common issue or if more than 48 to 72 hours have passed since your kitty's last bowel movement.

Constipation could be a sign of a serious underlying health problem and might be causing your cat considerable discomfort - or in some situations even severe pain.

What Could Cause Cat Constipation?

Cats can become constipated if their digestive system can't move things through their intestines normally. Elements that can contribute to your cat's constipation could include:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Not enough fiber in their diet
  • Pain or other issues in the spine
  • Kidney problems
  • Arthritis pain
  • Excessive grooming (leads to extra hair in the digestive tract)
  • Dry food diets (can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration)
  • An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
  • Feline megacolon (colon gets large enough that the muscles no longer squeeze, leading to a buildup of hard, dry stool inside)
  • Ruptured or impacted anal sacs (can also cause pain with defecation)
  • Nerve problems
  • Allergies
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
  • Cancer
  • 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 & Symptoms of Constipation in Cats

A cat's stool is usually 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 - your cat may leave the litter box before they have actually finished as a result of the discomfort they feel when trying to pass these stools.

Other symptoms your cat can develop when they are constipated include: 

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

If your cat exhibits any signs of discomfort when they are using the litter box, contact your vet because this could be a sign of a serious urinary tract issue.

As constipation could indicate another underlying health problem you might also notice one or more of these symptoms:

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

If you see any of the above symptoms in your cat whether they are constipated or not it's time to bring your kitty to the vet.

The Treatments For Cat Constipation

While some constipation problems are mild and can be remedied with lifestyle and diet changes, in combination with at-home treatments, several cases do require veterinary attention. Serious cases could become emergencies.

Cat constipation has to be treated as quickly as possible to lower the risk of permanent damage caused by prolonged colon distension.

In order to treat your kitty's constipation, the underlying issue has to be diagnosed and corrected, if possible.

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.

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 their colon by themselves), 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 Treating Constipation in Cats

These at-home remedies may help to relieve your feline friend’s constipation:

  • Over-the-counter laxatives (consult your vet, as these may worsen symptoms in cats with underlying or chronic diseases)
  • Minimize stress and anxiety
  • Provide probiotics
  • Increase exercise to help with weight loss, reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of intestines
  • Help your cat maintain a healthy weight
  • Try fiber-rich foods, a teaspoon of canned, pureed pumpkin once or twice a day, or ginger as natural remedies
  • Try a new diet (lamb, chicken, special limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic diets) to reduce inflammation and allow intestines to move things normally

Should I Monitor My 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 - 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.

Don't hesitate to contact our Ypsilanti vets if your kitty is suffering from constipation. 

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