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What should I feed a cat with diarrhoea?

Grey cat in front of food bowl advice

If your cat has mild diarrhoea, continue feeding their regular diet.

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Whether your cat has mild or more serious diarrhoea is what will determine your cat's diet during this period.

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Updated on the 12/08/2020, 10:39

If your cat has mild diarrhoea but appears bright and otherwise well, including normal thirst and appetite, then this is likely to clear up on its own within a few days. You can follow the guidelines explained here for what to feed your cat during this period. But if the diarrhoea has not resolved after a week or your cat develops other symptoms, you should seek veterinary advice.

What food should I give a cat with diarrhoea?

With mild diarrhoea, it is usually best to continue feeding your cat its normal diet. This is because a change in diet can actually make diarrhoea worse, as it affects their gut biome. You can otherwise opt for a ‘sensitive’ diet for a few days. This diet is designed to be gentle on the gastrointestinal tract. Generally, a wet food is best as this helps to keep your cat hydrated – especially important because of the increased fluid loss from the diarrhoea. A home-made alternative such as bland boiled chicken or white fish can also help, and the water used to cook these can be given to cats to encourage fluid intake.

Do not use any oil or seasoning when cooking food for your cat. Remember that a home-made diet is not nutritionally balanced, and so it is inappropriate to feed them this for more than a few days. If you do decide to switch diets, their usual food will need to be gradually reintroduced once the diarrhoea resolves. Mixing the two foods for a few days helps with this transition.

Why does my indoor cat have diarrhoea?

There are many causes of diarrhoea in cats, most of which can affect indoor pets. Although these cats don't directly come into contact with pets from other households, some infectious diseases can be carried into the house on our clothes or shoes.

There is also the risk of zoonotic infections, these are diseases that can be passed between humans and animals. Your cat can pick up stomach bugs from their food, particularly from home-made or raw diets. Your cat may have a non-infectious cause of diarrhoea, including a dietary intolerance or stress. Food allergies in cats often develop at around 4-5 years old. This means that they can become allergic to a diet that they have been fed for a number of years.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk    

How do you get rid of diarrhoea in a cat?

Persistent diarrhoea may benefit from an easily digestible ‘sensitive’ diet, which will often be a wet food. You should be able to source an appropriate option from the local vet clinic. A vet may also advice the use of a probiotic and there is some evidence that these can help to correct imbalances in gut microorganisms. Other treatment options that a vet may recommend will depend on the suspected cause of the diarrhoea, but could include kaolin products (to firm the faeces), worming treatments, a diet trial or antibiotics.

Take extra care while cleaning litter trays in case the diarrhoea is caused by an infectious agent that can spread to people. Pregnant women are at particular risk from catching a parasite called toxoplasma, even from normal cat faeces, and are advised to avoid contact with litter trays and cat faeces.

Should I starve my cat if they have diarrhoea?

It is better not to starve a cat with diarrhoea. Although withholding food will reduce the quantity of faeces produced, it can delay healing and recovery, meaning that the episode of diarrhoea lingers for longer. Cats also get a lot of water from wet food, so if they are fed this as part of their usual diet they are at greater risk of dehydration, if this is cut out.

How long does cat diarrhoea last?

Most episodes of diarrhoea in cats will be mild and should resolve within a few days. If it lasts for more than a week, or your cat becomes more unwell during this period, speak to a vet. Your cat will need to be examined and may require investigations to check for an underlying cause.

When should I take my cat to the vet for diarrhoea?

If your cat has diarrhoea for a week or more, you should take them to the vet for a check-up. If they become unwell or are showing other symptoms sooner, then seek veterinary advice earlier. If possible, take a poo sample in a clean and sealed container with you to the appointment. If you do not have a suitable container, you should be able to pick one up from the practice in advance.

What should I ask a vet about the best nutrition plan for my cat with diarrhoea?

When you take your cat to the vet appointment, it is helpful to take along the packaging of any food or treats that you regularly feed them. You might also consider taking notes in the form of a food diary for a week, and record any changes to your cat’s diarrhoea during this period. You can ask the vet whether they recommend a diet trial or a therapeutic diet. You could also discuss whether feeding a probiotic may be beneficial for your pet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk