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How to Help Your Cat Overcome Constipation

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on January 28, 2019
Posted in Parent Help

Your cat’s litter box needs to be cleaned once a day to keep your cat happy. This routine makes it really easy to spot when your cat might be having bowel problems. Specifically, the lack of evidence that your cat has used its litter box in the past day or two might make you question what’s going on with its health.

Cat’s should normally defecate once a day. If you notice that your cat isn’t, there’s a chance it might be constipated. Constipation isn’t a good time for anyone, but especially not for a cat that can’t talk or do much to change its strained situation.

What causes constipation in cats?

Before you can identify the best way to treat your constipated cat, you must first understand the reasons it may be constipated in the first place.

  • Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the leading causes of constipation. Without enough water, your cat’s stools may become too solidified in its intestines to comfortably excrete. A change in diet may cause this, such as switching from canned food to dry food.
  • Illness: Numerous chronic diseases like diabetes and kidney disease can cause dehydration, which can lead to constipation. Watch for other signs of illness from your cat, including lethargy, increase vocalization, hiding and weight loss.
  • Old age: Older cats tend to have more problems with constipation because using the litter box becomes more uncomfortable. Arthritis is a particular problem that may cause cats to avoid using the litter box and hold it for longer, which allows stool to dry out.
  • Stress: Changes in the home may be causing your cat extra stress that has manifested in behavioral changes. This may lead to your cat holding its stools, causing them to dry out.
  • Intestinal blockage: Constipation might be caused by an intestinal blockage stemming from an object your cat should not have ingested, or even a hairball that was not thrown up and had time to make its way into the intestines. Intestinal blockages can be very serious and may require veterinary assistance.

5 tips for relieving constipation

If constipation is not treated, it can become a serious and painful condition that requires emergency veterinary attention. To prevent this from happening, here are five natural ways to help your cat overcome constipation.

  1. Extra water: If your cat seems to dislike its water bowl, try moving it to a new part of the home or adding multiple water bowls in different rooms. Stagnant water may also be unappealing to cats, so make sure to change the water frequently or purchase a fountain product that offers continuous fresh water for your cats. Sometimes, simple things like adding ice cubes to a cat’s water dish makes water much more appetizing, as well. You can also add water to your cat’s food or use canned food, which has a higher water content, instead of dry food.
  2. Pumpkin: Pumpkin is a tasty treat to many pets and has high fiber content, which makes it a great remedy for feline constipation. When first starting out, make sure to only give your cat a little at a time—no more than one teaspoon—and build up gradually to one or two tablespoons as necessary. Giving your cat too much might have the opposite effect on its bowels and cause diarrhea, or even make constipation worse because too much fiber is also bad for cats.
  3. Exercise: Sometimes, all your cat needs is a little extra movement throughout its day to get things moving on the gastrointestinal front. Try to play with your cat more and encourage additional running and jumping throughout the day. Exercise is known for its ability to maintain healthy bowel movements and can help regulate constipation in the future.
  4. Natural supplements: If constipation is a routine issue, your cat may benefit from taking a constipation supplement that supports colon health. Natural supplements can help regulate your cat’s bowel movements without causing diarrhea.
  5. Probiotics: The bacteria present in your cat’s gut can cause a wide variety of problems for its health, including digestive health. This may occur because of an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. You can help your cat’s colon become balanced once again by adding a probiotic supplement into its meals each day. Probiotics may also have other health benefits, from immunity to food sensitivities.

If your cat does not respond well to these tips or has not had a bowel movement in over 72 hours, take it to the vet as soon as possible. It may require an enema, which should only be administered by a trained professional. Additional testing may also be necessary to determine the cause of the constipation.

Hopefully, though, your cat will respond well to these natural remedies and overcome its constipation quickly, getting back to its “regular” old self.

Read also: Concerning Behavior Changes to Watch Out for When it Comes to Your Cat’s Health

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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