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Cat Diarrhea: What Steps Should You Take?

You are cleaning out the cat litter and notice that kitty’s poop is watery. When should you be concerned when your cat has diarrhea? What steps should you take to address the condition? And when should you take your feline friend to the vet? Read on to learn more. 

Cat Diarrhea: What Steps Should You Take?

Knowing when your cat has diarrhea

Firstly, you should be able to identify when your cat has diarrhea, and this means being familiar with what normal cat poop should look like. This means taking a closer look at the litter box when it’s time to clean it out. 

Healthy cat poop should more or less have the consistency and texture of modelling clay - not soft, not hard, but somewhere in the middle. It should hold its shape which should be long and cylindrical, like a small branch. The color should be dark brown like milk chocolate, but not too dark like dark chocolate. 

If you notice any of the following symptoms, your cat is suffering from diarrhea:

  • Poop that does not hold its shape and is softer, looser, or more watery than normal. 
  • More frequent defecation. 
  • Having accidents around the house. 
  • Straining when pooping. 
  • Mucus, blood, or worms in the stool. 
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Abdominal pain. 
  • Nausea or vomiting. 
  • Signs of lethargy or weakness. 
  • Weight loss

Take note of these two general types of diarrhea:

  • eSmall bowel diarrhea involves the small intestine and is characterized by large volumes of loose or watery diarrhea. This makes kitty more susceptible to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. 
  • Large bowel diarrhea involves the lower/large intestine and is characterized by straining and discomfort when pooping. Kitty can only usually pass small amounts of stool, which may be soft, like mucus, or bloody.

If your cat poops outside you may not realize that she has diarrhea until she manifests other physical symptoms; if she consistently uses her litter box but covers up her poop, you’ll most likely only discover her loose stools when you change her litter. 

Refer to the illustration below to help you confirm that your cat has the runs. 

Cat Diarrhea: What Steps Should You Take?

If kitty has diarrhea but is still her usual self and still has a healthy appetite, you can wait a day or two to see if the diarrhea goes away on its own. If you do notice any of the more concerning symptoms mentioned above, you should have her checked by a vet at the soonest possible time.

Potential causes of your cat’s diarrhea

Just like humans, cats also suffer from the occasional upset stomach and pass loose stools a few times and then recover on their own. Your cat’s condition may be caused by any of the following, which would also determine the severity of the problem:

  • Eating spoiled food, garbage, or a rotten carcass
  • Poor nutrition
  • Abrupt change in their diet 
  • Food allergies
  • Overgrowth of gut bacteria
  • A viral or parasitic infection
  • Ingestion of household chemicals
  • Medications, such as antibiotics
  • Diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, liver disease, feline distemper, feline retroviruses, feline triaditis, or cancer
Cat Diarrhea: What Steps Should You Take?

What should you do when your cat has diarrhea?

More often than not, your cat’s bout of diarrhea will go away on its own after a day or two. If the diarrhea lasts more than a few days, with or without at-home treatment, and especially if kitty is also showing other symptoms, you should take her to the vet as soon as possible. Kittens and smaller cats have a much increased risk of dehydration when they have diarrhea so they should be seen by a vet for proper evaluation. 

At-home treatment for an otherwise healthy, adult cat includes:

  • Frequent hydration. 
  • Limiting feeding to small quantities of a bland and easily digestible diet such as boiled rice, pasta, or skinless chicken. 
  • Switching to a specially formulated diet to support your cat’s healthy gut bacteria. 

Closely monitor kitty’s behavior and keep an eye out for other symptoms. You should take a sample of your cat’s poop to show to the vet, and take note of the frequency of your cat’s diarrhea so you can inform your vet if the diarrhea does emergency medical attention. Your vet may prescribe antidiarrheal medication, dewormer, probiotics, or any combination of these, in addition to the at-home remedies mentioned above. 

Avoid giving kitty human medications for diarrhea, such as Imodium or kaopectate, because it can be tricky trying to figure out what dosage is safe for your cat’s treatment. If you do feel that she requires medication, consult your vet.

Managing your cat’s diarrhea - Final Thoughts

Cat Diarrhea: What Steps Should You Take?

As soon as you discover that your cat has loose stools, make sure she’s always hydrated and closely monitor her condition and take note of her bowel movements and the appearance of her poop over the course of the day. You can begin at-home treatment during the first day or even the following day if her poop remains soft or watery. 

If her diarrhea lasts longer or if she poops more than a few times a day, and especially if their other symptoms accompany her diarrhea, you should have her checked by a vet at the soonest possible time.