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What is Constipated?

Cats, just like people, can become constipated. This is when bowel movements become quite difficult and painful to pass. Typically, constipation occurs when the digestive tract has difficulty properly digesting the food and moving it through the gastrointestinal tract. The bowel can become painful as it is trying to remove the waste, which may be of a harder or thicker consistency than normal.

There are several different reasons why constipation can happen to cats. Fortunately, many issues with constipation can be treated by a veterinarian. Constipation can be mild to moderate, or if a cat has a bowel blockage it can be more severe. It is important to make an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice your cat is not defecating in his litter box.

Reasons for constipation in cats can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal motility issues
  • Colon obstruction
  • Neurological condition

Why Constipated Occurs in Cats

Cats should have one bowel movement per day. Cats that have hardened stools, strain to go to the bathroom, and have dry stools should be seen by the veterinarian. Causes of constipation in cats are:

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when cats do not get enough water to drink. There is also a high percentage of water in many wet cat foods, so if your cat is only eating dry foods and not drinking enough, their kidneys can become stressed. This leads to trouble defecating.

Gastrointestinal Motility Issues

The gastrointestinal health of a cat is vital for proper and regular defecation. If the gastrointestinal system is inflamed, blocked, or is not able to properly absorb nutrients, cats can become constipated.

Colon Obstruction

If a cat’s colon is obstructed by a foreign body, or if the colon is kinked or twisted in some way, cats can become severely constipated. This type of health condition can quickly become life-threatening if the obstruction is complete.

Neurological Condition

Nerves control the ways the bowel contracts, and if the nerves are damaged due to a trauma of the lower section of the spine or other injury, the cat may not be able to properly pass the feces through the colon.

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What to do if your Cat is Constipated

If your cat is constipated, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may want to see your cat as soon as possible. A blocked colon can be very serious and life-threatening. Once you arrive at the veterinarian’s office, he will immediately begin to assess your cat. He will perform a complete physical examination, palpate his abdominal area, look closely at his rectal area, and do laboratory testing. Blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile are basic laboratory tests which can alert the veterinarian to possible underlying conditions. If the kidneys are strained, this can cause constipation, and the urinalysis and biochemistry profile will communicate this to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian may then need to perform imaging techniques to take a look at the colon to be sure there is not an obstruction or a twist within the section.

Your veterinarian will also want to know more information about your cat’s constipation. He may even have you bring a sample of the feces and with you so he can take a look at the consistency. He will also want to know how often your cat typically uses his litter box , or when the last time he went to the bathroom. This information provided by you, as well as laboratory testing and the physical examination will allow the veterinarian to come to a diagnosis of what is causing his constipation.

Your veterinarian may also need to keep your cat overnight in order to give him plenty of fluids and to check his electrolyte levels while monitoring him. He may also give your cat a stool softener to help him pass feces. There are other medications as well to help your cat pass stool and your veterinarian may want to keep him overnight to monitor this.

Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors. Some are more serious than others, such as a blocked colon or an inflammation in the gastrointestinal system. Your veterinarian will communicate with you the details of your cat’s diagnosis and will give you treatment options best suited for his case.

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Prevention of Constipated

You can help prevent constipation in your cat by keeping regular veterinary appointments. Routine visits allow your veterinarian to check his overall health, including his gastrointestinal health. You should also be sure your cat is drinking plenty of water and is getting water within his food. If you prefer to feed your cat dry cat food, be sure he is drinking his water by monitoring his water dish every day.

Giving your cat a balanced diet which includes an adequate amount of fiber will also help your cat be healthy. Always watching to make sure your cat is eating properly and going to the bathroom regularly without issue will let you know if he is defecating in a healthy way. Many cat owners change the litter box every day, and every day your cat should be having a bowel movement. If you see that your cat’s bowel movement does not look like the proper consistency (too dry, too hard, small, little balls) then you should call your veterinarian.

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Cost of Constipated

If your cat is suffering from lack of intestinal motility or if he has been diagnosed with a colon or rectal inflammation, the cost for treatment of both diagnoses can begin at $500.

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Constipated Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Lippa

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Persian

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

Hi, So my cat had 2 small bouts of soft stools- diarrhoea about 36 hrs ago. She was on a hills i/d diet and was including at higher volumes some wet food (not hills i/d) to complement her food which i believe might have caused her bout of diarrhoea as she was increasingly avoiding hills i/d in preference of her almo natur wet food. Anyhow as soon as i saw her diarrhoea i left her exclusively on hills i/d. She has been eating and drinking very normally and playful too. The problem is she has not produced any faeces for the past 36 hours. Is it normal after a bout of diarrhoea for a cat to take this long?, she normally produces stools every 24 hours. As a sideline she is 2 years old, has been urinating normally. Thanks Kenneth

Jan. 21, 2018

Lippa's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. It is quite normal for their to be a little time after diarrhea before producing normal stool, and the intestines tend to empty out when Lippa has diarrhea. If she starts straining to defecate and isn't producing any stool, or still hasn't had a bowel movement in the next 24 hours, she should be examined by your veterinarian to make sure that she is okay, but as long as she is acting normally, not straining, and eating, you should be okay to continue to monitor her. I hope that everything goes well for her!

Jan. 21, 2018

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