If you're a pet owner, you know what it feels like to worry about your pet's health. And when it comes to cats, constipation can be difficult to spot if you're not sure what signs to look for. But no need to fret - thanks to an abundance of resources and knowledge available today, recognizing cat constipation symptoms is easier than ever.
Look out for changes in behaviour that could signal constipation.
Common signs of cat constipation include straining, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Pay attention to cats' eating and litter box habits, which could also indicate constipation.
If your cat shows constipation symptoms, take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Cat constipation treatment often includes fibre supplements, dietary changes, pre and probiotic supplements, exercise and hydration.
Cat Constipation Symptoms
Cat owners are likely to encounter constipation at some point, so it's helpful to be able to spot signals early on. Be on the lookout for possible signs such as vomiting or loss of appetite.
Other common symptoms of feline constipation include:
Straining to defecate with no results
Changes in bathroom habits (reduction or absence of bowel movements)
Pain or howling in the litter box
Abdominal pain and/or bloating
Cat constipation is often spotted when the cat deposits a dry stool in the litter box. A healthy stool is moist. If you find small, dry poops around your cat's litter box, this can be a sign that they're having trouble defecating.
Cats usually need to go number two at least once a day. If your furry friend hasn't done its business in the litter box after two or three days, it's time to seek treatment. Constipation is uncomfortable, even for cats, so finding relief for your pet is vital.
Causes of Constipation in Cats
Constipation is a prevalent issue that has a wide variety of causes. If your cat is experiencing the symptoms of constipation, you'll want to pinpoint the underlying cause.
Some causes of constipation include:
Ingestion of foreign objects or hairballs
Inflammatory bowel disease
Changes in routine and environment
Chronic kidney disease
- Excessive scratching
A proper diagnosis usually involves a physical exam at the veterinary clinic. Diagnosing constipation in overweight cats may be more difficult since the vet can have a harder time feeling impacted stool in the cat's colon. The vet may perform an x-ray to confirm.
While cat constipation can be a symptom of serious underlying or chronic diseases, like kidney disease or diabetes, this is not usually the case. In typical cases, mild changes in lifestyle and diet correct constipation in cats.
Image source: https://www.petcoach.co/cat/condition/constipation-in-cats
Methods for Relieving Constipation in Cats
As a pet owner, you have a range of options for managing constipation.
Change Your Cat's Diet
If you think a low-fibre diet caused your cat's constipation symptoms, consider switching their food.
Look for foods with natural ingredients that are high in fibre, like canned pumpkin or fruits and vegetables. When changing your pet's foods, always do so carefully and slowly to ensure you don't upset the digestive tract further.
Use Supplements to Encourage Good Digestion
Consider adding pre and probiotics, like in-sideout Cat Formula - Pre and Probiotic Nutraceutical Supplement for Cats, and other supplements to your cats' diet.
Holistic supplements like in-sideout enhance cat health in various ways, supporting overall vitality and immune balance. But probiotics, in particular, help cats with constipation, as they can improve cats' digestion and stool quality and balance the bacteria in the gut.
Psyllium husk, like in-fibre - Psyllium Husk for Horses, Dogs and Cats, can also reduce constipation in cats, as it absorbs water and adds bulk to the cats' stool.
Keep Your Kitty Hydrated
Dehydration can cause cats to become constipated, so make sure your cat always has plenty of fresh water.
You can also add wet food to their diet and consider giving cats special treats or supplements that contain more water. Tuna is an excellent option for cats since it's high in moisture.
Make Sure Your Cat Gets Enough Exercise
Regular exercise can help cats stay regular and aid their digestion. Try to make sure your cat is getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. This can include running around the house or playing with a toy, but cats also love outdoor exercise if it's safe in your area.
Treat Health Issues Contributing to Constipation
Underlying health problems may cause cat constipation, so taking cats to the vet is crucial for a diagnosis. If cats have any underlying disorder, your vet may recommend a variety of treatments to help cats feel better.
For example, cats with arthritis may benefit from joint supplements, like in-fusion msm - Ultra Pure Methylsulfonylmethane Joint Supplement for Horses, Cats and Dogs. Additionally, cats with diabetes may require insulin injections, and those with kidney problems may need to switch to a special diet.
Elderly cats experience constipation cats at higher rates than younger, more active cats. That said, they may benefit from supplements that help cats stay regular, like fibre supplements or stool softeners, even when they don't have any significant underlying health issues.
Minimise Kitty's Stress Levels
Cats often experience constipation due to stress. Stress and fear make cats less likely to drink water, eat and use the litter box. To ease cats' stress, try giving cats a quiet and comfortable space away from loud noises, other cats and people.
It's also important to give cats plenty of love and attention, as cats need social interaction just as much as they need physical exercise.
How to Prevent Constipation in Cats
A cat's constipation can be worrisome. No cat owner wants to see their furry friend in pain or poor health. Fortunately, there are ways to manage constipation in cats.
Start by making sure your pet is hydrated and has plenty of fresh water available. Most cats love wet food; adding it to their diet can help regulate their hydration and bowel movements.
Also, cats love to eat grass, so providing access to grass free of pesticides and herbicides is a great way to help cats naturally clear their digestive system. If you cannot provide access to grass, you can also give cats special treats or supplements that include natural ingredients, like psyllium husk, which helps cats pass their stools more easily.
As mentioned above, pre and probiotic supplements are also great for maintaining a healthy, working digestive system. These supplements contain beneficial bacteria that help cats break down food more effectively, which can lead to fewer constipation issues.
Finally, cats can become easily stressed by changes in their environment or routine. If you've recently adopted a new cat or moved to a new home, your cats may need time to adjust and get used to their surroundings. Give the cats access to plenty of toys and hiding places to feel safe and secure even during transitions. Also, make sure your cat knows the location of its food, water and litter box and can easily access all three.
FAQs about Cat Constipation
Cat constipation is a serious issue that cat owners should never ignore. Here are some frequently asked questions about cats and constipation:
Is My Cat's Constipation Bad Enough To Require Treatment?
If you're concerned your cat is constipated, look for common signs, such as straining to defecate with no results, changing litter box habits, vomiting, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. Excessive licking of their bottom area can also indicate constipation in cats.
Small stools are another indicator, especially if they are hard. Check the litter box for dry, hard stools. If the cat's litter box deposits are hard and dry every other day or more often, then constipation may be the cause, and the cat likely needs medical treatment or home care.
Can You Treat Constipation with Natural Remedies?
Yes, natural remedies often successfully treat constipation. Adding fibre to cats' diets is one of the most common ways to relieve cat constipation. Dietary fibre helps cats absorb more water and form softer, bulkier stools. As we mentioned above, adding probiotics to cats' diets can also help cats maintain a healthy digestive system, reduce constipation and improve overall digestion.
Additionally, exercise helps cats stay regular, so make sure cats are getting plenty of physical activity each day. This also ensures they maintain a healthy weight.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Pooping?
Most cats will need to poop every 24 hours or so. If it's been more than 48 hours since your cat's last bowel movement, it may be constipated, and it's a good idea to seek treatment to promote normal movement.
If your cat is unable to pass urine or is exhibiting signs of pain, such as crying, seek immediate medical attention. The inability to urinate is potentially life-threatening for cats. The cat may have serious urinary tract issues, kidney disease, ruptured anal sacs or other issues that require a prompt diagnosis and professional treatment.
What Do Vets Do For Chronic Constipation in Cats?
Some cats may suffer from chronic constipation, which usually results from a more serious condition. If your cat's constipation does not respond to treatment, consult the vet for further examination. The vet may recommend tests to diagnose the underlying cause of constipation as well as treatment options such as laxatives or prescription medications.
Vets will typically diagnose constipated cats by conducting a physical examination and asking questions about your cat's diet and behaviour. Treatment options can range from dietary changes and exercise to laxatives and enemas. Depending on the severity of your cat's condition, vets may prescribe medications or recommend surgery.
Relieve Constipation in Cats for Better Overall Health
Constipation in cats occurs due to a variety of issues. If you suspect your cat is constipated, watch for signs of problems in the digestive tract. Natural remedies may help, such as adding fibre and probiotics to cats' diets, providing plenty of daily physical activity and creating an environment where cats feel safe and secure.
Consult a veterinarian if these treatments do not work or if cats experience chronic constipation, which could indicate a more severe condition. With proper care and treatment, cats should resume regular bowel movements fairly quickly.
Also checkout our article on common skin problems in cats, and dental health in cats.
By Dr. Guangda Xue (Danny), BSc, MRes, PhD
Animal scientist specialised in gut health development and inflammation management