Everything you need to know about cat constipation

Cat in litter box advice
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Cat constipation happens. It’s a fact of life for a cat that doesn’t drink enough water. But when it lasts for more than a couple of days he’s going to need some help to get things moving again.

By Nick Whittle

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:28

Most cats will suffer with constipation at some time in their lives. Not having enough fluids on board is the main cause of constipation (like it is with us). In order for the poop to move through the bowel with ease it needs to contain water. When the cat is dehydrated, the poop stops moving. Simple!

Usually constipation is nothing to worry about. But a bout of constipation that lasts for over 48 hours is something to worry about, and a remedy of it will need to be sought.

We’ve come up with five homespun ways to try to cure your cat’s constipation, but remember: if none of these methods works you need to get your cat to a vet. 

Symptoms of cat constipation

How do you know if your cat is constipated? Cats are notoriously private about their business and as a result it is often quite difficult to tell what state your cat’s poop is in.

Here are some of the main symptoms of a constipated cat.

• No bowel movement for at least 48 hours
• Dry, hard faeces
• Defecating outside the litter box
• Decreased appetite; decreased thirst
• Straining when trying to pass poop
• Excessive vocalisation

Causes of a cat’s constipation

There are various causes of cat constipation. In order for us to treat the condition it is essential to know what kinds of problems may be causing it. After all, it may not be JUST lack of water that is causing your cat to be constipated.

Something more serious could be going on, such as:

Any disease or condition that causes dehydration: this includes chronic diseases that the cat may already suffer with such as kidney disease, diabetes or hypothyroidism.

Obesity: deposits of fat in the intestine of an overweight cat cause constipation.

Old age: aged cats find pooping more difficult especially if they suffer with arthritis. In cases such as this they tend to hold in the poop, which in turn causes constipation.

Megacolon: the inability of the cat’s large intestine (called the colon) to move processed food downwards. It is believed this problem is due to a weakening of the muscle wall of the colon. The slow passage of poop causes it to dry out.

Megacolon can result in overstretching and damage to the intestine.

Home remedies of cat constipation

If you are certain that the cause of your cat’s bout of constipation is benign - that is to say that it is not caused by any significant illness - you may want to try a home remedy.

But you must first be sure that the underlying problem is not something that requires urgent medical attention. Constipation that does not limit itself to about 48 hours requires medical evaluation and treatment.

Read on to discover five ways in which you can cure your cat’s constipation without medical treatment:

1.Drink more water

Try to help your cat to drink more water. You can tempt your cat to drink water if you flavour it with tuna juice, or offer her ice cubes. To change from dry kibble food to wet canned food is a proven way to increase water intake.

Behaviour: your cat may respond to perceived threats or environmental pressures by holding in his poop. He may even have had a previous experience of defecating that was unpleasant and this ‘memory’ prevents him from a repeat performance.

2. Increase fibre intake

Try offering your cat a fibre-rich diet over the course of the day. Mix two tablespoons of wheat bran into your cat’s food. Fibre increases the motility of the bowel and helps the bowel to absorb water from the rest of the body. Canned pumpkin is a recommended source of fibre.

3. Help your cat to move around

The motion of your cat’s body will stimulate his bowel movements. A sedentary cat is more prone to suffer with constipation than one that is active. However, the cause of the constipation may be an illness that prevents him from moving. In cases such as this other treatments must be considered.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil works as a lubricant and draws water into the bowel; a poop with more water in it will travel faster through the colon. Olive oil is a time-honoured way to cure constipation of cats and humans. Consider purified olive oil as a treatment of constipation and be wary of using other types of culinary oils.

5. Cat massage

Your massage of the cat’s belly is said to promote bowel movement and cure some types of constipation. But beware, while most cats enjoy a gentle massage of their head and neck they are not overly impressed by belly massages. You may need to start at his head first and gently make your way along his body.

Medical treatments for cat constipation

If none of these remedies works and after 48 hours your cat is still constipated you must seek veterinarian advice. To begin with, a vet will look at the potential causes of the problem and note other symptoms that may point to a more serious health concern. The vet’s treatment of the underlying cause will run in tandem with the immediate treatment of the constipation.

A vet’s treatment of constipation may include one or more of the following:

• Rehydration: Fluid therapy usually by intravenous line
• Removal of faeces: Using an enema or by manual extraction
• Administration of laxative: Laxatives to stimulate the lining of the intestine and increase motility

Cats are prone to constipation but that should not halt your efforts to prevent it from happening. Make sure your cat always has plenty of fresh water to drink, that his pooping environment is calm and quiet, and that he lives a full and active life. These simple measures will ensure that if constipation does occur it is not due to a failing on your part.