We all know litter boxes are the least fun part of pet ownership. You don’t want to spend more time around your cat’s smelly stool than you have to. But as you’re cleaning the box, it’s worth taking the extra few seconds to take a good look at your cat’s stool. Being aware of what’s normal—and what isn’t—might save your cat’s life one day or at the very least let you know if your cat needs a change in diet.
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Importance of Checking Cat Poop
It’s a little smelly and a little uncomfortable, but checking your cat’s poop can tell you a lot about its diet and health. The color, consistency, and frequency of bowel movements all say a lot about whether your cat is healthy and happy.
One reason to check your cat’s poop is to see if your cat’s diet is working well. If your cat constantly has slightly runny stool or other minor issues that aren’t warranting a vet trip, there’s a good chance that it could use a new food. You might want to try switching your cat’s food for a different brand to see if that makes a difference.
The bigger reason to check for changes in poop is because that is often the first or only sign of major problems. For example, black, sticky poop is caused by bleeding in your cat’s stomach or upper intestine. This can have quite a few causes, but no matter what the cause, it warrants a veterinarian check up. If your cat is suffering from internal bleeding, getting to a vet right away might save your cat’s life. Other changes in color and consistency might indicate illnesses or parasites that you wouldn’t catch otherwise.
Cat Poop Chart
|Brown, sausage-shaped poop||Normal|
|Slightly runny poop||May indicate mild digestive upset or change in diet.|
|Watery poop||Diarrhea—contact your vet if it lasts longer than two days or your cat has other symptoms.|
|Hard, small balls of feces||Indicates constipation—may be due to dehydration, intestinal blockage, or various illnesses. Contact your vet if it lasts longer than two days or your cat has other symptoms.|
|Thin, ribbon-like poop||Can indicate colon issues—contact vet to diagnose.|
|Black, tarry poop||Indicates intestinal bleeding. Contact your vet immediately.|
|Red in poop||May be caused by diet or lower GI tract bleeding. Contact the vet if it happens multiple times.|
|Green or yellow poop||May be caused by diet or digestive problems. Contact a vet immediately.|
|Hair in poop||Some hair in poop is normal|
|White spots in poop||Might indicate tapeworms or other parasites. Schedule a vet appointment.|
|Bowel movements more than twice a day||Can signal gastrointestinal problems—schedule a vet appointment.|
|No bowel movements for 2+ days||Can signal constipation. Contact the vet if it occurs regularly.|
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should I Go to a Vet?
If your cat has odd poop, there might be something wrong, but it is hard to know if you have to go to a vet right away. You should make an urgent vet trip if your cat has black, sticky poop that looks like tar. This is a sign that your cat is suffering from internal bleeding in its stomach or upper intestines and could be life-threatening. If your cat’s poop suddenly changes to yellow or green and your cat hasn’t ingested anything different, that can also be worth a call to the vet. Finally, if your cat has other symptoms such as lethargy, shaking, or difficulty breathing along with odd poop, there might be something seriously wrong.
If your cat has other problems with their poop, like constipation or diarrhea, it probably isn’t an emergency. This might be a sign of a mild stomach upset that will resolve itself within two days. However, if any changes in poop last for longer than two days, it’s best to call a vet and schedule an appointment in case it is a sign of a more serious problem.
How Often Should I Clean My Litter Box?
When it comes to litter box cleaning, more is better. Scooping out your litter box every day will help you catch problems quickly and keep the box from getting too stinky. If the box is someplace you pass regularly, get into the habit of checking it whenever you pass by. Get rid of any clumps of litter and any poop left in the box.
Every so often, you’ll also want to change out the litter entirely. We recommend that you change it out every two to three weeks in a single-cat household and more regularly if you own multiple cats.
How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?
Some cats are pickier than others, but if your cat has frequent accidents outside the litter box, it’s possible that you aren’t giving them enough space or removing deposits frequently enough. Sometimes one cat will be happy with only one litter box, while others might prefer two. If you have multiple cats, the best rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats you have. This will give your cats plenty of space to do their business and feel clean in the process.
What Should I Do to Help My Cat?
Although you shouldn’t try to treat problems yourself, proper diet and hydration will help set your cat up for health. Your vet can help make recommendations and check for physical problems.
Proper nutrition is key to pet food. If you are seeing mild pet problems, light, slightly soft stool or occasional constipation, a change of food might be a good idea. Always change your cat’s food gradually—start by giving your cat 75% old food to 25% new, and then half and half, and so on. Look for cat foods with plenty of protein, high fiber content, and healthy whole grains.
Some cat foods are marketed toward “sensitive stomach” cats. Occasionally, cats will have special dietary needs such as allergies or intolerances that might cause reactions to one brand of food but not another. Along with food, make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water. If you notice hard, dry poop, check if your cat is drinking enough water.
It’s not the most glamorous job, but dealing with poop is a key part of pet ownership. Whether your pet’s poop is runny, clumpy, or oddly colored, noticing any change might save your cat’s life. Some types of poop can tell you something is a little bit out of the ordinary, and others can alert you to serious problems. So next time you clean the litter box, take a look—you’re demonstrating your love in a way that few pet owners will.
You might also like:
- Do Cats Poop Out of Spite? Cat Behavior Explained
- Reasons Your Cat Doesn’t Cover Their Poop & How to Fix It
Featured Image Credit: jamesjoong, Shutterstock