A constipated kitty is no fun. Usually, constipation is not a sign of something serious, though it can be very uncomfortable for the cat and can lead to secondary problems if it isn’t fixed. However, constipation can be a symptom of some health problems.
Unless you’re paying attention to your cat’s bowel movements, it can be challenging to figure out they’re constipated. Luckily, most cat owners scoop out the litter box regularly and will notice something is wrong based on the box’s contents.
If you’re concerned that your cat is constipated, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss some methods you can do to help and the underlying causes of constipation.
What Counts as Constipation?
Under normal circumstances, a cat should poop every 24-36 hours. If you scoop out the litterbox every day or two, there should be poop in it every time. There are some situations where a cat may poop less, though. For example, a sick cat that isn’t eating very well will probably not poop as much. If you know your cat is sick and feels under the weather, it may not be entirely unusual for them to poop less.
If your cat has gone 48-72 hours without a bowel movement, you may need to contact your vet. While constipation is usually caused by something minor, like not getting enough fiber, other serious health problems can also be the cause.
Other symptoms include dry, hard stools, having accidents outside of the litter box, and discomfort when using the litterbox. Your cat may cry or strain to no avail in the litterbox – or they may avoid it altogether.
If you notice that your cat is constipated, keep an eye out for other symptoms as well. Constipation can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious. Everyday things to watch for include:
- Decreased appetite
- Drinking more or less water
- Peeing more
- Weight loss
- Muscle loss
- Difficulty jumping up
- Walking stiffly
If you notice any of these symptoms, take note and contact your vet.
Causes of Constipation in Cats
While constipation can be treated by itself, it is sometimes caused by an underlying issue. This underlying problem may be something minor, but it can also be a severe health condition. Until the cause is treated, constipation will often reoccur. It is vital to figure out constipation’s actual cause, as you don’t want to ignore a serious, underlying illness unknowingly.
Many diseases that cause dehydration can further lead to constipation. Without enough water in their system, cats can have difficulty having a bowel movement. There are tons of reasons your cat may be dehydrated. New medication and lifestyle changes can cause dehydration, as can more severe problems.
Cats eating dry cat food are more likely to be dehydrated and maybe pre-dispositioned to constipation for this reason.
Constipation can also happen whenever the bowels aren’t moving correctly for whatever reason. For example, stress, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, nerve problems, and even some cancers can affect the bowels’ movement.
Some chronic diseases can also result in constipation. For instance, kidney diseases, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism will all cause constipation. Some physical injuries can cause constipation as well, including any damage to the anal sacs.
Some cats may purposefully not poop for one reason or another. This can be the result of stress. Pain from arthritis or anal gland issues can also make a cat refuse to use the litterbox, resulting in constipation. Cancers can cause pain as well, even if they don’t directly affect the bowels.
It is tough to diagnose constipation in cats at home. You will need a vet’s help. We highly recommend giving your vet a call if your cat is constipated. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to provide relief.
Methods to Relieve Cat Constipation
1. Increase Hydration
Constipation is usually caused by dehydration. Therefore, an easy and straightforward way to reduce constipation is to rehydrate your feline. Firstly, you should ensure that freshwater is available at all times. You may need to get a giant water bowl if your cat keeps running out before you can refill it.
The type of water bowl you use may also matter. For example, you may want to go with a wide bowl, as some cats don’t like their whiskers to touch the side of the bowl when they drink. Certain materials can make the water taste weird. The best materials are usually metal or ceramic. Some cats love running water. Luckily, there are cat water fountains available that work as drinking bowls.
You should place the water bowl away from the food and litter box. Both food and litter can easily make water dirty, which will discourage a cat from drinking.
Depending on your house size, you may want to consider getting more than one water bowl. Just like people, cats tend to drink more water if it is readily available.
In severe cases, you can also use commercial water flavorings that are designed for cats. These are best for cats with health problems that need to increase their water intake seriously. However, they can be suitable for cats with chronic constipation as well. Be sure to always leave a direct water source as well, just in case they don’t like the flavorings.
2. Switch to Wet Food
The easiest way to increase a cat’s water intake is to switch to wet food. In many cases, wet food is the healthiest option for cats with constipation, as it ensures they’re getting a certain amount of water every day – whether they drink it or not.
Most cats switch to wet food readily, as it smells and tastes better than dry food. However, some cats may be a bit picky if they’ve never had it. Either way, you should switch to the new food slowly, as suddenly switching can lead to digestive problems, which is the last thing you want when your cat is already having issues.
Even if you don’t wholly switch your cat to wet food right away, even the little bit of added moisture can go a long way. It may jump-start your cat’s thirst, which can encourage them to drink extra.
If your cat already eats wet food, you can increase their liquid intake by adding broth or water to their food. You can also choose a wet food containing more moisture, as one with added gravy or broth. However, if you’re already feeding your cat wet food, it is not likely that they are dehydrated, to begin with.
3. Change Their Diet
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous method. However, there is more to choosing good food for your feline than just switching to wet food. Even if your cat is currently eating wet food, you may want to switch it.
Food allergies are relatively common in cats, but they are under-diagnosed. For this reason, you may need to switch your cat’s diet to avoid allergies. Cats can only become allergic to the protein in their food. Therefore, if they’re eating chicken, consider switching them to food without chicken.
If you’re already switching your feline to wet food, it is easy to choose a food with a different protein source only. If your cat is already eating wet food, you may want to consider changing the “flavor.”
In general, we recommend switching foods often anyway. It provides a more diverse, complete diet for your feline and may help prevent food allergies.
4. Help Your Cat Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity can cause constipation as well, as it can make the intestines inflame. When they are inflamed, the bowels may not work correctly, which can cause constipation and other problems. If your cat is obese or overweight, work with your vet to bring your cat’s weight down to an average level. This can be done with the use of weight management food and exercise. You may also need to limit the amount of food your cat eats if you aren’t already.
Encouraging a cat to exercise is not as straightforward as taking a dog for a walk. However, increasing the amount of play and climbing available is an excellent place to start. You can also train a cat to walk on a leash, which can be a good weight loss strategy.
5. Decrease stress
Stressed cats may become constipated. There are many reasons your can may become anxious and stressed. Some are very obvious, like bringing a new cat into the home or moving. However, even slight disruptions to normal can cause stress and anxiety. For instance, if you’ve recently switched jobs, the schedule change can stress your cat out until they become used to the new routine.
Often, you may need to wait for your cat out. They will become used to the new normal eventually. However, you can make your cat more comfortable in the meantime. When possible, ease into the new changes to reduce your cat’s anxiety. You can also use products like calming cat pheromones and supplements.
If your cat has other symptoms of extreme stress, your vet may recommend medications. These include hiding, inappropriate urination, a change in appetite, lethargy, and excessive meowing.
6. Increase Their Fiber Intake
In some situations, your feline may need to increase their fiber intake to higher levels. Fiber is essential to a healthy gut biome. The good bacteria in your cat’s intestines eat fiber and rely on it to thrive. If your cat’s gut biome is not in good shape, they can become constipated. While cat foods should technically contain enough fiber, this isn’t always the case. Some cats need more fiber than others and may benefit from a high-fiber food.
There are also different types of fiber. Some types may work better than others. If your cat is commonly constipated, consider switching their food to something that contains more fiber or a different kind of fiber.
However, if your cat’s diet already contains plenty of fiber, this method probably won’t help. It is more of a fix to your cat’s underlying problem, not a sure way to reduce constipation in cats.
7. Add More Litter Boxes
Some cats are pretty picky about their litter boxes. They may only use a litterbox once before refusing to use it. If you don’t scoop it out, this can lead to constipation. This is especially true if you have multiple cats. Some cats will not use a litterbox that another cat has used.
The easiest thing, in this case, is to purchase more litterboxes. This will make all of them cleaner, which will encourage your cat to use them. Plus, more litterboxes will be available at any one time.
Like people, increased exercise can help with bowel movements as well. Your feline needs to move around regularly. It helps them stay healthy and avoid problems like constipation. If your cat isn’t getting enough exercise, it is also likely that they are also overweight, which can also cause obesity. It’s a double-edged sword.
Some cats are active all the time, as you probably know. However, others need a bit of encouragement. Some may need more encouragement than others. Often, many cats will become more active with a few new toys and some attention from you. However, others require profound encouragement. They may need more climbing structures, leash-trained, or guided around an obstacle course with their food.
9. Consider Over-the-Counter Laxatives
After speaking to your vet and trying other methods, you may want to consider an over-the-counter laxative. Of course, you should consult your vet before giving any new supplements or medications to your cat. Only try this method after speaking to your vet.
There are many different types of laxatives that work in many different ways. One of the most common (and safest) medications work by pulling more water into the intestines. This makes the stool easier to pass. However, this only works if your cat is drinking enough water. Otherwise, it might not work at all or can cause dehydration.
This sort of medication can also be dangerous for those with certain health conditions. If your cat already has trouble with water regulation, giving them something that requires water can lead to issues. This is why it is essential to talk to your vet.
Some laxatives are oil- or grease-based. However, these can affect your cat’s ability to absorb nutrients from their food, so you should only use them when it is essential. They should also be used under the direction of a vet, as they can cause nutritional problems quickly if something goes wrong.
10. See the Vet
We know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. However, sometimes, it is necessary to take your cat to the vet. Often, one of these methods will work and may reduce your cat’s constipation for a time. However, if there is a severe underlying condition, constipation will reoccur. This is a sign that something may be wrong and requires a vet visit.
For most medical conditions, time is of the essence. You will need to treat your cat quickly before the condition worsens, so it is best to err on the safe side. Constipation may seem minor – and it is. The problem is what is causing constipation, which might be something quite profound.
All cats may get stressed at some point, which can cause constipation. Some cats may merely not be drinking enough. Constipation isn’t always a sign of something serious.
There are many ways a vet can treat constipation. Often, the vet will focus on treating actual constipation first, even if it is a symptom of something more serious. This is because constipation can result in permanent damage to the colon. Many vets will use an enema, which will help the cat pass the stool. This is a vet job and should not be attempted at home.
Vets can also prescribe medications like laxatives. These are all temporary fixes in most situations, so the vet will also look at constipation’s underlying cause. Depending on your cat’s other symptoms, this may include a variety of different tests.
Visiting your vet may take time and money, but it is often the only way to treat reoccurring constipation. It is merely impossible to know what is causing your cat’s problem without running tests, which only your vet can do.
Cats and Constipation
Constipation is usually not severe by itself. However, it can cause issues if it goes on for too long. It can also indicate a more serious issue. It is essential to treat constipation directly, as well as the underlying cause. Often, a vet is required for this purpose.
However, for cats whose constipation is caused by dehydration, it may be fixed by switching their food and increasing their water intake. Food allergies can also be treated by switching your feline’s food, though you may need a vet’s help to treat constipation quickly. It can take a bit for allergens to get out of your pet’s system.
Featured Image: RJ22, Shutterstock
- What Counts as Constipation?
- Causes of Constipation in Cats
- Methods to Relieve Cat Constipation
- Cats and Constipation