Cat Constipation Explained [Symptoms & 4 Ways To Fix It]

Have you noticed any abnormalities in your cat’s poop? Do you think he or she might be constipated?

In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about cat constipation and how you can help prevent and treat it.

Cat Constipation Quick Facts

  • The most obvious symptom for cat constipation is little or no defecation for 48-72 hours.
  • Mild constipation in cats may be caused by dehydration, lack of exercise or ingestion of hair or other material that leads to intestinal blockage.
  • Severe constipation may have underlying conditions which require medical examination and treatment.
  • You can prevent and treat your cat’s mild constipation by increasing its water intake, encouraging more exercise, adding more fiber to the cat’s diet and maintaining the cat’s healthy weight.

Learn the Basics

In order to decide on the best approach to manage your cat’s condition, you need to know the symptoms and causes of constipation.

Is Your Cat Constipated?

Before you answer that question, you need to know that a healthy cat normally produces stool once a day. The stool of a healthy cat should be moist enough to stick to the litter. Mild constipation every now and then isn’t a serious problem and is common in cats, as long as it’s not frequent.

Now in order to know for sure if you need to worry about constipation, you need to look out for the following warning signs:

  • No defecation for 48 – 72 hours
  • Tiny or dry, hard feces
  • Defecation outside the litter box
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Liquid bloody stool
  • Straining during defecation.

It’s worth noting that urinary tract blockage in male cats may be mistaken for constipation. Urinary tract blockage should be treated as a medical emergency.

So, if you’re male cat is straining in the litter box and producing little or no urine, you should seek medical help immediately

What Causes Constipation in Cats?

The main causes of cat constipation are dehydration, lack of exercise, fiber poor diet and intestinal blockage from hair, bones and other material.

Dehydration is caused by low water intake or kidney disease. Lack of exercise negatively impacts bowel movement.

A fiber-rich diet enhances healthy digestion and increases bowel movement, therefore, insufficient fiber in a cat’s diet may lead to constipation.

Other causes could include:

  • Reluctance to use the litter box if it’s dirty or full
  • Diabetes and hyperthyroidism
  • Ruptured anal sacs causing pain during defecation
  • Spine problems
  • Arthritis, causing pain during squats
  • Some drugs, such as anesthetics
  • Tumors
  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Megacolon

Possible Causes of Your Cat’s Constipation

If the cat’s feces are small, hard and dry, the possible causes might be dehydration, megacolon or dietary issues.

If the feces are small, hard and dry with a lot of hair, then constipation could’ve been caused by ingesting hairballs and overgrooming. If the feces are thin and ribbon-like, then the cause might be colon problems, such as tumors.

Cat using toilet, cat in litter box, for pooping or urinate, pooping in clean sand toilet. Cleaning cat litter box. A cat looking at her own poop in the blue litter box. Kitty litter. Cat at home.

How Can You Prevent and Treat Your Cat’s Constipation?

Treatment of your cat’s constipation depends on the underlying causes and severity of the condition.

Here’s some good news. If your cat’s constipation is mild and occasional, you can easily prevent and treat your cat’s constipation by following the below 4 tips at the comfort of your home:

Get Creative at Increasing Your Cat’s Water Intake

Try scattering several water bowls in different locations around the house. You’d be surprised at how much the water’s location might affect your cat’s drinking habits. You can also try different bowls to find out your cat’s preferences. You’d be amazed to know that, just like you’d prefer to drink water out of a specific glass, your cat may very well prefer a certain bowl for drinking water.

Embrace your cat’s unusual drinking habits. If you notice that your cat prefers to drink out of a dripping faucet than out of a bowl, leave the faucet running for a few minutes for your cat before you turn it off.

If you don’t already have one, try getting a cat water fountain. Drinking fountains are fun and appealing to most cats.

Using ice cubes keeps the water cold longer and more fun for the cat to play with. You can also flavor the water with low sodium tuna or clam juice.

You may also wish to consider switching from dry food to canned wet food, however, you need to keep in mind the cat’s preference to ensure the cat maintains its healthy weight. Adding water or low sodium chicken broth to canned food will also introduce more fluid and flavor.

Increase Exercise

One good idea to get your cat moving is introducing a playmate. Maybe one of your friends’ cats would be interested in a play date. You may also wish to consider getting a second cat. It’s always easier to get two cats at the same time than to introduce a second cat later, but if they do get along, they’d get a lot of exercise from chasing and wrestling.

To make playing more exciting, get a cat tower or a cat tree. The multi-tiered tower or tree provides plenty of exercise and can be found online or in pet stores.

Get your cat plenty of toys and leave them scattered around the house to encourage your cat to play. Toys can be inexpensive items such as small balls or simple household items.

Have fun playing with your cat. You can both get tons of exercise by:

  • Bouncing a ball in a carton box or a sink and watch your cat get crazy chasing the ball.
  • Using a laser pointer to get the cat running after the beams, but avoid pointing it directly into the cat’s eyes.
  • Get a wand or fish pole style toy with a mouse or a feather at the far end, which is so much fun and satisfying for your cat’s hunting instincts.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

The best nutrition for cats is moisture and protein-rich meals. Your cat is an obligate carnivore, therefore, it needs a diet of quality source protein, which would replicate what the cat would eat in the wild.

Canned food is generally preferred over dry food.  Canned food has moisture, which would increase the cat’s water intake. It also has less carbohydrates, which would help control feline obesity.

house-trained siamese cat sitting in cat toilet or kitty litter box

If you wish to try home-cooked meals for your cat, your meals should include protein and amino acids from meat or fish, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and water. A small portion of carbohydrates is also needed for energy.

Add More Fiber to the Cat’s Diet

Although a cat’s diet needs to be protein-based, it still needs some fiber to help move its bowels. Fiber comes from plants such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some ideas to introduce fiber into your cat’s diet:

  • Wheat bran. You can add 1 teaspoon to your cat’s food every day.
  • You can add an eighth of a teaspoon of Psyllium fiber powder to your cat’s food daily.
  • Canned or cooked fresh pumpkin. You can add 1 teaspoon to the cat’s meal daily. Avoid using pumpkin pie filling which has added sugar; it’s better to go for the pure canned pumpkin.
  • Strained Prunes. You may add 1 teaspoon to your cat’s food, divided over two meals
  • Mashed cooked carrots or peas. You may add 1 teaspoon to your cat’s food, divided over two meals.

When Do You Need to See the Vet?

If your cat’s constipation persists for more than 48 hours, you should seek medical treatment. The vet can offer different interventions, according to the severity of the condition and underlying causes:

For mild constipation, your vet may prescribe over the counter laxatives, stool softeners, and motility modifiers. One option is lactulose, a synthetic sugar that helps extract water from the body and into the colon to help treat constipation.

Manual examination of the abdomen may be used to detect feces in the intestines. In the case of overweight cats, manual examination may not be feasible due to abdominal fat.

An X-ray would be used instead to assess the condition of the colon. In severe cases, an enema is administered or, under anesthesia, manual removal of feces may be recommended.

Some cases would require an endoscopic exam, where a tube with a camera is inserted into the rectum so the vet can examine the colon for any abnormalities. A biopsy of the tissue may also be administered to detect any diseases. Blood tests could also be used to identify any underlying diseases causing dehydration.

In the case of kidney disease-causing dehydration, fluid therapy may help. For Arthritis, the vet may subscribe joint supplements or pain medication.

Cats diagnosed with a Megacolon may undergo a surgical procedure to remove the permanently damaged sections of the colon. This procedure may lead to chronic diarrhea but, nonetheless, is life-saving for cats with this condition.

Final Words

With some attention to your cat’s behavior and simple lifestyle changes such as a healthy, fiber-rich diet, a lot of playtime and multiple freshwater resources, you can keep your furry feline healthy, happy and constipation- free.

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