Help! My Cat is Constipated

Here are some tips for resolving your cat's stomach issues 💩

cat constipation

Let’s be real, no one likes to be constipated, including your pet. So what can you do to help your cat get those bowels moving if you notice he’s pooping less — or not at all? And what causes cat constipation anyway?

We spoke to Lucie Wilkins, a feline vet nurse and the editor of Kitty Cat Tree, for her insight about cat constipation — like if it can be a sign of something more serious, what you can do to help and when to call your vet.

Signs of cat constipation

While more common in older cats, constipation can happen at any age and is typically diagnosed when a cat strains unsuccessfully and any feces passed are hard and dry. Your cat may also show signs of being tired, not wanting to eat, tummy pain and vomiting.

Reasons for cat constipation

While there are a variety of reasons for your cat’s inability to poop, it’s important to keep an eye on the issue as it can be a sign of something more serious. According to Wilkins, the most common causes of cat constipation are:

  • Hair balls — Your cat’s ability to swallow hair, which happens during grooming, can cause a buildup of hair balls in the bowel, which can lead to constipation.
  • Diet — If your cat’s diet is lacking in fiber, it can lead to constipation. Fiber helps food move along the digestive tract, increases stool size and makes your cat’s poop softer and easier to pass through.
  • Exercise — Just like in humans, movement and exercise stimulates the bowels. If your cat’s lying around all day, he may be more prone to constipation.
  • Lack of water — If your cat isn’t getting enough water, he can become dehydrated. Since cats aren’t great about drinking water on their own, Wilkins suggests supplementing their diet with wet cat food.
  • Stress and anxiety — From being forced to share their resources to experiencing a recent move, cats can feel stressed and anxious for many reasons. Unfortunately, this can actually be one reason he’s constipated, too.
  • Megacolon — The most common cause of constipation in cats, the megacolon refers to weakened muscles in the colon which fail to propel fecal matter out. This may be as a result of neurological impairment and/or problems with the muscles lining the colon.

Constipation can also be a sign of something more serious, such as a bowel obstruction, an injury or cancer.

“If your cat has been constipated for a long while and is straining to go but can't, it's best you go to a vet for advice,” Wilkins told The Dodo.

Ways to help relieve your cat’s constipation

  • Change in diet — Look for foods that are designed specifically for constipated cats (these are usually by prescription, so you’ll need vet approval first), and add more wet food into his diet. Also, make sure he’s drinking enough water. “One way I encourage my cats to drink more is by placing two or three water bowls in different spots around the house,” Wilkins said.
  • Exercise and enrichment — More exercise will help keep bowels moving and your cat in a healthy state overall. It's important your cat gets to move and is enriched by his environment. “If they are an indoor cat only, make sure they have lots of toys and things to climb,” Wilkins suggested.
  • Add more litter trays — Try adding more litter trays around the house. Sometimes cats like to go in a more private and secluded spot, so try and keep that in mind when you're placing the new trays around your house.
  • Try probiotics — This is one supplement for cats that can make a valuable difference if used with the correct diet. Talk to your veterinarian about their suggestions if you have any questions.

When to contact your vet

Pay attention to timing if your cat has not been able to poop.

“Get in touch with your vet if it's been longer than 72 hours since your cat's last bowel movement,” Wilkins said. “If you notice that your cat is in pain or discomfort, always call your vet immediately.”

Cat constipation will likely happen at some point in your journey as a pet parent. Here’s hoping it clears up quickly so you can get back to cuddling together soon.

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