You are sitting by your dining room table and you hear your cat scratching the litter-box repeatedly. You think to yourself what an overly clean cat you have that tries its best to cover the smell! But the scratching continues and you decide to take a look. There is your cat scratching and straining, straining and scratching when you finally come to the conclusion that your kitty must be constipated.
Over all, this may be a pretty common scenario even though it is most common in obese and middle aged to senior aged cats. Be aware that some cats may be found straining in other spots other than the litter box. The reason? Pretty understandable if we get into some kitty psychology! The cat goes to the litter box and strains to have a bowel movement, this causes pain, the pain is then associated with the litter box so the poor cat tries other places such as the bathtub or your favorite rug. Do not scold your cat for this just show him/her some empathy!
Is it True Cat Constipation or a UTI?
Please note: It is very important to distinguish a constipated cat from a cat with a urinary tract infection as these often cause very similar symptoms and can be easily confused. This is vital because a urinary tract infection in a male cat can be life threatening and may need immediate emergency veterinary care.
There are some hints that can help distinguish these two conditions: a cat with a urinary tract infection will be straining to pass urine instead of feces and you may see that there may be some small urine drops often mixed with blood (even though in more severe cases there may be no urine output at all). Also, urinary tract infected cats will their genital area often but you must consider that some constipated cats may do the same. You can also turn into detective and investigate kitty’s litter box, check for feces and urine: whichever is lacking can help you understand what he/she is straining for.
Causes of Constipation in Cats
If your cat is truly suffering from constipation, it’s important to find out possible causes of constipation. Age, obesity, lack of exercise, play a good role. Sometimes stress may cause constipation, being in a new environment may cause a cat to hold it and even post surgery the cat may not go for two reasons: the pain and stress of surgery but also because most surgeries are done on an empty stomach so there is not much to evacuate until the pet eats again.
Obstructions are another cause of constipation and are part of the categories that need prompt veterinary attention. Obstructions can be caused by whatever can block the intestines; hairballs, foreign bodies, tumors, parasites etc to just name a few. Car accidents or any type of trauma may cause pelvis injuries and/or damaged nerves that will cause constipation.
On a lighter note sometimes a dirty litter box may discourage your cat from going. Make sure it is clean and avoid the cover litter boxes that may cause concentrated smells that can easily offend your cat. So next time you hear kitty scratching in the litter box be ready to turn into a thorough investigator as there are many causes out there to evaluate.
You can provide your vet with a lot of helpful insight when trying to find together what the culprit is, chances are it is just a lack or exercise or just that kitty needs a diet change and soon the cat will be back to its normal self.
Symptoms of Constipation in Cats
Constipated cats may turn irritable and we may understand why, some may even cry out while straining poor babies, and in more severe cases of constipation the cat may become lethargic, depressed, weak, may not want to eat and to add more, may vomit. Constipation may leave you wondering and scratching your head at times, as the cat may be straining one instance and then having diarrhea the next, the explanation of this is that in some cases liquid stool is all that can pass through the mass of dry impacted feces. This diarrhea may be mixed with blood or mucous. So even though this sounds and looks like diarrhea it still may be a case of constipation.
So once you are pretty sure that constipation is what is affecting your cat (if not sure bring the cat to vet promptly to diagnose) we can go to the course of action to make kitty more comfortable and give him/her relief. Consider though that sometimes home remedies are not sufficient and if the cat seems in discomfort and/or does not obtain a bowel movement soon then a vet may prescribe some stronger treatments such as lactulose, a sugary syrup that retains water in the stool and makes them easier to pass. Docusate sodium (Colace) may be another choice and Cisapride may be prescribed for the most stubborn cases. This medication was once prescribed for humans and may be challenging to find but some compound pharmacies may still have it available.
Some Cat Constipation Home Remedies
- Normally, cats mostly defecate once to twice a day but a constipated cat will only go every two to four days. This period of constipation may cause cats to become dehydrated so make sure the cat gets his water. You can check the level of dehydration in a cat by lifting the skin over its shoulder blades, in a hydrated cat it should spring back promptly. Does not? Most likely the cat is dehydrated and may need fluids from the vet.
- Canned food versus a dry food diet helps the bowel a lot more.
- Diet-wise you may want to increase your constipated cat’s fiber intake. Sometimes adding canned pumpkin (plain canned pumpkin not the pie filling one as this contains spices) about a couple of teaspoons twice a day added to the cat’s food may help get things moving, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
- Special senior diets or hairball diets also contain a good amount of fiber; however, if you need to change your cat’s diet this must be done slowly to avoid stomach upset.
- Other fiber that can help is adding Metamucil about 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon a day added to canned food or wheat bran cereal about 1 teaspoon added to canned food twice per day. These should help soften the stools and promote relief soon.
- Most cats are lactose intolerant and sometimes some milk can help the cat; however, consider it may not work or your cat may get the opposite problem but sometimes it is worth a try.
- Laxatone, which is sold over the counter is a good stimulant and now is available in new yummy flavors. It is usually given to cats with hairball problems and may stimulate a bowel movement however shouldn’t be used long term. It is best given on an empty stomach because it can prevent from absorbing the nutrients found in food. You can offer some from your fingers, your cat may happily lick it off.
- It is very important that you do not use human enemas on cats as they can be very toxic and potentially fatal due to their phosphorus content!
- Nowadays, there are several over-the-counter products for constipated cats.
Once the constipation episode resolves it is important to prevent future episodes from happening as overtime the colon may lose its muscular motility and cause a condition called megacolon, in this case after medications are tried with no result the cat may need external help to evacuate the bowels such as enemas and manual extractions of impacted feces. Don’t get your kitty to this point as it is painful and it’s a permanent condition requesting repeated medications, trips to the vets office or surgery.
*Disclaimer: The above article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian nor is the source to be used as a diagnostic tool as there may be various conditions that may resemble the descriptions provided.