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How Long Does It Take for Cat Laxatives to Work?

You might have had to take laxatives for a bowel issue once or twice in your life. When taken with directions and guidance from a medical professional, laxatives can alleviate constipation. But do pets, like cats, need laxatives? Your cat may be prescribed laxatives for any number of reasons, from hairballs to constipation, leaving you wondering how long it should take your cat to see the effects. The good news is that a cat laxative generally only takes 1–2 days to work their way through a cat’s system.

However, each cat is different. Some cats may see relief in just hours, while others wait a day or two before the laxative works its magic. Continue reading to learn more about cat laxatives.

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How Do Laxatives Work?

The time that it takes for a laxative to work through the system is because of how laxatives work. Most laxatives draw water into the digestive tract to soften the stool and make it easier for the cat to pass.

However, your cat will have to wait for enough water to enter their intestines for relief. So, the time your cat has to wait will vary based on how long it takes for the stool to soften to a point where the body can pass it.

maine coon inside litter box
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, shutterstock

What Causes Constipation in Cats?

Constipation can occasionally happen whether a cat is healthy. Constipation is when the body cannot pass stool regularly. It can be caused by hard stool, large stool, or intestinal obstruction, among other problems, resulting in the cat passing only small pellets of stool or no stool at all.

Sometimes constipation can be caused by a refusal to use the litter box because the cat doesn’t like it. We’ve all had a picky cat who will refuse to use the litter box if the box is a little too far to the left. So, it should come as no surprise that issues with the litter box can cause your cat to develop constipation.

Another common cause of constipation in cats is not drinking enough water. This shouldn’t be surprising once you realize how laxatives work. Not drinking enough water can cause the stool to become hard and difficult or painful for the cat to pass.

Many diseases can also cause constipation in cats. For example, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes can all be underlying causes of constipation in cats

Lastly, you might see constipation in your cat if your cat is prone to gastrointestinal obstructions. Gastrointestinal obstruction is a blockage in the stomach or intestines preventing the cat’s digestive system from passing stool. This could be anything from an item they ingested by chance or even a hairball.

Russian Blue Cat Eating
Image Credit: Simon kadula_Shutterstock

How Many Days Can a Cat Go Without Pooping?

If you aren’t quite sure if your cat is constipated or not, ask yourself if it’s been more than 48 hours since your cat last relieved themselves. Cats shouldn’t go more than 48 hours without a bowel movement, and any amount of time longer than that is atypical.

If it’s been more than 48 hours since your cat has last pooped, it’s a good idea to get them to a veterinarian. A vet will be able to assess if there’s anything that needs to be addressed for your cat’s health.

Can Constipation Heal Itself?

In some cases, constipation has been known to clear up independently. However, it’s essential to recognize that constipation can be very dangerous for cats and fatal if the cat isn’t treated promptly.

Cat poops
Image Credit: Stefano Garau, Shutterstock

Can I Give My Cat Human Laxatives?

While Miralax can be prescribed for a cat by a veterinarian, you should never give your cat medication without talking to your vet about it first. Your veterinarian will be able to assess what medications are necessary for your cat and fine-tune the dosage to suit their body type.

Uneducated medical intervention can quickly go wrong and prove fatal, whether the patient is human or not. So, it’s best to have your cat seen by a veterinarian before you start giving them any medications.

Are There Home Remedies for Constipation in Cats?

There are several touted home remedies that you can give your cat to help stimulate their bowels and help them pass whatever’s in their stomach. Home treatments usually focus on lubricating the digestive tract and increasing water intake to soften stools.

These tactics can be used as a hold-over while waiting for your cat to see the veterinarian. But, of course, if their constipation is cleared up without the veterinarian, you can always cancel the appointment!

cat drinking water from fountain

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a popular home remedy for cat constipation. It lubricates the intestinal tract and acts as a stool softener by introducing extra liquids to the diet. You can introduce olive oil into your cat’s diet by adding it to their food. However, olive oil should never be forced down your cat’s throat or into their mouth.

When giving your cat olive oil, you’ll want to administer about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive oil into their food for them to eat. If you’re using an eyedropper, you’ll want to use five to ten drops of olive oil.

It’s crucial that you only use olive oil to solve occasional constipation. Chronic constipation should be treated only with guidance from a veterinarian, as this condition can be pretty serious.

giving cat cbd oil
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Increase Water Intake

You can help increase your cat’s water intake by making water more attractive to them. It’s important to remember that most of the cats we own today have some desert heritage, as the first known full domestication of cats was recorded in Egypt. However, historians dispute this and point to the fact that there is evidence that the people of the modern Mediterranean may have been in the process of taming wildcat kittens and even taking them on sea voyages at the same time.

Because of the desert heritage in their bloodline, cats tend to drink less water than other animals, humans included. So, if you have a cat that isn’t drinking enough water, you’ll want to introduce water to their diet in a way that will entice them to drink on their own.

One most appropriate approach is to introduce the water as part of their solid diet by feeding them an ample amount of wet food. Another option is to flavor water with tuna juice or other meat juices to make the water more tempting for the cat.

You can also leave a sink faucet dripping or slightly running; cats prefer to drink from running water sources if the behavior of their wild counterparts is anything to judge them based on. If you don’t like the idea of leaving your sink running, try getting a pet fountain! These delightful little mechanisms help provide your cat with running water day and night!

cat drinking water from fountain
Image Credit: Daria Kulkova, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Constipation can lead to some serious problems, and treating it properly is essential for your cat’s overall health. A trip to the vet and some medicine or home remedies (with guidance from your vet) should clear it up pretty quickly.

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Featured Image Credit: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

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