Constipation in cats is not something to be ignored, it doesn’t just happen to a healthy cat, but rather is caused by something. Fairly often, we see cats who have constipation because they are not drinking enough water, other times, we see it come about due to stress, grooming, issues with the litter box, and sometimes we see it as a symptom of a medical condition.
Whatever you may think the cause is, it’s vital to speak with your veterinarian about it, as it can be a sign of something worse. When left untreated, the symptoms can worsen, cause suffering, and it can take a toll on your cat’s quality of life.
Cats should be going at least once a day, however, at times, our kitties can become mildly or severely constipated. Along with speaking to your vet, we have laid out ways to treat your cat at home, and what to expect when visiting the vet.
Treating Mild Constipation
First things first, when your cat is experiencing constipation, provide them with more water. Constipation can at times be the result of a lack of water. Cats actually get their main source of water from their food, so while it may seem as though they are drinking a lot, they may not be getting as much as they need.
Figure out if they are dehydrated, and if it is severe, they may need IV fluid to rehydrate them.
To ensure your cat can get enough water, add multiple water sources throughout the home to encourage the kitty to drink more. Make a game out of it; some cats love to play with and drink the water that drips out of the faucet, a cat or two has even used a bidet as water fountain (turned on and clean of course), or see what happens when you give them ice cubes.
Cat water fountains can also be purchased and make for a great decoration in your home; for your furry friend they provide not only hydration but make for fun too!
Another option is to bottle feed them, with some cats this may be an impossible feat, but some cats may adore being bottle fed as it brings them back to times of being a wee little thing nursing from their mother.
Consider ways to add water to their diet; this can be done in several ways. First think about switching to wet food, or adding some into their dry food diet. Water can also be added directly to the food, and/or you can add tuna or clam juice to their water to get them excited about drinking.
Hydrating a dehydrated cat can seem intimidating, but with some fun and tastiness added to their diet, it can be as easy as pie.
Some kitties simply need some encouragement to get their system going. In cases of more mild constipation, a laxative or stool softener may just do the trick, however, be sure it is for cats, not humans.
For mild cases of constipation, or to generally treat and prevent the symptoms, fibre can be added to their diet. Supplements such as natural bran cereal, canned pumpkin, psyllium, or Metamucil can get the job done.
Another option is laxatone; it will lubricate the digestive tract and comes in various flavours your kitty can lick off.
If constipation seems to be a continuous problem, consider switching to a special high-fibre cat food, and/or add a fibre such as canned pumpkin to their daily diet.
Treating Severe Constipation
Some cats may still have constipation after taking laxatives and hydrating, in these severe cases a visit to the vet is absolutely necessary, as they may have to manually take out the feces, or administer an enema. Furthermore, constipation may actually be caused by a something like a foreign object obstructing the bowels, this, unfortunately, will likely need surgery to remove.
Intravenous fluid therapy
When you take your cat to the vet for constipation, they may administer fluids intravenously, as dehydration can often be the cause. Furthermore, dehydration in cats can be highly dangerous and aside from treating the constipation; fluids are necessary to get them back into good health.
Lactulose may be prescribed by your vet to treat constipation. It is a synthetic sugar that brings water from the body into the colon and softens the stool.
These drugs can promote food and fecal matter to go down.
Your veterinarian may use an enema as a way of treatment, be sure to seek their help rather than doing this at home as some enemas can actually be toxic for cats. Not to mention, they know exactly what to do and can avoid causing any additional discomfort or pain to your cat.
The vet may determine that the feces will need to be manually removed. In these cases, your cat will likely be put under anesthesia while the feces are being removed to avoid any discomfort
Surgery can be needed in the most extreme cases. This is deemed necessary when the nerves in the colon are damaged by long-term impaction, this is most often the case with megacolon. It may also be necessary if a foreign object is blocking the colon.
Megacolon can stretch the colon with a hard stool so much that the digestive tract becomes damaged. These affected parts in the enlarged colon will likely need to be surgically removed. This surgery can be lifesaving as a build-up of feces can be deadly.
Treating the Underlying Cause
It is possible that your cat is experiencing constipation from another condition altogether. Kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism are a few of the conditions that can cause dehydration and thus constipation.
This is why constipation should not be ignored as it may very well be a major issue that needs immediate treatment. If treatment for constipation does not better the symptoms, speak with a vet right away, and if another ailment is present, treat it alongside constipation.
If the underlying condition causes dehydration, you will need to address it, and you may need to have your veterinarian treat the cat by rehydrating them with intravenous fluid therapy.
Some cats experience constipation because it hurts too much to go. Cats with arthritis, for example, may have a hard time going because it hurts to squat, so they may avoid the litter box and hold in their bowel movements.
In these cases, you will want to address this pain with the vet and consider using joint supplements or even pain medication.
Constipation is not a fun nor pleasant experience whatsoever, we don’t enjoy it, nor do our furry friends. While constipation can at times steam from medical reasons, we can do our best each day to also prevent constipation by getting rid of the causes, and keeping our kitties regular.
Keep Their Litter Clean!
Cats are incredibly clean creatures, so using a dirty litter box is incredibly unpleasant and may cause your furry feline to hold in their urine and feces, both of which can cause problems such as a UTI, and constipation. As a general rule of thumb, keep one box per cat, plus one extra.
Ideally, having multiple litter boxes will also prevent territorial cats from getting aggressive with the others. If this is an issue in your home, speak with a vet about options, as an aggressive, bullying cat can make life extremely hard for the other cat(s) and prevent from the necessities like eating and using the litter box, which can, unfortunately, cause constipation among other health issues.
Also, make sure that your cat likes the litter they are using, they may very well be avoiding the box because of the new kitty litter they don’t like.
Groom Your Kitty
Brush your cat daily to prevent hair from going into the digestive tract. If this has been an issue before, speak with a vet about using a formula food or oral medication to prevent hairballs.
Treat Parasites Regularly
Regularly check to see if your cat has any parasites and if found, treat them immediately. Indoor cats tend to be at risk for fleas, and worms, while outdoor cats are at risk for more parasites such as ticks.
Always leave out fresh water, and potentially add water to their food to ensure hydration.
To keep your cat regular, you may want to add more fibre like pumpkin to their diet, however, speak with your vet if this is right for your cat, as fibre at times can cause constipation. You may also want to add wet food to the diet as it has more water and can keep the cat better hydrated.
Activity in cats promotes regularity. Make an effort to play with them with toys; experiment with new toys if they are uninterested, and you might even want to consider walking your cat for exercise. Adding more cat trees in your home, and overall, making more room for cat activities to keep them healthy and moving is a great thing!
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping your kitty hydrated, and actively helps prevent constipation.