Whether you have a cuddly indoor cat or an adventurous outdoor cat, you might be aware of your cat’s pooping routine. If your cat uses a litter box, you probably know how often you should expect ‘presents,’ and if your cat has a favorite flowerbed in the garden, you might spot them doing their business regularly. But what happens if your cat is not pooping? How do you spot the signs of constipation, and when should you take your bunged up kitty to see a veterinarian?
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What is constipation?
If your cat is constipated, it means that their poop is moving more slowly through the colon. As it spends longer in the colon, it becomes drier and drier as the colon absorbs more fluid from the stool. This causes the stool to be harder to pass, which can even lead to a blockage. As more and more poop becomes backed up behind the obstruction, the situation becomes worse and worse, and your cat may become uncomfortable, start vomiting, or become dehydrated.
If your cat hasn’t pooped for three days or more, or if they are straining or unwell, you should get them checked over by veterinarian.
Why do cats become constipated?
Cats can become constipated for several reasons, including:
Not drinking enough
If your cat is dehydrated or just isn’t drinking enough, the stools are already firmer and drier when they get to the colon. Once in the colon, most of the remaining water is absorbed from the poop to improve the body’s hydration, which leaves a hard, dry, fecal pellet. The stool becomes difficult or even painful for your cat to pass and can form a blockage in the colon, trapping even more poop behind it.
If your cat is the type to eat things they shouldn’t or play with risky items like wool, thread, tinsel, or string, they could be at risk of constipation. This is because these foreign materials can get stuck within the guts and lead to a blockage. As well as linear objects, things like bones or grass are common culprits. It’s unusual for cats to eat inedible items, but it does happen occasionally. If your cat tends to try to eat odd things like sponge or carpet, or even wood or gravel, you should contact your veterinarian for advice in case they have a symptom called pica.
Change in diet
Sometimes a change in your cat’s diet can cause an upset tummy or interference with their guts. This often causes diarrhea but can also lead to constipation because the irritated intestines may stop their usual rhythm of peristalsis.
Inflammation of the intestines can cause a change in the regular gut movements and their ability to absorb fluid and nutrients. Therefore, if the guts are inflamed, it’s common to see a fluctuation between diarrhea and constipation.
Tumors or growths of the large bowel or rectum can cause an obstruction, stopping poop from passing. This can lead to signs of constipation as large amounts of poop builds up behind the blockage.
Many people know that dogs have anal glands, but you might not know that cats do. If these anal glands become too full of scent material or become impacted or infected, it can make passing stools very painful for your cat. Naturally, this might cause them to avoid passing stools for as long as they can, which can cause constipation.
You can try to help your cat pass stools more easily by ensuring they are drinking plenty of water and adding some fiber to their diet.
How to help your constipated cat
If your cat is straining to go to the toilet, you should ensure that they have passed urine recently. A blocked bladder can cause straining, which often looks pretty similar to constipation. If you’re not sure whether they can pass urine, you should take them to see a member of our veterinary team without delay.
If your cat is constipated but is otherwise well, you can try increasing their water intake for a few days. You can do this by adding water to their food, leaving more water bowls around the house, and encouraging them to drink from running taps or cat water fountains. The extra fluid should help stop them from becoming dehydrated and help to soften the stools in the colon.
If your cat is constipated and may have eaten something foreign, or is acting unwell, vomiting, or bleeding from their bottom, you should contact the veterinary clinic right away.
When should you see a veterinarian?
If you have increased your constipated cat’s water intake for forty-eight hours, but they still haven’t passed any stools, you should take them to see their veterinarian. The veterinarian will examine them and prescribe fecal softeners, fecal lubricants, or even micro enemas. If your cat is severely constipated or dehydrated, the veterinarian may suggest putting them on a drip or doing an enema under an anesthetic.
If your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t have, and this may be causing constipation, you should not wait forty-eight hours before contacting the veterinarian. This is also the case if your cat is eating and drinking less, vomiting, lethargic, or bleeding from their bottom. In these cases, you should make an urgent veterinary appointment for your feline friend.
So, what should you do if your cat is not pooping?
If your cat is not pooping but is acting normally otherwise, you should increase their water intake. However, if they don’t pass any poop within two days or seem unwell, you should see the veterinarian straight away. With the help of our veterinary team, your cat should hopefully be back to their regular self in no time.
Every cat is different, but cats usually pass stools at least every forty-eight hours. If your cat hasn’t pooped for three days or more, or if they are straining or unwell, you should get them checked over by one of our veterinarians.
You can’t control your cat’s bowel movements, of course, but you can try to help your cat pass stools more easily by ensuring they are drinking plenty of water and adding some fiber to their diet.
Cats sometimes stop passing poop if they have had diarrhea recently or if their diet has changed. It could also be that they are a little dehydrated or have eaten something they shouldn’t have. If you are concerned that your cat hasn’t pooped for forty-eight hours, or if they are straining, you should contact their veterinarian.
If your cat is severely constipated, they can become dehydrated and weak. They can also struggle to keep food down and become very unwell. However, the majority of the time, constipation is not an emergency.
Dr. Hannah Godfrey MRCVS graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2011. Although she initially worked in mixed practice treating all species, she found a love for small animal work and has worked exclusively with dogs and cats since 2014. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and two cats (named Poppy and Ashton Kutcher), and writes comedy fiction in her spare time.