There’s nothing worse than heading over to the litter box and noticing your cat has diarrhea. Well, except noticing they had diarrhea outside of the litter box. And if it keeps happening, you can’t help but worry about your cat’s health and wonder… why does my cat have diarrhea?
There are many reasons that may explain why your kitty has diarrhea — but that luckily means there are many ways to prevent it from happening in the future. Find out how to identify severe diarrhea and what you can do to help your feline friend.
What is Feline Diarrhea?
Feline diarrhea is simply stool that is softer, looser, or more watery than it typically would be. You may also notice that they are passing bowel movements three or more times a day — or at least a bit more than usual.
This will usually make cat parents panic almost instantly, especially if they are new to owning a pet. But diarrhea isn’t automatically a sign of something terrible happening to your kitty. It could just be the side effect of food that didn’t quite sit right with your cat, as well as them eating something they shouldn’t. Or maybe they’re on a new medication.
Oftentimes cats will recover on their own. But if you notice loose stools for more than a day or your cat is experiencing other concerning symptoms (like bright red blood in the feces), you should probably contact your veterinarian immediately.
Symptoms of Cat Diarrhea
Most of the time, cats experiencing diarrhea will have more symptoms than just loose stools. Here are a few warning signs that your cat may have a case that requires a vet evaluation:
- There’s mucus or blood in the stool
- You might even find worms or parasites in their feces
- Accidents outside the litter box
- Defecating with increased frequency
- Struggling to go to the bathroom
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss and a loss of appetite
- Tiredness or weakness
What is Excessive or Abnormal Diarrhea?
If your cat has diarrhea for more than a couple of days, it could be considered an excessive or chronic case. At that point, it’s important to get your cat to a vet for an evaluation since there may be a concerning underlying issue. Abnormal diarrhea can also lead to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance.
Since cats are known for hiding their pain and discomfort, you may have to look for other red flags that determine if your cat has excessive or abnormal diarrhea:
Increased defecation: If your kitty is making frequent visits to the litter box, you might want to make sure the stool is normal. Cats will typically only defecate once or twice within 24 hours, so anything more than that could be troubling.
Loss of appetite: A cat experiencing intestinal issues will often lose their interest in eating. This can result in weakness and low energy, as well as vomiting. If your cat has watery stools and seems lethargic, that could be a telltale sign of abnormal or severe diarrhea.
Other objects in stool: Oftentimes, you’ll notice blood, mucus, or even worms in abnormal stool. This can also be signs of another underlying problem, like parasites or disease. So you’ll need to see a vet as soon as you can.
Color and smell: Abnormal stool can sometimes vary in color, appearing yellow or gray. Very dark poop is also a worrisome sign. You may also notice their bowel movements have a stronger smell than usual.
Do Some Cats Have Diarrhea More Than Others?
While this can happen to any domestic feline, kittens are known to suffer from this problem more often than adults. That’s usually because we don’t know their food sensitivities and preferences yet. They also have more parasitic infections than older cats.
There are also certain cat breeds that suffer from diarrhea more than others. That’s because some breeds are more prone to develop gastrointestinal disorders (GIs), which leads to abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as vomiting and diarrhea, without the proper diet. This includes the Sphynx, Devon Rex, and Ragdoll. Always choose responsible breeders and ask them if their kittens come with health guarantees.
Why Does My Cat Have Diarrhea?
You may be wondering by now, “My cat is older. They aren’t purebred. Why are they sick?” It’s always best to bring your cat to the vet to be evaluated since there are so many causes of diarrhea. Here are a few of the more common causes:
Plants and Flowers: A lot of cat owners aren’t aware that there are so many plants that cats shouldn’t have access to. This includes lilies, tulips, azaleas, rhododendron, chrysanthemum, and climbing ivy. Digesting these plants could lead to diarrhea — or something far worse.
Milk: Cats cannot properly digest cow’s milk, despite what movies may tell you. Dairy, in general, can make a cat feel very queasy. This causes softer and loose stools, as well as vomiting.
Meal changes: Cats are particularly picky eaters. Changing your cat’s food can make them sick for a few days as they adjust to the new diet. Try gradually changing their food instead, mixing the old and new brand together before completely swapping over.
Too much food: If your cat suddenly eats more than usual, this can lead to an upset stomach. An increase in appetite paired with frequent defecation can also be a sign that your cat has irritable bowel syndrome.
Stress: Cats can become upset when their environment changes — this could mean a new home or even a new pet. When they’re feeling scared, nervous, or anxious, cats can develop diarrhea and other concerning side effects. Just like you would for a physical ailment or disease, stress in cats should be taken seriously and treated.
Parasites: If this is the reason for your cat’s upset stomach, you’ll often notice worms or other things moving in your cat’s stool.
A Serious Disease: Diarrhea in cats could be the side effect of something even more problematic for your cat. This includes cancer and FIV.
When Should You Go to the Vet?
Diarrhea may be a sign of a more serious problem, so it’s recommended that you bring your cat to the vet if they have symptoms for more than a day.
Cats are hardy animals who often overcome being sick on their own, but diarrhea can lead to dehydration and other complications, or be a sign of a serious disease. It’s especially important to bring your cat to the vet if they have a preexisting health condition or are a bit older.
You should also call the vet immediately if you see blood in their feces or if their stool is black and tarry in appearance. This could mean they’re possibly experiencing internal bleeding. If your cat is also vomiting or seems lethargic and depressed it’s important to get them to a vet.
Diarrhea in Cats – Treatment & Prevention
If you’re unable to get to the vet right away, there are a few things you can do meanwhile to ensure your cat doesn’t get any worse.
One of the most common solutions for a cat’s upset stomach is switching their food (gradually of course). Cats can sometimes be allergic to carbohydrates and other fillers in cheaper pet foods. You can also consider cat food formulas for felines with sensitive stomachs. Adding fiber to their diet may also alleviate some of their diarrhea symptoms.
It’s also important to keep your kitty hydrated. Try switching to wet food or providing them with a water fountain. Cats love running water and will likely be more apt to keep drinking if they have a more appealing option.
You can also provide your kitty with probiotic supplements. This can help your cat maintain a healthy amount of bacteria in their intestinal tract, assisting them with digestion.
If you assume your feline is having bowel issues due to stress or anxiety it may not be getting enough exercise or interaction. There are many ways to exercise and entertain your cat and doing so may help to relieve any built-up tensions. Additionally, natural calming ingredients such as valerian, catnip, chamomile, or CBD oil may help to induce a calm and relaxed state. As with anything new added to the diet you may want to check with your vet before use.
Treating cat diarrhea is definitely important and you always want to consult a vet. But it’s also important to prevent it from happening again. Always make sure your cat has a healthy, quality diet, right down to the treats. And make sure they always have enough fresh, running water. Get rid of any plants or dangerous toxins that your cat has access to and definitely don’t let them drink milk. Your kitty should be happy and healthy in no time with the proper care and attention.