Cat constipation is a very common condition. It occurs when the stool is too large or hard to pass out through the colon. This makes the bowel movements difficult or infrequent. When cats get constipation, they can produce dry, hard poop or spend time straining at the litter box without producing any poop.
Even though it’s common, cat constipation is uncomfortable at best, and at worst it can have complications or be a symptom of a more serious illness. In this article, we look at the causes of constipation and how to treat your cat to get things moving again.
What causes cat constipation?
There are a number of causes, but the most common is simple dehydration. Cats get constipation when they don’t take in enough water. This puts stress on the kidneys and makes the stools dry, hard and painful to pass.
Inadequate liquid intake is a common problem for cats who are on a dry food diet. Felines are not natural water drinkers, as they prefer to get their liquids from their food.
Other causes of cat constipation include having a low-fibre diet, suffering from hairballs, enlarged prostate glands and blocked or abscessed anal sacs. It can also occur when cats ingest objects like bits of string that causes an obstruction.
Cat constipation can also be a symptom of a more serious illness. It’s common for cats with kidney disease, diabetes or hernias to get constipation. It can also be a side effect of other medication.
Symptoms of cat constipation
If your cat has constipation, you’ll likely see them exhibit some common symptoms:
- Dry, hard stools
- Not passing stools for over 48 hours
- Decreased appetite
- Straining to defecate
- Crying when trying to defecate
- Abdominal discomfort
However, some constipated cats don’t show the more severe symptoms like vomiting or crying. But it’s worth checking their litter box to make sure they are not quietly suffering from constipation.
Normally your cat should be pooping every day. The faeces should be brown in colour and be soft and moist enough that the litter sticks to them. If your feline is not going every day, or their stools are hard and dry, they probably have cat constipation.
If your cat is straining at the litter box, check they are still able to urinate properly. Your cat should also be urinating two to three times a day. However, straining at the litter box to urinate is sometimes confused with constipation. It’s usually caused by something like a bladder infection and is more serious than cat constipation. Any difficulty urinating is a very serious illness which should be investigated by a vet.
Do all cats get constipation?
Yes, all breeds of cat are susceptible to constipation and many cats will suffer from it during their lives. However, some cats are more at risk, including overweight and obese cats.
Senior cats also get constipation more regularly. This is because they exercise less, and they also can have arthritis or joint problems that make crouching uncomfortable, meaning they hold it in for longer. Keep an extra eye on overweight and senior cats to ensure they aren’t afflicted.
How to treat cat constipation
Mild and occasional bouts are usually easy to treat at home. The simplest treatment for cat constipation is to increase your cat’s water intake. Make sure there is always fresh drinking water set out for your cat. If your cat doesn’t like drinking from a bowl, they may be better with moving water like that from a tap or a cat water fountain.
However, many cats are not naturally good water drinkers and tend to depend on their food for the majority of their water intake. Add water to your cat’s dry food to help increase their water intake. If your cat gets frequent constipation, you may also want to slowly transition from dry to wet food. This should take place gradually over several weeks and even months.
If your cat eats a wet food diet and still suffering from cat constipation, take them to the vet for tests.
Hairballs and swallowing lots of fur can be another cause of constipation. Groom your cat regularly, especially if it’s a longhaired breed, to reduce the amount of hairballs and hair they can swallow.
Exercise is another way to help treat cat constipation – regular movement can help stimulate natural contractions in the gut. Encourage your cat to get daily exercise and use interactive toys to get them moving about.
Never give your cat medicines or constipation home remedies without discussing it with your vet first. Many websites online discuss giving a cat olive oil to help with constipation or using a petroleum jelly product. However, these home remedies carry a risk and you should always speak to a vet before administering treatments yourself.
If your cat has serious constipation, your vet may also recommend a stool softener or laxative that’s designed for cats.