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Can Stress Give a Cat Diarrhea? Vet Approved Signs, Causes & Treatment

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

maine coon inside litter box

Can Stress Give a Cat Diarrhea? Vet Approved Signs, Causes & Treatment


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your family is experiencing a significant life change, such as moving, your stress levels are likely quite high. During all the upheaval, your cat may suddenly develop diarrhea, which is worrisome. While it’s true that stress can give cats diarrhea, this troublesome condition can also be a sign of many other health problems.

In this article, we’ll talk about when you should suspect that stress is responsible for your cat’s diarrhea, including other signs of anxiety that might help you make the case. We’ll also discuss other possible causes of diarrhea and what to do if your cat is experiencing loose poop.

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Stress and Diarrhea in Cats

Both dogs and cats can fall victim to the condition known as “stress colitis.” Colitis is the term for inflammation of the colon, the last section of a cat’s intestines. Stress is not the only cause of colitis in cats.

Cats suffering from colitis may also be gassy, vomiting, or straining to poop. You may notice them frequently going to the litter box and staying there for a long time. This type of diarrhea tends to be messy and smelly, often containing mucus and blood.

If your cat suddenly has diarrhea—especially when it occurs close to a sudden change in their routine or an anxiety-inducing event—it’s fair to suspect stress is to blame. However, you’ll want to see your vet to make sure and to get your cat treated.

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Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Other Signs of Stress

Cats are good at hiding their feelings, and you’ll need to pay careful attention to their behavior to help determine whether you’re dealing with stress and anxiety. Along with diarrhea, cats may also vomit or stop eating.

Here are some additional signs of stress in cats:
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Behavior changes like unexplained aggression
  • Overgrooming
  • Hiding all the time

Many of these signs can also indicate medical issues other than stress, and you should have your cat checked by a vet to rule them out.

Other Causes of Diarrhea and What to Do

Diarrhea is considered a non-specific sign, indicating a wide range of medical conditions.

Besides stress, some additional common causes of diarrhea include the following:
  • Parasites
  • Eating something they shouldn’t
  • Eating something toxic
  • Food allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Cancer
  • Bacterial or viral infections

This list barely scratches the surface of all the causes of diarrhea. Stress-related diarrhea is usually short-lived, but if your cat continues to have loose stools, there could be something else going on.

Excessive diarrhea can cause your cat to become dehydrated, especially if they’re also vomiting. Anytime your cat stops eating or starts eating less, they could develop a life-threatening hepatic lipidosis. Don’t delay in having your cat evaluated by a veterinarian.

Your vet may suggest various tests to diagnose the cause of your cat’s diarrhea, such as a fecal check, bloodwork, X-rays, or even an ultrasound. Depending on the diagnosis, you may need to treat an underlying condition or control the diarrhea. Long-term, stubborn cases of diarrhea may lead your vet to send you to a veterinary internal medicine specialist for help.

cat and vet
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

Decreasing Stress

If your vet determines your cat’s diarrhea is most likely caused by stress, part of the treatment will include decreasing potential anxiety triggers around the house. If the cause is temporary, such as home renovations or house guests, hopefully, the diarrhea will be too. Give your cat a comfortable place to hide with a bed, food, and a clean litter box.

To avoid stress from territorial conflict with housemates, ensure you have enough litter boxes for each cat and one extra. Provide enough bedding, toys, food bowls, and your attention so that the kitties don’t feel like they need to fight over anything. Consider using a pheromone product to reduce anxiety as well.

Some cats will benefit from probiotics or prescription anxiety medication. Your vet can help you manage your cat’s stress, including prescribing drugs if needed or referring you to a veterinary behavioral specialist.

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Dealing with stress diarrhea in your cat can be a hassle, especially since you might also have your own sources of anxiety! Make the time to get your cat to the vet to avoid further complications. With so many possible causes of diarrhea, you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to treating your cat.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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