Treating and Preventing Constipation in Cats

cat on toilet

Just like humans, cats can experience problems in performing bowel movements. Ordinarily, cats will usually have at least one solid bowel movement per day but if they become constipated, they will not be able to do this. Straining to defecate and only passing small, hard faeces are prominent indications that your cat is suffering from constipation. Other symptoms may also be present such as a lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea. If constipation becomes a chronic occurrence, it can lead to more serious problems within the digestive system.

Causes of Constipation in Cats

Cats can become constipated for a number of reasons, including

  • Dehydration (a leading cause of mild constipation)
  • Not getting enough fibre in their diet
  • Hairballs (as a result of excessive self-grooming or inadequate grooming for long-haired breeds)
  • Impacted or abscessed anal glands
  • Swallowing foreign objects
  • As a side effect of medication
  • Tumours and other intestinal obstructions
  • Neurological problems
  • Nerve damage
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Behavioural issues (which can be caused by factors such as an unclean litter tray, being unwilling to share a litter tray with other cats in the household or not wanting to go to the toilet outside, for example)

Is Constipation a Cause for Concern?

As an infrequent occurrence, constipation isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. Chronic constipation is a bigger worry and is a sign that something is not right. If on-going constipation is not rectified, it could lead to serious problems within your cat’s digestive system. The colon may be affected by chronic constipation, to the point that it becomes unnaturally enlarged and loses the ability to contract. This can lead to it becoming totally blocked and preventing elimination from happening at all.

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Treating Constipation in Cats

Treatment for your cat’s constipation will depend on the cause of the situation and its severity. Mild constipation may be treated by introducing extra fibre into the diet or by temporarily using a stool softener to make it easier to eliminate. In more serious cases of constipation, your vet may recommend that your cat undergoes an enema to remove faeces. Surgery may be needed if an obstruction is the underlying cause of your cat’s constipation.

Preventing Constipation in Cats

For the most part, understanding what has initially caused your cat’s constipation will be key for preventing further occurrences in the future.

If it has been caused by lifestyle factors, these will need to be addressed to avoid a repeat situation. Making sure that your cat has access to clean and fresh water throughout the day (to avoid dehydration), gets adequate exercise and is groomed regularly to minimise hairballs are key to reduce the chances of your cat becoming constipated in the future.

If behavioural problems are a strong factor, this will need to be tackled by measures such as offering your cat a separate litter tray that is only for their use and making sure that their litter tray is cleaned out at least once per day or that a second litter tray is available for when the original one is dirty.

[Photo Credit: trainedcat]