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

Cat Constipation: What Can You Do About It?

The symptoms of cat constipation aren’t necessarily not pooping at all. See what causes constipation in cats and how you can prevent it in the first place.

JaneA Kelley  |  Nov 8th 2017

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. 

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