Cats are creatures of habit. You’ll often notice they use the litter box at the same time every day. But what does it mean if you wake up, check their litter box, and there’s nothing there? This could be a sign of cat constipation.
While felines are normally healthy pets who hide their discomfort, a constipated cat can be quite a serious issue if not treated as soon as possible. It’s important to understand what cat constipation is, what the symptoms are, and what to do to cure your cat’s constipation.
What is Cat Constipation?
Just like in humans, constipation is the inability to routinely pass bowel movements. This can hinder a kitty’s ability to function normally throughout the day and can lead to complications.
When a cat feels constipated, they will often struggle to defecate or cry out when doing so. You may hear them digging around in their litter box, but when you go to check, there’s nothing there! A constipated cat might also have dry stools or excrement covered in blood when they are finally able to defecate.
Why Do Cats Get Constipated?
Cats are finicky eaters. If your cat starts eating less it may lead to constipation. Their diet may also be too low in fiber. It’s important to pick out quality cat food with appropriate ingredients.
Cats often become constipated when they are dehydrated. So, you may also want to consider wet food. While cats are picky when it comes to food, many people aren’t aware that cats are even more particular when it comes to water.
Often, cats will not drink enough because they’re not interested in the water in their bowl. They prefer moving water, which leads many cat owners to try out water fountains. Another alternative is canned food since it’s made up of over 70% water.
RELATED: Wet vs. Dry Cat Food: Why It Matters
What Can Happen to a Constipated Cat?
Constipation is a common issue with felines. Many adult cats — and elderly cats — get constipated. But while it’s common in felines, it’s not normal. Constipation can threaten a cat’s life, leading to bigger problems. One larger problem that could come with constipation is megacolon.
Megacolon is when a cat’s colon has become weak, causing them to suffer from extreme constipation. In this situation, the cat’s muscles are unable to process out fecal matter normally. This problem leads to a lot of straining to pass bowel movements. As a result, the cat may suffer from an enlarged colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and painful bowel movements. If not treated, this problem can be fatal.
Cat Constipation Signs and Symptoms
Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate your feline is constipated:
If you notice that your cat’s water dish is always full, this is definitely a sign that you should be concerned about your kitty’s health.
If your cat is coughing up a lot of hairballs, it could be a sign that their system is clogged. This is especially common in cats with longer or thicker coats.
Your cat may not be getting enough fiber if their stools are often very hard the few times they defecate. Bloody stool is also a sign that something is seriously wrong with their digestive system. If your cat’s poop is very liquidy — like brown water — it could be a sign of megacolon.
Straining To Poop
It’s a clear sign of constipation if your cat is often digging around in the litterbox for a long time without producing any bowel movements. If your cat’s litterbox isn’t being used regularly, your cat may not be functioning properly.
If your cat is acting different — suddenly tired, or seemingly uncomfortable — there may be bigger problems at hand. Constipation could be a symptom of a bigger complication, like neoplastic disease.
Cat Constipation Remedies
If your cat is suffering from constipation it’s very important to bring them to the vet as soon as possible. Veterinarians will be able to run tests on your cat, figuring out the source of their off-balance bowel movements — or lack thereof. A vet visit is important because it could uncover any life-threatening diseases or complications.
A quick visit should also provide you with a healthy fix to get your kitty on a normal schedule. Meanwhile, there are natural remedies to help solve your cat’s constipation problems while you wait for the appointment.
Cat Constipation – Pumpkin
The first solution is to look at their food bowl. If you don’t think their healthy cat diet includes enough fiber, try adding pumpkin. A teaspoon of canned pumpkin on your cat’s food could give them the fiber they need to be regular. Ginger and licorice are also other options.
Cat Constipation – Aloe Vera
If pumpkin doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, try aloe vera juice! A small dose of aloe juice may help them with their bowel irregularities. This may be something to ask your vet about, even before your visit.
Cat Constipation – Water Intake
Take a look at their water dish. If they are not drinking enough water, try switching up how you serve them their liquids. Water fountains are very popular with cat owners because cats are naturally drawn to the running water (a reason you’ll often see cats lapping up water from the sink). You can also add wet food to their diet. A 50/50 diet of dry and wet cat food can help give them the water they need without them even knowing it.
Cat Constipation – Olive Oil
Another natural remedy is olive oil. Cat owners can add a teaspoon of olive oil to their kitty’s food on a daily basis for up to one week. Olive oil helps with intestinal muscle contractions and softens feces, which can be beneficial to a cat with constipation. Just make sure your cat can digest it properly.
Cat Constipation – Grooming
Try brushing your cat more frequently. Felines with thicker coats will often groom themselves which leads to hair gathering in the esophagus. Unfortunately, constipation can accompany hairballs.
More grooming sessions can prevent hairballs by removing excess fur. You should groom your cat once or twice a week, depending on how thick their coat is. You can also take them to a professional groomer once a month for more thorough grooming sessions.
Cat Constipation – Activity Level
It’s also possible that your cat needs more exercise! Try buying some new toys that you know will get your cat going, like a ribbon on a stick you can wave above them. Or a jingly ball they can chase down the hall.
A lot of people aren’t aware of how important exercise can be for cats and let them lounge around all day. Adding some interactive activities to their daily schedule may regulate their bowels as well.
Cat Constipation – Massage
It’s been proven that abdominal massages can increase the frequency of bowel movements in constipated cats. It can also help felines deal with the pain of chronic constipation. See if an abdominal massage helps encourage bowel movements for your cat.
When To Go To The Vet for Cat Constipation
If your cat has been constipated for more than a full day, it’s time to make a vet appointment. It’s especially concerning if your cat is crying when trying to use the litterbox or if you notice blood in their stool.
Just like dealing with a cat that has diarrhea, this is not something you want to wait out. A delay could spell health complications for your kitty. Vets will be able to determine the cause of a cat’s constipation problems, offering treatment plans, medication, and lifestyle changes that will keep your cat healthy and happy.
Can You Prevent Cat Constipation?
Prevent your cat from future constipation complications by monitoring their water. Provide them with clean water — even better if it’s moving. A water fountain can encourage drinking, preventing future problems like constipation. If your cat is comfortable with the traditional water bowl, make sure you’re changing their water daily to ensure it’s fresh and free of parasites!
If you are feeding your cat wet food, make sure you’re checking on its shelf life. Your cat will thrive best with fresh, healthy food. Even dry food can provide them the right nutrients if you choose a brand that has all of the protein and vitamins they need.
Always keep an eye on your cat’s litterbox as well. It’s important to make sure they are regularly passing bowel movements. It’s also important to stay on top of litterbox cleanliness. A fresh litterbox can encourage cats more than a dirty one, which they may avoid even if they do have to go.
Constipation may be common, but it’s not normal! Cats suffering from constipation can suffer from serious health issues, diseases, and life-threatening complications. Your cat’s constipation could be a sign of bigger problems. So it’s very important to keep an eye on your cat’s litter box activity, ensuring it’s normal and routine.
Cats will often keep their pain and discomfort a secret. But you’ll notice your cat is constipated if their stools are irregular, if they are meowing while using the bathroom, and if they are dehydrated. While there are natural remedies to help ease your cat’s discomfort, always contact a veterinarian if you suspect your kitty is suffering from constipation.