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What does black poop in cats mean?

Black cat pooping advice

The regular colour of cat poop is brown

© Shutterstock

All cats occasionally produce slightly different coloured poop, but if it's black or bloody, it could be a sign that your pet has melena.

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

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If you cat's poop has started to show up as black in the cat litter, there's a good chance that this is due to bleeding in your pet. This is known as melena and it's usually caused by something else going wrong in your cat. Read on to find out how to solve this problem for your cat.

Why is my cat’s poop black?

Melena or black tarry poop is usually caused by bleeding in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, or if large amounts of blood have been swallowed – this is usually from the mouth or respiratory tract. This may be the stomach or the first section of the intestines. Melena is a symptom that something is wrong.

What colour should a cat’s poop be?

Most cat poop is brown (and smelly). Varying shades of brown are normal. If your cat is an indoor cat, you will probably be able to tell if your cat’s poop is their ‘normal’ colour. Occasionally this might be a little lighter or a little darker than normal – a day or two like this is normally nothing to worry about. If you notice blood, mucous, pale or black stools, it’s important to get your cat checked over by a vet. You could also take a sample of their poop with you for the check-up.

What causes melena in cats?

Melena is a symptom, not a condition, and can be caused by many different things. Anything that causes bleeding into the GI or gastrointestinal tract, or swallowing large amounts of blood could cause this. Conditions that may cause melena include:

●    Gastric (stomach) ulcers

●    Tumours in the GI tract

●    Infectious disease – bacterial, viral or internal parasite infections

●    Obstructions or foreign bodies in the GI tract

●    Toxicities e.g. anticoagulants such as rat poison

●    Trauma

●    Clotting disorders

●    Chronic kidney disease

If you think your cat has melena, speak to a vet as soon as you can, as many of these causes need urgent medical treatment.

What is melena in cats?

Melena is a term used to describe black, tarry poop. These may be firm or they may be loose. This type of poop is abnormal. It can be caused by bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract, or if your cat has swallowed a large amount of blood from their mouth or respiratory tract.

How do you treat melena in cats?

Melena isn’t a condition and is just a symptom of lots of different problems. To treat the melena, we need to find out the cause and treat this. It’s likely that a vet will need to do some tests. These may include blood tests, x-rays or ultrasound scans, or faecal samples. The treatment will depend on the findings of these tests, but the good news is that lots of conditions that cause melena are treatable.

What causes melena stools?

Lots of different problems can cause melena. Most involve either the gastrointestinal tract (stomach or intestines) or the respiratory tract. If there is bleeding somewhere in your cat’s mouth, nose, pharynx or larynx, your cat may swallow lots of blood, causing the black tarry stools. Any condition causing bleeding into the GI tract can cause melena.

When should I go to the vet?

If you notice melena or dark stools in your cat’s litter box, seek veterinary advice as soon as you can. Things that cause this problem can be serious and need treatment urgently. If you notice blood, mucous or pale stools, this can be another sign your cat needs to see the vet. The occasional paler or odd-coloured stool can be nothing to worry about, but if this happens regularly or consistently it could be a sign of illness.

Some links in this article will redirect you to My Family Pet website. 

Some links in this article will redirect you to My Family Pet website.

Ask for advice

Worried about your pet?

Speak to a qualified vet online, from the comfort of your home