Constipation in cats is a relatively common issue. Care must be taken with home remedies, and a vet visit is often essential to determine the cause of the constipation. Keeping your cat in good health is vital to maintaining regular bowel movements. Keep an eye on your cat’s appetite, toileting, drinking and weight to ensure your cat is in the best physical condition. It's useful to know if your cat is more of a couch potato or an athlete. If you're concerned your cat might be constipated, read on for further information.
What is cat constipation?
Constipated felines are uncomfortable. Whether straining in the litter box, passing small hard nuggets of faeces or just not going to the toilet at all – constipation is a pain. Constipated cats might be sat for a long time in the tray, they might cry out or give up and pass nothing at all. Stools should be formed but not too firm, if your cat’s poop is hard and dry, it's likely a sign that they're bunged up. Constipation isn't uncommon among kittens and adult cats, but getting to the bottom of the problem is important.
Cats who haven't been to the toilet in over 24 hours might have a problem. Keeping up to date with your pet’s toilet habits can be difficult, especially if your cat usually does their business outside. If there's a change in your pet’s routine, and they're going less frequently than normal, then keep a close eye on what they're producing in the box.
What are the causes of cat constipation?
There are many reasons your cat might be constipated, the most common being dehydration. If your cat hasn't been eating as much wet food or has been drinking less, then it might be showing in their stools. Constipation can also be caused by both medical and behavioural problems.
Medical causes of constipation include:
- Dehydration: medical problems like chronic kidney disease, diabetes or vomiting can increase fluid losses.
- Reduced water intake: dental disease and pain, high salt diets, lack of access to water sources.
- Pain: problems posturing in the tray from osteoarthritis or trauma, anal gland infections or impactions.
- Blockages of the intestines: foreign bodies or masses in the intestines.
- Certain drugs or medications.
Other causes may include hairballs or hair in the gastrointestinal tract, low dietary fibre or a lack of exercise – lazy cats more commonly get constipated. Behavioural issues can play a role.
If your cat can't get to a tray, is sharing or the tray isn't clean enough, they might not want to use their toilet.
What are the symptoms of cat constipation?
Most cats will use the tray at least once a day. The smell of this is enough to get most owners to clean it out regularly, so you should notice a pattern in your cat's poop. Stools should be formed but not too firm, with no blood or mucous. If faeces are runny or small in size, or if there's fresh bloody streaks, it could be a sign of constipation. If there aren't any deposits, or if these are few and far between, there might be a problem. Other signs of constipation are:
- A tense abdomen or abdominal pain.
- Straining or crying when trying to pass faeces.
- Lack of appetite.
How do you treat constipation in cats?
A vet appointment is recommended prior to giving any home remedies. This is because some conditions causing constipation can require medical treatment, such as intravenous fluids or diagnosing an existing condition. If there's an obstruction in the intestines it can be dangerous to give any medication or home treatment without consulting a vet.
Mild constipation may be treatable at home with a few simple steps, but if this isn't helping dramatically then you must call a vet for assistance.
Increasing hydration is an easy way to help your cat’s bowels move beautifully. Ensure they have access to water at all times. It can help to have multiple water bowls present – lots of cats like to drink away from their food bowls, so try separating the two. Water fountains or running taps suit some cats, and may increase their drinking. Wet diets are another foolproof way to increase your pet's hydration. Wet pouches, which are mostly water, are another option, as most cats like this type of thing.
Help by playing with your cat
Increasing your cat's activity levels is another method for helping get their bowels back to normal – and should be fun for you and your pet. Teaser toys, laser pens and balls are all ways to get your pets moving. Gentle massage of your cat's tummy might help to alleviate some discomfort, but be careful you don't press too hard.
If you think your pet's diet may be low in fibre, speak to a vet or veterinary nurse about how you can improve their diet – and hopefully their toileting.
What are the best home remedies for a cat with constipation?
Pumpkin puree can be used in small amounts as a natural laxative – home cooked or ready-made from the supermarket can be effective to restore your cat's natural rhythm. But be careful with store-bought purees – make sure all the ingredients are safe for cats. Most cat's won't enjoy pumpkin alone, so it might be easier to mix it in with their favourite food or treats.
Products like olive oil aren't safe to add into your cat's diet. Never do this without consulting a vet, as high-fat diets can be dangerous for cats. Cats might love butter as an unhealthy treat, but it won't cure constipation. As greasy as it is, it won't lubricate a firm stool. Fish oils might help with protection of joints, but again they're another home remedy that's unlikely to make a difference to a bunged-up kitty.
For mild cases, dietary management may be all that's needed. Once adequately hydrated and with the correct toilet environment, your cat's toilet habits may get back to normal.
When should I go to a vet?
If you've noticed changes in your cat's toileting routine, or if their stools aren't quite right, it's time to see a vet. Monitoring what's in the tray is a good idea to work out what's normal. If none of the recommended home treatments make a difference quickly, it may be time for medical intervention.
If constipation isn't resolving rapidly, the vet will need to try to find the cause of this. Most cats just need some medication, but other cats may need enemas or even surgery if there's a blockage.