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What is Constipation?

Along with being unable to defecate normally, constipated cats may also strain while trying to use their litter boxes or show other outward signs to indicate that they are unable to move their bowels normally. If you notice that your cat's litter box is unused for several days or if you observe harder than normal stools or stools with blood in them, you should have your cat examined by your veterinarian immediately. 

Many cases of constipation in cats are treatable and minor. However, other cases of feline constipation may belie more serious health conditions like anal gland disease or cancer. Your vet can conduct a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause of your cat's constipation.

Constipation in cats is a common illness from which cats routinely suffer. Cats typically defecate two to three times per day. When they are unable to move their bowels normally, they become constipated and may require special care to help them resume normal bowel function.

Constipation Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Constipation in Cats

Constipation in cats can be either mild with few noticeable symptoms to chronic, which typically comes with symptoms that are more severe. Acute constipation in cats has symptoms that include:

  • Harder than normal feces
  • Small, pellet-like feces
  • Repeated unproductive visits to the litter box
  • Temporary loss of appetite
  • Straining while trying to defecate

Alternatively, cats who are chronically constipated may show more outward signs of distress with symptoms that include:

  • Bloody or mucus-covered feces
  • Loud meowing or crying in pain
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Disinterest in grooming

Cats that are constipated also may have hardened, distended bellies and be unwilling to lie down on their stomachs. They may also refuse to eat or drink even when offered their favorite treats. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, you should have your cat examined and treated as necessary for constipation by your veterinarian.

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Causes of Constipation in Cats

A variety of factors can contribute to constipation in cats. Some of the more common causes for this feline condition include:

  • Dehydration
  • Low-fiber diets
  • Hairballs or excessive grooming
  • Obesity
  • Low metabolism
  • Medication side effect

However, constipation in cats can sometimes be caused by factors that are more serious and require specialized veterinary care. These contributors include:

  • Ingestion of a foreign object
  • Anal gland cancer
  • Intestinal or stomach infection
  • Neurological disorder
  • Enlarged or abscessed anal sacs
  • Intestinal or stomach tumors

Cats that are mildly constipated can often recover quickly and thoroughly by drinking more water or by eating food that is high in fiber. They also recover by losing weight or increasing their activity levels. 

Cats with underlying diseases like anal gland cancer, however, may require more intensive veterinary care before they experience relief from their constipation. A thorough veterinary examination can determine the best treatment plan for your cat.

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Diagnosis of Constipation in Cats

Your veterinarian may diagnose the cause of your cat's constipation by conducting a variety of tests. Along with collecting a stool sample if possible from your cat, the vet may also palpate your cat's stomach to determine if there could be a foreign object in the stomach or intestines. He or she may also use an x-ray or ultrasound to determine if the blockage is caused by a tumor or a viral or bacterial infection. 

Additionally, the vet may also take your cat's temperature to discover if it suffers from a fever, which could indicate an underlying infection. The veterinarian also will check your cat's mouth and eyes for signs of dehydration. If your cat is severely dehydrated, it may require intravenous hydration, which could relieve its constipation.

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Treatment of Constipation in Cats

Once your veterinarian has determined the underlying cause of your cat's constipation, he or she can determine the best course of treatment. For minor or acute cases of feline constipation, your vet may recommend treatments like:

  • Increased hydration:

    You may increase your cat's hydration by providing more water at home. Your vet may also use intravenous hydration to treat your cat's constipation.

  • Stool softeners:

    Stool softeners may be given orally to help your cat defecate normally.

  • Laxatives:

    Laxatives help your cat defecate normally and more often.

  • Increased fiber intake:

    Your vet may recommend switching your cat to a high-fiber cat food. You also can add high-fiber foods like canned pumpkin to your cat's diet.

Severe cases of feline constipation or cases caused by underlying diseases like cancer or tumors typically require surgical intervention. Surgery may be needed to manually evacuate the bowels or to remove obstructions in the intestines and stomach.

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Recovery of Constipation in Cats

With proper treatment, most cats afflicted with minor cases of feline constipation recover quickly. They do not need prolonged veterinarian care to resume normal movement of their bowels. 

You can help your cat's bowel health by making sure it has plenty of fresh water to drink and by adding fiber to its diet. You should also ensure your cat remains a healthy weight and gets enough exercise each day.

If your cat's constipation is caused by cancer, bowel obstruction, or another illness, it may need regular veterinary care to keep the underlying illness in check. Your vet may wish to x-ray or examine your cat every few months to ensure its proper bowel function.

You can also safeguard your cat's bowel health by keeping foreign objects like string, bottle caps, and other small items out of your cat's reach. This precaution ensures that your cat cannot swallow foreign objects that can cause constipation.

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Constipation Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Constipation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tortoise shell cat

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation. Swollen Stomach.

Why can't my cat go to the toilet? Her belly is swollen and she's crying like she's in pain. She's not herself atall and isn't very mobile either at the minute because of it. She's only young and I can see she is trying to push a pop but it won't come for her

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can sometimes get constipated, just like people, and it can be painful to have a bowel movement. Once that starts, it can get worse quickly, and having her seen by a veterinarian today would be a good idea. She may need fluids if she is dehydrated, and medications or an enema to help her pass that stool. I hope that she is okay!

Aug. 3, 2020

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Ragdoll

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Anemia

She has anemia,we just found out.saw her eating litter the other day.took xrays.stomach and Colin on fire.changed to paper liter imediately.does she have a chance?will a enema Help??????the vet is closed now.i just found this out.

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, An enema would only help remove anything in the distal colon. I have seen cats be just fine after eating litter. Your vet should be able to give you advice on what needs to be done next. If they are closed and your cat is very lethargic, take her to your local emergency clinic.

Aug. 1, 2020

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Domestic cat

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2 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing, Constipation, Eats, Urinates, Vomited Over 24 Hrs Ago (Foreign Object)

Yesterday morning my cat vomited what looked to be a plastic flower and stem with last nights dinner. And then 1 hr later he vomited a little fluid but not as much. He was lethargic and tired for most of the day but in the evening I fed him dinner which he ate off. We played quite a bit and it seemed like his energy had returned. He has been drinking water and urinating often but hasn’t defecated in a little over 24 hrs. His energy seems good, he’s grooming himself and everything but I don’t know what to do from here.

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your cat. If he hasn't defeated we worry that he could have a blockage. It may be best for your vet to look at him and make sure that there is no obstruction. I hope your cat starts to feel better soon.

Aug. 1, 2020

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DSH

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

No Stool

Cat has been on Clavamox and Onsior for 2 days for treatment of drained abscess. He is eating, drinking, urinating fine. Doesn't seem like hes in pain, Acting normal. Hasn't defecated in 2 days

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he did not eat for a day or two, it may be a little bit before he starts to have regular bowel movements. That may also occur if he had diarrhea. If he is not straining to defecate, and seems comfortable and is eating and drinking normally otherwise, you may be fine to continue to monitor him and give him his medication. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 31, 2020

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Domestic cat

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14 years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hard Stool With Mucus, Stool Full Of Hair, Straining And Crying In The Litter Box, Unproductive Litter Box Visits, Loud Crying, Vomiting

My cat was acting normal last night, but this morning he woke me up with loud crying (he has never made this noise except when under extreme stress or pain) and he behaved like he was hurt. Soon after, I saw him straining in the litter box, also in pain and unable to pass anything. He stopped crying at this point. The other droppings in the box were hard stools, some with mucus and some that looked filled with fur. He is also elderly & has an aggressive squamous cell carcinoma which is being treated palliatively. Should I take him to the vet even if he improves while I am at work?

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear ao ut your cat. Male cats can have a urinary blockage that can be very painful. If he cannot urinate, he needs to go to the vet ASAP. You can try to use cat hairball medication to help him poop easier but he would need to see a vet if he cannot urinate as this can be a life-threatening emergency.

July 30, 2020

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Duchess

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siam

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15 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

My cat had severe constipation along with vomiting once her vet examined her she was admitted in for 24 hours she was put on iv drip & had an enema under anaesthesia since being home she has no interest in food for the last 4 days is this normal after her treatment ?

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Larry

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tabby

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Lethargy
Weakness
Poor Appetite
Constipation
Not Eating
Tired

I have been worried about my cat for the past few months. He had bad constipation two years ago and we had a vet clean him out and he was fine after that but he got constipated again but worse I think this time. The vet gave him enemas in the middle of January and it didn't really help him. We got the vet to come again a week ago and he got him completely cleaned out but he has not been the same since. He has been tired and is sleeping all the time. He will also not eat and he will not eat soft canned food or tuna even. We've had to force feed him meat-flavored baby food through syringe. I do not understand why he would not be hungry at all. I think he is weak and tired because he doesn't have energy from food, but he won't eat food on his own no matter what we give him. I don't know what to do for him and I just wish he could get better.

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Aphrodite

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American Longhair

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Crying
Hard Belly
Abnormally Skittish

My cat has a hard belly and she keeps looking at me and meowing a lot and now she has poop stuck to her butt and I cant get it all off because everytime I try she cries out and takes off running

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Baby B

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long haired cat

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Consipated

What would you do if your cat is 8 years old and sent gone to the bathroom in days. (Unsure of how long). I took baby to the vet and he stays there for about 5 days (costing a lot of money) for him to get 3 enemas a day and fluids, miralax and cat lax EVERYTHING and nothing has worked. It’s been a week or so now that he hasn’t going poop.. how much is surgery ? And should I go to a different vet.. ?

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Fluffy

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Main Coon

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24 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Hard Poop

My 2 year old cat gets constipated , but she starts going in the litter box and then darts out of it and poops around the house while she is running and then she goes and hides like saying it's not her fault , I feel bad and have switched foods and give her hairball medicine , but I'm still confused on why she darts around the house while pooping , I've been to the vet numerous times and not alot of help . Please any suggestions ?

Constipation Average Cost

From 387 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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