No one likes being constipated, not even cats.
While cats typically poop once every 24 to 36 hours - some poop more often, and some poop less; each cat has its own bowel pattern. In terms of predisposition, both male and female cats are likely to experience this problem equally. However, elderly or senior cats are more likely to have problems with constipation than kittens; although, cats of any age can experience constipation and bowel issues.
As a proud cat parent, you will get to know your kitty's particular habits, so you will also be the first to notice if anything is amiss. Typically though, if a cat goes longer than 36 hours without needing to use the litter box, then there is a good chance that they might be constipated.
However, there are also other, less obvious, signs of cat constipation that are important to watch for. These can include:
- abdominal pain,
- loud vocalization when pooing, and
- seeing small, dry feces in the litter box.
If the constipation in your cat is also accompanied by the following symptoms then this can be an early indication of an underlying medical problem that may prompt a visit to the vet. These signs can include:
Before we get into talking more about the signs and symptoms of cat constipation, let's take a look at some of the causes of constipation in cats.
Constipation is a painful and uncomfortable condition in cats that may be caused by a variety of factors. Some of these are external factors related to diet and lifestyle changes; while others are a result of medical or neurological issues such as stress, arthritic pain, injury, or obesity.
If your kitty has other medical issues such as certain forms of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or diabetes, it is not uncommon for them to also become constipated as these illnesses can affect other parts of the body. In addition, constipation and anal gland problems such as an impacted or ruptured anal sac typically go together because straining to poo is one of the causes of the anal glands to get swollen and begin to protrude; which in turn makes expelling even harder.
There are some medical and home remedies that can assist your cat with relieving their discomfort that we will discuss later, but if nothing seems to be working, you may need to take them to the vet.
Here are some other factors you can check that might cause constipation in your cat. Some of these may even be fairly simple to correct:
Cats are very territorial creatures; once they familiarize themselves with a particular location or space, they become possessive of it. Moving houses abruptly can disturb cats and can stress them out. This can affect their bowels and make them constipated. It is advised that when moving houses or renovating the house, it is best to try and make the transition gentle for your cat so that they are able to accept it more comfortably. Once more familiarized with the new environment, cats go back to their normal eating and bowel routine.
Changing the litter box's location can cause your cat to become stressed, and they may stop using the litter box in the new location. This can cause constipation in the cat as well. If you want to switch the litter box's location, then it is best to ease your cat into the transition rather than doing it abruptly. We have some great tips for setting up the litter box here.
Cats are super clean animals by nature and do not appreciate sleeping or eating in dirty places or even too close to their litter box. It is important to make sure that their litter box is cleaned out frequently; otherwise, cats refuse to use a litter box that is dirty and hasn't been scooped out in a while.
If there is a new cat or another pet in the house, this can become a source of anxiety for your cat. They may not want to share the same litter box or may generally be stressed or feel competitive with them. This can cause them to become constipated.
Cats are sensitive creatures, and many conditions can make them anxious or stressed. These conditions can cause cats to become constipated.
If visitors or guests in your house are here to stay for a few days, cats can become anxious. Cats do not get comfortable around strangers easily, and anxiety can cause them to lose their appetite or stop passing stool. This can make them constipated.
As cats age, they start suffering from various medical and health conditions. These conditions can affect the bowel movements of cats and can cause them to become constipated.
One of the most common diseases that older cats suffer from is arthritis. Feline arthritis generally affects cats over the age of 8 and may even affect them sooner. This is a painful disease of the joints and can sometimes be an underlying factor in constipation.
Tumor or cancer of the cat's orofecal tract can obstruct any of these locations, causing constipation and other symptoms in cats.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder syndrome which causes abdominal discomfort and bloating. A form of IBS called IBS-C is when Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms also include constipation.
Cats over the age of 6 years of age begin suffering from kidney diseases. They may have urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or more complicated kidney infections. These are usually caused due to dehydration and not drinking enough water. Kidney disease can cause cats to become constipated.
A cat's diet plays a big role in their digestion - too hard, not enough nutrients, too many fillers, not enough fiber, too much fiber - all can have an impact on how well the cat is able to digest the food and expel the waste. Here are two of the biggest culprits:
Not Drinking Enough Water
Unlike dogs, most cats are not fond of drinking water. However, not drinking enough can cause dehydration in cats and slow down the movement of the stool through the digestive tract. This can make the stool dry and hard, more difficult to excrete, causing them to become constipated. For this reason it is important to offer cats clean, fresh water daily. Consider investing in a water fountain for cats as some of them really enjoy drinking from it.
Too Much Dry Food
Ca food consists of dry food or kibble and wet food which is available in cans or pouches. Wet food is generally better than dry as it contains much more water content. For cats that don't drink much, eating wet food can make up for the lack of water, encourage digestion and excretion. Wet food provides the right amount of moisture to prevent constipation by helping move the food through the body and out.
The following are some of the things you can do right away to prevent your cat from getting constipated:
Keep them hydrated
Replace dry food with wet canned food
Keep the litter box clean and in sight
Change your cat's food
Keep them calm
Sometimes due to other medical issues and even despite our best efforts, kitty will get constipated. If that is the case, there a number of natural and medical treatments you can try to relieve their pain.
One option for relieving your cat's constipation at home is to give them an enema. This is okay if not done too frequently and in the case when the constipation is minor. For more severe cases, it's usually recommended that your vet examine the cat to rule out any serious medical conditions. Make sure to only use products designed for cats. Never give your cat an enema designed for humans.
Massaging your cat's stomach is a gentle way to help release gas and waste from the body. It also helps to relieve contractions and ease the muscles when your cat has been straining to go.
Some cats love to be petted and have a nice tummy rub. Other cats may not take to it too easily so always be very gentle and go slowly when massaging your cat's tummy. If you get a positive reaction, you may continue for a couple of minutes.
One treatment that a vet may do, and which you can initially try at home if you are careful is to palpate your cat’s stomach to feel for fecal matter. If you feel a hardness around the colon or bladder area, this may be an indication that there is a build up of fecal waste or urine. To help the fecal matter pass through you can give your cat an abdomen massage. For tips on how to do this, check out this video
If not done frequently, you can give your cat a laxative to help soften their stool.
Only use laxatives that are formulated especially for cats as many human-grade laxatives contain ingredients that could be lethal to cats. Laxative can be very helpful for cats that have recurring constipation and your veterinarian may prescribe an over-the-counter laxative. Be careful however not to use it too often as many laxatives are addictive and if used too often will cause the cat to not be able to go naturally.
If you do choose to use a laxatives, keep in mind that there are also different kinds:
A lubricant laxative lubricates the cat's colon to make it easier to pass the feces. However, these laxatives aren't recommended for long-term use in cats.
Emollients promote colon water retention making it easier for your cat to pass the feces.
Osmotics are designed to add more water to the feces. Osmotics can be administered as a liquid medication or mixed in with food. Osmotics can be used alone or with additional medications.
Stimulants act by moving the feces toward the anus and may only be recommended for short-term usage.
Because of the addictive nature of most laxatives, many cat owners prefer to use alternative, natural supplements and home remedies instead of prescription medications. Prescription drugs are often harsh and and can also cause negative side effects.
Home remedies for constipation in felines may include changing your cat's diet. Changing the protein source in your cat's food may be enough to alleviate constipation but this is not for immediate relief as transitioning to a new food takes time.
Another way to relieve your cat's constipation is with a flavored lubricant supplement that makes it easier to pass hairballs and softens the cat's stools. This can be used together with a probiotic. Probiotics for cats work well with constipation and digestive issues, but this is also a long term solution.
If you need fast relief, look for natural alternative treatments like the BestLife4Pets Constipation Relief Remedy for Cats which helps digestion, softens the stool and make elimination easier for your cat. Homeopathic and natural remedies are non-irritating and safe for long-term use.
If the constipation does not ease with other treatments, or if your cat has another medical condition it is best to consult with a vet. The vet will usually perform a thorough examination consisting of blood or urine tests. The vet may also order an endoscopy to look at the inside of your cat's colon. If a problem is found, the vet may do a biopsy to rule out more serious issues. Once the seriousness of the constipation is determined, your vet will recommend the appropriate treatment which may consist of medication or even surgery.
Constipation can be a very uncomfortable and painful condition in cats, but usually not one that is very serious of life threatening. Monitoring your kitty closely for any changes in behavior helps to identify that something is wrong and figure out the cause of the problem so that you can address it right away. The good news is that there are a lot of natural remedies and treatments that you can even do at home to help your kitty pass their poop easily.
Even better news is that you can reduce the chance of your frisky feline getting constipated by following some of the suggestions above and just adjusting a few things at home and in their diet. After all, prevention is always the better choice.