Being familiar with your cat’s pooping habits shows that you care. And if you know what to expect when you regularly clean out the litter box, then you would know when something’s not right about your cat’s bowel movements. How can you tell if your cat is constipated and what should you do about it?
A constipated cat is an unhappy cat
You’d be unhappy, too, if you’re always straining to poop. If your pet has not produced any poop for more than 24 hours, she’s probably constipated.
Constipation occurs when fecal matter accumulates in the colon, instead of being passed smoothly. As a result, your cat defecates less frequently or only very small amounts. As the feces stays longer in the large intestine, more water is drawn out of it which makes it dry, hard, and more difficult to pass.
A constipated cat will strain as it attempts to poop, and she will experience some abdominal pain. The excessive straining forces the hard fecal mass down the colon and sometimes causes small tearing inside the anal canal, so there may be a bit of blood in the poop. Your cat may also pass small amounts of watery poop, which you should not mistake for diarrhea. This happens when the straining causes the liquid feces to squeeze around the hardened fecal matter.
If your cat likes to spend a lot of time outdoors and do her business in a more natural setting, however, you might be less acquainted with her bathroom routine. You may not know right away that your furry friend is constipated.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should keep a closer eye on your cat’s bowel movements so you can immediately address the problem:
- Straining, which may be accompanied by crying, when defecating.
- Hunched posture when trying to poop.
- Inability to pass poop after making an attempt in the litter box.
- The poop is hard, dry, and small.
- Tense abdomen.
- Your cat may also be lethargic, have a poor appetite, experience abdominal pain, or suffer from abdominal distention and/or vomiting.
What causes constipation in cats?
As your cat reaches middle age and as she gets older, she may become increasingly prone to constipation. Other causes of constipation include:
- Dehydration; in older cats, this is usually associated with kidney disease.
- Hairball, especially if your cat is a long-haired breed.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Too little or too much fiber in the diet.
- Avoidance of litter tray, often because the litterbox needs to be changed or cleaned.
- A side effect of some medications.
- Ingestion of a foreign body which causes intestinal obstruction.
- Pelvic tumor.
- Nerve disorder.
If your cat experiences constipation regularly and you cannot identify the cause, have her checked by a vet.
How to treat constipation at home
For mild constipation, you can help your cat return to her normal bathroom routine by following some simple home remedies.
- Keep your cat well-hydrated throughout the day. Place water bowls all over the house. If you notice your cat changing her mind about drinking, the water bowl may be too small and the sides are touching her whiskers when she tries to drink - some cats do not like this. Simply switch to wide water bowls. If your cat prefers running water, you can leave the tap in the sink dripping; you’ll have to wait until she drinks so you can close the tap again. You’ll also have to do this regularly while you normalize your pet’s bowel movements. Or you can buy a small water fountain; just remember to keep it clean. Additionally, you can temporarily switch your cat to a wet diet.
- Adjust her fiber intake accordingly. If too much fiber in her diet is the cause of her constipation, give her less while you’re trying to normalize her bowel movements; if too little fiber is the cause, increase it. Consult your vet if you’re not sure.
- Especially if your cat is sedentary, you should schedule playtime with your feline friend to get her moving more. The increased activity can help stimulate the movement of her bowels in the large intestine.
When should you take your cat to the vet?
If your cat’s constipation is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain, if the constipation lasts for more than a few days, or if you’re simply at a loss as to what to do, take your pet to the vet.
Your vet will perform a physical exam, which may include palpation of her abdomen if your cat is not too agitated or not obese. Abdominal and pelvic x-rays may also be required to accurately determine the underlying cause of the constipation, which could be a colonic stricture, pelvic injury, or tumor.
Some of the treatments your vet may prescribe include:
- Dietary changes
- Probiotics, stool softeners, or laxatives
- Trimming your cat’s hair regularly, if you have a long-haired breed and a hairball is identified as the culprit.
- An enema
- Manual extraction of feces by your vet which will involve administration of a sedative or an anesthetic.
- Intravenous fluid, if your cat is severely dehydrated
- Surgery, if there is intestinal obstruction or a tumor is detected.
Do not attempt to treat your cat with human medications, laxatives, or herbal remedies without the advice of your veterinarian as you will be risking toxicity and other serious complications.
Cat Constipation - Final Thoughts
As long as it’s mild, your cat’s constipation can be easily managed at home with increased water intake, a simple dietary change, and increased activity. But if her condition does not improve after a few days, you should have her checked by a vet as soon as possible.
Additionally, always keep her litterbox clean to encourage frequent and regular bowel movements. If your cat is prone to hairballs, keep her hair trimmed and talk to your vet about hairball diets or remedies. You may also explore dietary changes you can make to support your cat’s digestive health.