A Guide to Treating and Preventing Constipation in Cats
When it comes to our cats’ bathroom habits, we know they want privacy as much, if not more, than we do. How do you know if your cat is constipated and needs treatment? If your cat hasn’t produced a stool in 2 days or more, it’s time to seek veterinary care. Read more about the signs, causes, prevention, and treatment of constipation in cats in the article below.
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How do I know if my cat is constipated?
Cats often hide their illnesses, and constipation can go unnoticed until your cat becomes quite sick. Because cats are so private, it’s important to know your pet’s daily habits, including how much they eat and drink and how often they visit the litterbox to urinate and produce stool. Constipation in older cats is often a symptom of an underlying illness and may require further work-up by your vet.
Early, mild symptoms of constipation can include:
● Frequent trips to the litterbox with a decreased amount of stool produced
● A small amount of firm/hard stool produced
● Decreased appetite
● Change in normal behavior/activity such as hiding in unusual places, not interested in play, decreased interaction with owner or fellow cats/dogs in the household
As the constipation gets worse cats may experience:
● Nausea and/or lack of appetite
● Sitting in the litterbox and crying/vocalizing in pain as they try to produce stool
● Blood in the stool
● Swelling under the tail around the anus
What are the causes of constipation in cats?
● Dehydration due to an underlying illness such as
- Decreased movement of the intestinal muscles (also called megacolon)
- Neurologic disorders
● Diet, including quality, consistency (dry kibble), fiber content
● Decreased water intake
● Litterbox location, cleanliness, type of litter
● Stress due to changes in the household. For example, a new person or pet introduced to the household, moving, home renovations, etc.
● Overweight, lack of exercise
● Side effect from a medication
● A foreign body such as string, bones, sewing needles, etc. stuck in the intestine
How can you prevent constipation in your cat?
● You can schedule a video call with us at FirstVet to get an initial assessment of your cat.
● Talk to your vet about specific diet recommendations. These may include diets with appropriate fiber content, low residue, and increased moisture, such as canned cat food. Always talk to your vet before changing your cat’s diet.
● Monitor your living space for any string, yarn, sewing needles, or other objects that your cat may want to play with but could end up eating. This may lead to intestinal blockage and constipation.
● Never feed your cat bones of any kind.
● Make sure you have at least one more litterbox than the number of cats. (For example, 3 cats need 4 litter boxes)
● Scoop and clean the litter box frequently and make sure your cat has easy access to the litter box. If you have 2 stories, it’s recommended to place a litter box upstairs and downstairs.
● Make sure the litter box is in a quiet area away from loud noises such as the washing machine and that your cat can easily hop in/out without difficulty. This is especially important for senior cats that may have arthritis.
● Your vet may suggest other methods to prevent constipation designed specifically for your cat’s needs.
How is constipation in cats treated?
It’s important to contact your vet to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan if you suspect constipation in your cat. Cats often become dehydrated from vomiting and painful from trying to produce a large amount of dry, hard stools, and need to be hospitalized to receive proper care.
Your vet will perform a complete physical exam and may recommend blood tests and a urinalysis. Additional recommendations may include x-rays, ultrasound, or colonoscopy under sedation/anesthesia to confirm constipation and determine the best treatment for your cat.
Treatment for constipation may include fluid support and anesthesia to manually remove the large amount of hardened stool in your cats’ colon. Your cat may be prescribed medication to manage pain and to prevent further constipation. Depending on the diagnosis, such as foreign body, tumor, or megacolon, your cat may require surgery.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s constipation or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.