If you’ve gone to the litter box for a few days in a row now and still haven’t found anything to scoop, your cat could be experiencing constipation. While some cats are more obvious when they are constipated (think loud meowing from their litter box that results from discomfort), others are quieter.
As a result, it is your responsibility as a diligent pet owner to figure out if your cat is experiencing constipation and take the necessary steps to help them. Most cats defecate once a day, but habits do vary from cat to cat. If your cat has gone several days without pooping, steps to help your pet might need to be taken.
If you believe that your cat is constipated, you might be wondering what caused this. There are several common causes that lead felines to experience constipation, and discovering which led to this occurrence can help you ensure it does not happen again.
Of course, you never want your pet to be uncomfortable, so your best bet is to stay on the safe side and see a vet if you have any cause for concern. In addition, these tips from Dr. Nicholas Garside VetMed MRCVS, veterinary advisor at VioVet, can help you spot any potential digestion issues with your cat.
Despite the fact that constipation is a frequently used term, you might not be quite sure what exactly it refers to in regards to your feline. The term constipation means that there is an abnormal accumulation of fecal matter in your cat’s colon.
The result is difficult bowel movements. Your cat might not be able to defecate as frequently as they usually would, or there might be a complete lack of defecation.
The fecal matter is retained in your cat’s large intestine or colon. Because an essential function of the colon is water absorption, the feces that are retained will become dry and hard. As a result, passing them through the body becomes even more difficult for your pet.
It is not uncommon for cats that are constipated to experience straining. This occurs when they attempt to poop, which can even result in pain in their abdomen. In some cases, a constipated cat will pass a small amount of liquid stool or blood and mucus. This results due to excessive straining on their body.
As an owner, you might mistake this small amount of liquid feces for diarrhea. This is not the case. In reality, this is the result of the cat straining. Then, a small amount of liquid feces can squeeze around the hard mass of fecal matter in the cat’s body.
People often assume that the signs of constipation in their feline will be obvious, but this isn’t always the case. Of course, not finding anything to scoop is a telltale sign something could be off with your cat, but according to Dr. Garside, there are even more clues to feline constipation to be aware of.
These are especially critical to keep in mind if your cat does not tend to meow when they are in distress. Therefore, sometimes you will have to do your diligence to uncover if your pet is experiencing constipation.
“Difficulty defecating and hard stools in the litter tray are the most common signs,” Dr. Garside says. “Cats may even yowl in discomfort as they try to defecate the hard stools.” If you notice this, your cat is likely suffering from constipation.
If your cat is a bit more private about their bathroom visits, you may have to keep an eye on their mood and look out for any changes:
“Some cats are very discreet when they toilet, doing this away from their owners, so the only signs an owner sees is lethargy due to the discomfort,” says Dr. Garside. If your cat is unusually lethargic, that’s one of the first signs that something’s not right.
Of course, lethargy is also a common symptom of several other illnesses, so it’s essential that, if your cat is exhibiting this, they see a trusted veterinarian. A vet will be able to help you deduct if your cat is constipated or if something more serious is occurring. In addition, they will know how to take the proper steps to assist your cat.
Common signs your cat may be constipated include:
Hard, dry poop
Straining/yowling in the litter box
More frequent litter box trips (with nothing to show for it)
Figuring out why your cat is constipated is essential. This is because you can prevent it from occurring again. According to Dr. Garside, one of the most common reasons your cat could be constipated or having difficulty making regular bowel movements could be due to scavenging.
“Bones and hair from wildlife, in particular, are difficult to digest, these form clumps of hard feces in the intestinal tract,” says Dr. Garside. Of course, if you have an indoor cat, this will not be the cause. However, there are several other causes of constipation that affect indoor cats primarily.
If you have an indoor cat, they could become constipated simply from ingesting large quantities of their own hair, as seen with hairballs. This is more likely for some cat breeds than others.
For instance, if you have a cat with long, silky hair, they’re at higher risk for experiencing this than a Sphinx. “Long-haired cats can also become constipated due to normal grooming as they ingest their own hairs,” explains Dr. Garside. “There are rarer causes such as the condition 'Megacolon' but these require diagnosis by a vet.”
That’s just one reason why paying your vet a visit if your cat is experiencing constipation can prove helpful. It’s better to get a vet’s opinion on what is going on sooner than later, so they can intervene if necessary.
There are also some other reasons why your cat might be experiencing constipation. These can include:
Kidney problems like chronic kidney disease
Lack of fiber (or too much fiber)
Abnormal colon shape
Obesity or Diabetes
There are also some potentially more serious causes, so be sure to see a veterinarian so they can eliminate these as a potential culprit. If your cat is having additional symptoms, this is an especially good idea.
While there are ways that you can treat your cat’s constipation at home, the reality is that you should get a vet to take a look at your pet first. This will ensure that there is nothing more serious going on, and your home remedies for your cat’s constipation will suffice.
“Constipation can be managed effectively at home, but the initial diagnosis should really be done by a trained professional,” says Dr. Garside. This is for a critical reason: Just because you don’t see your cat defecating doesn’t mean it’s not happening — especially in the case of outdoor cats.
This is just one reason why you should certainly bring your cat to see a veterinarian before you attempt to solve the problem by yourself. A vet would be able to figure out if there is validity to your concern about your cat not defecating.
“I have seen cases where clients have started giving laxatives to cats that they thought were constipated, but actually the cat had diarrhea and was defecating outside (not seen by the owner). The owner only saw the signs of straining and assumed the issue was constipation,” he says.
Improperly prescribed laxatives such as Miralax will only worsen diarrhea, so it’s important to get a professional opinion before you begin any sort of at-home treatment. Your vet can easily feel your cat’s abdomen and understand if your cat’s discomfort is due to constipation, bladder issues, or something else. And, in the case that the cause is something else, a vet will be able to help your pet in an expedient manner.
If you’re sure your cat is constipated and you received explicit permission from a trusted veterinarian that you can begin to treat their condition, you can start to give your cat laxative supplement treatments at home.
“Laxatives are usually prescribed to treat mild/moderate constipation,” says Dr. Garside. “If it is severe, then an enema under anesthetic may be required.”
If your cat sees a vet for constipation several times in a relatively short period of time, there’s a good chance that your cat is prone to constipation. In this case, preventative measures can be taken to ensure that your cat is not constantly suffering from constipation. “ In the long term, laxatives can be given at a low dose to keep the issue at bay for cats that are prone to constipation,” Dr. Garside says.
There are several other preventative measures you can take to help your cat, too. Increased water intake can help to prevent the problem from occurring, so make sure there are fresh bowls of water around or even invest in a cat water fountain for fussy cats. It may be that a transition to wet food is needed as well.
In addition to the aforementioned ways to treat constipation in cats, you can also try to:
Introduce laxatives or stool softeners
Include fiber supplements/probiotics (a teaspoon pumpkin, wheat bran, and psyllium are all part of high fiber diets)
Try a different cat food
Increase your cat's water intake
Encourage your cat to exercise more
Clean your litter box/get a second litter box
As a reminder, don’t try any of these constipation fixes before you speak to a veterinarian, and they can ensure that you are taking the appropriate course of action to treat your cat.
If your cat is constipated, the best thing that you can do is have a vet take a look at them. Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to see your local vet — and that’s why Pawp is available to help.
Pawp’s trained, experienced vets are available to see your cat anytime—no appointment needed, and no waiting necessary. Sign up for Pawp to ensure that no matter when your cat needs to see a vet, there is a vet available for your pet to see — without astronomical prices or wait times.
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