Pet Wellness Guides > When Your Cat Can't Go: What to Know About Cat Constipation - Pet Insurance Review
When Your Cat Can’t Go: What to Know About Cat Constipation
It’s not something cat parents like to think about. Still, our feline friends can occasionally suffer from constipation, just like humans. Even though it’s not life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable for your cat and a sign of other health problems. As any good pet parent knows, when our furry companions are in discomfort, so are we! Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of cat constipation and some simple treatments you can try at home when your cat can’t go.
What causes cat constipation?
Your cat may be constipated if she’s having trouble passing her stools. The average frequency of poop for a healthy kitty is about every 24-36 hours. But if your cat strains in the litter box or hasn’t gone to the bathroom in more than 48 hours, it’s likely because it’s constipated.
Contact the vet immediately if your cat is having trouble passing her bowels. Constipation could be a sign of a serious health problem, which, if not treated, can become even more uncomfortable for your cat.
Several things can cause constipation in cats. Some of the most common causes include:
Not enough water intake can lead to hard, dry stool that is difficult for your cat to pass. It’s essential to make sure your cat always has fresh water available to prevent constipation from occurring.
Cats are not very good at drinking enough water, so getting to the root cause of their dehydration is essential. Underlying diseases such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism can cause this problem, too.
Prevention tip: Provide running water fountains and water in different bowls to entice your cat to drink more fluids.
A sudden change in diet—like switching from wet to dry food or vice versa—can cause constipation. Cats can also become constipated if they eat fewer calories than they need or don’t have enough fiber in their diet.
Prevention tip: Before you change your cat’s food, work with your veterinarian to create a schedule to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Litter box problems:
If your cat doesn’t like the type of litter you’re using or if the litter box is too dirty, she may hold in her stool longer, leading to constipation. This situation is more common for older, arthritic cats as it’s sometimes too painful to climb in and out of a litter box or assume a squatting position.
Prevention tip: Purchase litter boxes lower to the ground with a low step for easy entry and exit. Keep the litter box clean by scooping it out daily.
Stress and anxiety:
Changes in your cat’s environment—like a new pet or baby in the house or even a medical issue —can lead to stress and anxiety, which can, in turn, cause constipation.
Prevention tip: If your cat is prone to anxiety or stress, place an extra litter box in the quietest room in your house. Your cat may still be stressed, but at least she will have a tranquil location to do her business.
Hairballs are another cause of constipation in cats. They can compact and become stuck, which causes deficiencies or dehydration, leading to constipation. Long-haired cats and cats who suffer from stress and excessively groom themselves are most prone to this constipation cause.
Prevention tip: Give your cat a daily laxative to keep hairballs moving through the gastrointestinal system.
Pain medications, antihistamines, iron supplements, and other drugs can cause drying of the intestines and stall digestion, leading to hard stool and constipation.
Prevention tip: Speak with your cat’s vet about which medications may cause gastrointestinal problems in your cat. The vet can recommend alternative medication that is not as harsh on the colon.
Megacolon is a rare disease that can cause constipation. The colon muscles stop working correctly, making the colon go slack. It becomes difficult for a cat to pass waste through a malfunctioning colon. Megacolon can be caused by unresolved constipation, another good reason for getting your cat seen by their vet sooner rather than later.
Prevention tip: Take your cat to the veterinarian at least once a year for a complete physical and blood test.
Underlying illness or disease:
Constipation often masks other, more severe health illnesses in cats, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Allergies/naiads which result in an overactive immune system response leading to inflammation
- Nerve problems such as peripheral neuropathy, where there’s damage near nerves running through muscles throughout our bodies
Because a mild bout of constipation could indicate other, more serious health issues, it would be best if you took your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Cat Constipation
When your cat has constipation, it will have hard, dry stools inside or outside its litter box. This situation can be extremely uncomfortable for them since they might try passing these firm deposits several times without production.
There are a few different ways to tell if your cat is constipated. These include:
- straining to defecate with no results
- crying while straining to defecate
- hard, dry stool
- a decrease in bowel movements
- bloody stool
- drinking more or less water than normal
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- avoiding the litter box
- walking stiffly
- having difficulty jumping up
- muscle loss
- excessive urination
- nausea and vomiting
- weight loss
- entering and exiting the litter box multiple times without pooping.
Observe your cat carefully for these symptoms, and reach out to your veterinarian if your cat has more than a few signs of constipation.
Treatments for cat constipation
Suppose you notice any of these symptoms in your cat. In that case, it’s essential to take them to the vet to be examined and properly diagnosed. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet will likely recommend one or more of the following treatment options, which can be done at home:
- Adding fiber to your cat’s diet with canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Please note that increasing the amount of fiber too quickly can worsen constipation. Always gradually increase fiber in your cat’s diet and under your vet’s guidance.
- Bran cereal
- Psyllium husk powder (sold at health food stores)
- Miralax (available by prescription).
- Giving your cat plenty of fresh water throughout the day and increasing her activity level with toys and playtime.
- Administering laxatives or enemas per veterinary supervision
Is your cat constipated? See the vet right away!
If your cat suffers from constipation, a vet must treat her condition as soon and efficiently as possible. Rapid treatment will reduce the risk of long-term damage due to the prolonged expansion of colon tissue. Effective treatment involves finding out what caused this issue to prevent future occurrences while removing impacted stools to avoid having them return later.
Pet insurance can help with your cat’s tummy troubles.
Constipation is certainly no fun for anyone—cats included! But equally as painful is the pile of expensive veterinary bills when you have to take your kitty to multiple appointments for her constipation.
Some pet health insurance plans will reimburse pet parents up to 90% of vet costs, so your cat can get the best treatment while saving you money! Get a free pet insurance quote, and start protecting your furry family member today.
- Vercelletto, C. (2022). How to Help a Dehydrated Cat. Retrieved from https://be.chewy.com/how-to-help-a-dehydrated-cat/
- Purina. (n.d.). Changing Cat Food: How to Switch Your Cat’s Food. Retrieved from https://www.purina.com/articles/cat/feeding/changing-cat-food
- Hunter, T., Ward, E. (2022). Megacolon in Cats. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/megacolon-in-cats
- Tudor, K. (2012). Do Cats Need Fiber in Their Diet? Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ktudor/2012/june/do_cats_need_fiber_in_their_diet-25083
The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.
The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.
We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.