What Cat Parents Should Know About Kitten Diarrhea

Your poor kitten 😿

kitten using the litter box

You might be super concerned (and maybe even a little grossed out) if your kitten suddenly starts having diarrhea. Is your kitten sick, and does he need to go to the vet?

We spoke to Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian with Hepper, to get the scoop on kitten diarrhea.

Why does my kitten have diarrhea?

It’s actually pretty common for your kitten to have diarrhea. Kittens have sensitive stomachs, so lots of things can give them digestive problems.

“A kitten’s digestive tract is very sensitive, and even minor changes in their environment can lead to diarrhea,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo. “Changes in diet, including switching brands or flavors of cat food, can cause temporary diarrhea. So can the stress of moving to a new home, being weaned, vaccinations or adding additional animals to [your house].”

Certain medications, human food and cow’s milk can also cause diarrhea in cats. Many cats are lactose intolerant, so giving your kitten milk can upset his stomach.

Sometimes kitten diarrhea can be a sign of something more serious, though.

“Diarrhea in kittens may also be due to internal parasites, food allergies or infections,” Dr. Bonk said.

Your vet will take into account all of your cat’s symptoms in addition to diarrhea to determine what’s wrong and the appropriate treatment. More concerning causes of diarrhea in kittens include:

  • Eating something poisonous
  • Food allergies
  • Parasites
  • A viral infection, such as feline panleukopenia, feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus
  • A bacterial infection, such as salmonella or campylobacter
  • An intestinal obstruction
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatitis

What to feed a kitten with diarrhea

If your kitten doesn’t have any other symptoms (like vomiting) and is acting normal, try adding some plain, canned pumpkin with no added flavors or ingredients to his food, Dr. Bonk said. Pumpkin contains fiber, which can help your cat’s poop become firmer.

Your vet can also recommend a probiotic for cats to give your kitten.

“For more moderate diarrhea, consult your veterinarian and consider feeding a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice,” Dr. Bonk said.

When to see a vet for kitten diarrhea

According to Dr. Bonk, “Diarrhea by itself usually isn’t a cause for concern.” You can keep a close eye on your kitten to see if it clears up quickly (within a couple of days) or if he develops any other symptoms, Dr. Bonk said.

You should definitely take your kitten to the vet if you notice other signs of illness, “such as vomiting, fever, dehydration, not eating or lethargy, or [if he] has bloody, smelly diarrhea,” Dr. Bonk said.

How to prevent diarrhea in kittens

Kittens will get an upset stomach from time to time, but there are some ways you can try to keep his diarrhea to a minimum.

  • Feed your kitten food that’s appropriate for his life stage, and don’t change his diet too quickly. Anytime you want to switch him to a different food, mix the old and new foods together, and gradually add in more of the new food for at least one week.
  • Vaccinate your kitten and put him on a parasite preventative medication.
  • Ask your vet about giving your kitten cat probiotics with his food. Probiotics can help regulate his digestive system.
  • Try to provide a schedule for your kitten. Cats like routine, so setting a regular feeding, playing and sleeping schedule can help him stay calm.

Kitten diarrhea can be pretty gross, but it’s not always a reason to panic. Just check your kitten for signs of illness. And remember, you can always take him to the vet if you’re concerned.