A cat becomes constipated for many reasons, such as hairballs, dehydration, or even a lack of exercise. Ingesting foreign objects, string, bones, and other objects can result in a colon blockage which will prevent cats from eliminating. Additionally, too little fiber can also cause constipation. If you’ve noticed hard stools or no feces in their litter box and want to know what to give a constipated cat, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll go over the basics of cat constipation and what over the counter products and remedies you can try that can provide relief and promote bowel regularity in cats.
Signs and Symptoms of Constipation in Cats
- One of the biggest cat constipation signs and symptoms is straining in the litter box. A feline that’s mildly constipated will visit their litter pan frequently. They may end up going, but the results are small, pebble-like pieces of stool or rock-hard stools. You may even see a small amount of bloody diarrhea. Cats may even inappropriately defecate outside of the litter box. why? Because a feline will link the pain, hard stools, and the inability to poop with their litter pan, believing their litter pan is to blame.
- Another common sign of cat constipation is a lack of feces in their litter pan when you go to clean it.
- If your cat is constipated, they may refuse food at this time, since they’re bloated in their abdominal region and are uncomfortable. If they are impacted, cats may also deal with bouts of diarrhea. This can turn into a serious health issue if not treated right away.
- Weight loss can also indicate your cat is struggling with issues with their digestive system or an underlying medical issue. Because of this, a visit to the vet’s office is recommended for chronic cases.
So, what can you do to help to get things moving again?
Fortunately, there are several remedies you can use to treat your cat’s constipation. However, if you’ve had no success, or you’ve found that your cat is having repeat issues with constipation, then it’s time to contact your veterinarian.
Below, I’ll cover the steps you should take and the treatments available, to provide relief if your cat’s constipation is ongoing.
What to Give a Constipated Cat
There are many reasons why a cat can have trouble pooping. Fortunately, there are several ways you can treat it, such as administering a laxative or stool softener, just make sure it’s designed for feline use. Keep an eye out for any side effects, such as diarrhea, bloating, or a lack of appetite.
You can also try adding more fiber to their diet using granules, pumpkin, or a natural bran cereal.
There are also special high fiber pet foods available for cats who have ongoing issues with constipation.
Cats that are severely constipated may require a trip to the veterinarian where they will receive an enema or they may need to have the compacted feces evacuated manually. If a cat has a bowel obstruction caused by bones or a foreign object, this can require surgery.
Fiber for Cat Constipation
Fiber is very important to cats. This is a substance that’s usually lacking in most pet diets. Try adding a teaspoon of pumpkin to their food daily. Keep in mind, too much pumpkin can lead to loose stool or diarrhea, so carefully measure the pumpkin puree before giving. You can also add powdered supplements such as Miralax or Metamucil to anything including their usual food, treats, or even their water. Adding fiber to your cat’s diet can help with regulating their bowel movements.
Low Fiber Diet
On the other hand, a diet that’s too high in fiber can also cause digestive issues. If you’ve tried a high fiber diet and it’s caused diarrhea or loose stools, then you may need to switch to a low fiber diet.
Ginger is a great herbal remedy you can use to treat constipation. It can be mixed directly into their food, once daily to help with setting their digestive tract back in motion.
Licorice has natural laxative properties. When given once daily, licorice can provide instant relief.
Aloe Vera Juice
Use half a teaspoon of aloe vera juice for milder cases of constipation. However, you’ll need to be careful not to overdo it since too much aloe vera juice can result in diarrhea.
If the reason behind your cat’s ongoing bathroom problems is dehydration, then switch to wet cat food, which consists of seventy to eighty percent moisture.
Lubricant type laxative gels are effective and safe and can be used to treat or prevent constipation in cats. Do not use olive oil or mineral oil since both can lead to digestive upset.
Increasing the good bacteria in a cat’s gut can be helpful when it comes to treating constipation or other digestive issues. Try mixing probiotics in your cat’s food once daily for two weeks.
Remove Any Possible Causes of Constipation
Below, you’ll find some tips on how you can help reduce or eliminate issues with constipation in the future.
If your cat is prone to hairballs and/or they have a long coat, try brushing them daily to remove the hair that’s making its way to their digestive tract. You can also switch to a special hairball formula cat food or administer hairball medication.
A Cleaner Litter Box
Dirty litter boxes can result in pooping problems in cats since some cats will hold their bowel movements if their litter box is dirty. Obviously, this can result in constipation. Make more of an effort to clean their litter box one to two times daily, or add another litter box to the home.
Increase Water Consumption
If your cat is constipated, in many cases, fluid therapy is the answer. Low water intake is one of the most common causes of constipation.
Place several water bowls around the house and change the water daily. The goal is to significantly increase your cat’s water intake. Many cats will refuse to drink water that’s stale, which can result in dehydration.
A sedentary pet can also become constipated. No exercise means that their muscles are not working in the colon, which can result in all sorts of problems. You can buy a cat wheel, offer more toys, and spend more time playing and interacting with your pet to increase their activity level.
An overweight cat is more likely to struggle with ongoing constipation. You can reduce your feline’s weight by increasing exercise, cutting back on treats, and switching to a weight management cat food.
As pet parents, we all hope bowel issues will resolve themselves on their own, but in some cases, you will need to seek medical attention for a professional diagnosis. If your cat is experiencing severe abdominal discomfort, your vet may need to run some diagnostic tests to check their stool, blood count, and determine the exact diagnosis. With ongoing constipation, an enema may be required. Fortunately, this is a fairly routine procedure.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
What is Megacolon?
Megacolon is one of the most common health problems in middle aged cats. This kind of health issue involves the muscles in the colonic wall. These muscles are not able to contract if the nerves in the colon do not function properly. When this occurs, the muscles can become stretched out, causing an abnormal colon shape and extreme discomfort. This enlarged colon may have a diameter that’s four times that of a normal feline. This causes fecal matter to accumulate in the distended colon, which results in severe constipation. A cat will be unable to poop without medical intervention. Injuries to the spinal cord, hairballs, foreign bodies, tumors, and mechanical obstruction are common causes. A vet may recommend several treatments including a high fiber diet, colon wall stimulants, stool softeners, or laxatives before recommending surgery.
Signs of megacolon include:
- Straining to poop
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBD is caused by a reaction to chronic irritation to the intestines or stomach. Flare ups are often caused by stress or certain foods, inflammation is the body’s natural response to foreign substances or an injury. The GI tract thickens as inflammatory cells invade. This thickening of the intestines impacts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and move food through the digestive tract.
IBD is often diagnosed in cats ages five to twelve years old. Signs of IBD include chronic vomiting, trouble defecating, and chronic diarrhea. Some cats diagnosed with this condition respond well to a change in diet, which can help minimize inflammation. A high fiber diet can also be beneficial. Prescription medications may be needed for treatment if a change in diet is not successful.
Nerve disease or a spinal cord injury can damage nerves that control the lower part of the cat’s colon. This is the area of the body that sends waste out. This condition can impact the body’s ability to get rid of and store waste. In most cases, this condition will lead to bowel accidents and constipation.
When to Call Your Veterinarian
You can reasonably treat an otherwise healthy cat who is struggling to poop, at home. However, there may be times when you need advice, or an appointment with your veterinarian for professional help and treatment. A trip to the vet may be needed to rule out health issues, and diseases that can result in chronic issues such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Call the veterinarian for advice if your cat is exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
- The cat has not had a bowel movement in three days or more
- Your cat is vomiting
- Refusal to eat for over twenty-hours
- Your cat is lethargic
- You find bloody poop or diarrhea in the litter box or around the home
How to Give Your Cat a Pill
If you’ve made an appointment with your veterinarian to determine what’s causing your cat’s chronic constipation, he or she may prescribe medication to administer for one to two weeks. If you have a senior cat, you may need to give this medication every day, indefinitely. If your cat has trouble taking medication and you don’t know how to give a cat a pill without setting them off, below, you’ll find some tips and tricks that can make this process easier on you and less stressful for your cat:
- Use a pill shooter. These devices make the process fast and simple. You’ll load up the pill shooter and stick it in your cat’s mouth as you depress the tool, causing it to shoot the pill to the back of your cat’s throat. Of course, you’ll need to thoroughly check your cat’s mouth to make sure it went down their throat and they’re not trying to cheek it.
- You can also try wrapping your cat in a towel and administering the pill by hand. However, if your cat panics and scratches when it’s medication time, a pill shooter is a faster, simpler option and one that is painless for both of you.
- If you’re still having trouble administering medication, or you’ve found spit up pills around the home, speak with your veterinarian about a medication change. They may agree that a liquid form of medication, or a powder that can be added to your pet’s food or water, may be a more effective option.
Now that you know what you can give your cat for constipation, you can easily treat mild to moderate cases of constipation, at home. However, if this is an ongoing problem, or your cat is displaying serious symptoms, it’s time to call the vet. A vet can examine your cat and run some tests to determine the cause of constipation. If your vet has been unable to determine the root cause, then your vet may recommend making some simple changes to their environment or food. Remember, it’s important to always monitor your cat’s bathroom habits to ensure they’re healthy and not suffering from this type of ongoing medical problem.