An older cat lying down and resting. Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock.
An older cat lying down and resting. Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock.

Cat Constipation: What Can You Do About It?

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Cats are usually pretty good about staying regular, but every once in a while they too can find themselves getting constipated. It’s not any more fun for your cat than it is for you. Here’s some information on cat constipation and what you can do to help when your kitties get bound up:

What are the symptoms of cat constipation?

An orange tabby cat hangs out in a yellow litter box.
Cat constipation doesn’t necessarily mean not pooping at all. Photography by Absolutimages/istock.

The most obvious symptom of cat constipation is that your cat is not passing stools. However, constipation can be indicated by other things such as small, hard stools, perhaps with blood or mucus as a result of straining to “go.”

A severely constipated cat can also have abdominal pain, lose his appetite, vomit or excessively groom his belly area because of the pain.

Why do cats get constipated?

The most likely cause of constipation in cats is dehydration. Other common causes include hairballs, blocked or abscessed anal sacs, obesity, or ingestion of foreign objects such as string, cloth or bones.

Rarer causes include neurological problems, tumors, abnormal size or motility of the colon (for example, in megacolon), side effects of medications, or, in male cats, an enlarged prostate gland.

Older cats are more likely to get constipated, partly because they may have kidney disease or other conditions that leave them dehydrated, and partly because they may suffer from arthritis in the hips, which makes the “poop squat” difficult and painful.

What should you do about cat constipation?

The first thing you should do is call your vet. Many of the symptoms of cat constipation can mimic those of urinary tract problems, and a urinary infection or blockage can be life-threatening.

Your vet may recommend home treatments, or, depending on how long the constipation has been going on, they might want you to bring your kitty in for a checkup to make sure nothing else is going on.

How is cat constipation treated?

First of all, do not attempt any of these treatments without a veterinarian’s guidance.

The first thing you should do is get your cat to drink more. You can do this by feeding canned food and adding a little extra water to that food. You can also invest in a drinking fountain; many cats prefer moving water to water that’s just sitting in a bowl.

Exercise will also get your cat’s bowels moving, so give him a couple of good rounds of interactive play a day. This will also help your kitty lose weight if he’s on the chubby side.

Once your cat is regular again, your vet may recommend putting a little pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, because that usually has sugar and spices in it) or a tiny bit of a tasteless fiber product such as Metamucil.

If your cat is severely constipated, your vet may need to give him an enema. This is not something you should attempt at home, not only because you could severely injure your cat but because many home enema products contain products that are toxic to cats.

If your cat’s constipation is due to ingesting a foreign object, he may need surgery to remove the object. If it’s due to a problem with the anal glands, your vet will need to treat that issue as well.

Your vet may also prescribe medication to increase the strength of the contractions that move waste through the intestines, or a high-fiber prescription cat food.

If your cat is frequently constipated, your vet may recommend further tests to determine if there is an underlying cause such as a tumor or other partial blockage.

What can you do to prevent constipation in cats?

A fluffy brown cat getting groomed with a pink brush.
Longhaired cats are more likely to develop hairballs that can cause constipation. Photography © ollegN/Thinkstock.

Make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water and gets lots of exercise. Feed him a diet high in fiber. Brush your cat regularly, especially if he has long hair, to prevent hairballs from getting stuck in his intestinal tract.

Older cats may need special accommodations to make the litter box easier for them to use, such as low sides or perhaps even a flat pan lined with puppy pads.

Tell us: Have you had a constipated cat? How did you deal with it? What did your vet recommend? Did it work? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

Thumbnail: Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock. 

Read more about cat poop on Catster.com:

Feeling a little blocked up yourself? Try these home remedies for constipation >>

8 thoughts on “Cat Constipation: What Can You Do About It?”

  1. I finally got my cat’s constipation under control, so wanted to share with you all. My cat has had enemas in the past and we tried a couple of vet prescribed laxatives, but ultimately what made the big difference was when we switched him to a vet prescribed diet “Royal Canin Gastroinstestinal fiber response” dry food (he gets this for breakfast and then we give him a healthy canned wet food at night. ALSO – I recently came across a natural herb supplement, which I add drops of to his wet food. IT WORKS!!! Would highly recommend it: “Pet Wellbeing Smooth BM Gold for Cats – Natural Constipation Support for Felines” (it may seem pricey, but this stuff lasts about 5 months). It has other nutrition benefits too. The company has a whole line of supplements for different issues. I’m tempted to also get the one that’s especially for senior cats. They have supplements for both cats and dogs.

    1. Thank you so much for this information! I have two 15 year old ragdoll cats and have been dealing with this issue for two years for one cat and 2 months for the other. The meds, pumpkin, fibercon is not really doing much. They maybe go twice a week and that’s it. The are on W2 food that the vet prescribed. I’m going to try these other things you mentioned. Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: 9 Things You Never Wanted to Know About Cat Anal Glands | Funny Cute Cats

  3. Pingback: How to Make a Kitten Poop – My Blog

  4. Our cat Goldie is on a prescription diet for thyroid which makes him extremely constipated. Out Vet told us to give him equal amounts of unsalted chicken broth and water mixed with 1/8th teaspoon Miralax three times a day and it definitely works.

  5. Kenny & Sarah Anderson

    We have two 13-year-old cats who each have demonstrated this issue in the past year. The strongest admonition from our vet, like it says in the article, is to take steps to avoid dehydration. While we already have two pet fountains, we have also added wet food as part of their diet. We also tried wetting their dry food, but they refused to eat it. The other suggestion our vet recommended to avoid office calls is to administer Miralax. When we see signs of constipation such as vomiting or lack of bowel movements, we add ¼ teaspoon to the wet food until the symptoms have passed. Our vet said to expect at least one BM each day, so if either kitty fails to make a “deposit” in the litter box, we immediately go on watch.

  6. Having a (now older) Japanese Bobtail cat, we fight this constantly. Our vet explained the issue is due to the spinal structure in this breed. We add a bit of mineral oil to each of her meals and keep her on higher fiber wet food. As an elder, she’s not as active as she once was and this contributes to her problem. Using this regimen, she’s not needed an enema for nearly a year. But it’s not an easy regiment – she’s one smart cat.

    She can’t SEE you put anything in her food. She once saw hubby add the oil, and now she won’t eat anything he gives her. Also, like most cats, she goes thru periods where food once delicious is now the rot of the earth to her. It’s rough on everyone, but I love this cat breed. They’re mischievous, enthusiastic… if not downright frantic… in their play, and -love- to be held and babied. They’re also small stature cats, even full grown. Izzie fits perfectly in my fold of my arm against my chest. And that stub of a tail! I never knew a tail could move in so many different directions, or be so expressive of the cat’s mood!

  7. My kitty Ginger often is constipated due to her GI issues . She has irritable bowel disease (IBD) and one of her symptoms is that. We increase her wet food amounts and decrease dry food to assist with her passing of stools.

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