Cats, just like us humans, can become constipated, which means that feces accumulate in the intestine and cannot pass out.
When a cat repeatedly walks on the box without results, constipation may be the cause.
NOTE that similar symptoms are seen in the acute and potentially life-threatening condition urinary retention! Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you ensure that your cat can urinate if you suspect that it is constipated.
There are many possible causes of constipation. Back problems can cause pain when the cat has to poop and make the cat avoid or find it difficult to poop. The stool then remains longer in the intestine, which makes it dry, hard and difficult to get out.
During the dehydration condition, an increased amount of fluid is taken up via the intestine, which leads to the stool becoming hard and making it more difficult to pass out through the intestine.
Other contributing reasons may be too little exercise or that the litter box is not sufficiently cleaned so that the cat withdraws to use it and there is too much time between bowel movements.
Constipation can also occur as a result of changes in the intestine, such as tumors, or neurological diseases. In older cats, renal impairment is a common cause of hard stools and constipation.
It also happens that the cat has ingested a foreign object, such as a toy, which is stuck in the intestine and prevents the feces from passing. However, vomiting is significantly more common than difficulty in pooping on foreign objects in the intestine. If the cat has long hair and licks a lot of hair, a hairball can form in the gastrointestinal tract.
These usually vomit up or pass out through the intestines, but sometimes they can get stuck and cause constipation.
In cats, there is a risk of recurrence with repeated constipation. These cases can be difficult to overcome and require careful investigation to find out the underlying cause and find a feeding and treatment regimen that prevents relapse.
- Missed stool – the cat can sit and shiver for a long time without any stool or there is only a small amount
- Tight abdomen and / or abdominal pain
- Impaired general condition
Treatment at home
If the cat is alert and otherwise well, and there is no suspicion of a serious underlying cause, you as a pet owner can try to give a little butter, which has a slight laxative effect on the intestine and can help the stool to pass.
Make sure that the cat ingests a lot of fluid, which facilitates the intestinal passage. If the cat eats wet food / canned food, it is good to only feed with this until the constipation is resolved.
Try to stimulate your cat to drink more, you can for example offer more vessels to drink from, a water fountain or let the cat drink from a tap – many cats like to drink from running water.
Exercise stimulates intestinal motor skills, so try to get the cat to move more. For example, you can use a laser pointer if the cat thinks it’s fun.
When to contact a veterinarian?
- If the cat’s general condition is impaired
- If there is a suspicion that the cat has ingested some foreign object, such as a toy or yarn
- If the cat has not urinated (then it may instead be a urinary retention which is a serious condition!)
- In case of blood in the stool
- If the constipation is not resolved within a few days despite treatment at home
The veterinarian first performs a general clinical examination with a special focus on the general condition, the cat’s fluid status and the abdominal organs. In cats, it is often possible to feel the constipation with the hands, but if the cat is overweight, it can sometimes be difficult and then the clinical examination is often supplemented with an X-ray examination of the abdomen.
When a foreign body has been excluded, an attempt is usually made to resolve the blockage medically.
The treatment can consist of drip, pain relief, intestinal motor-promoting preparations and possibly laxative drugs and enemas. If the treatment is not effective, the cat needs to be anesthetized so that the constipation can be resolved with a water enema.
Sometimes the constipation is so extensive that several anesthetics and enemas need to be performed. The abdomen is often checked with a follow-up X-ray examination to ensure that the constipation is resolved.
Is it possible to prevent constipation in cats?
Since it is relatively common in cats that there is an underlying cause of constipation, individual consideration needs to be taken into account in the recommendation for how recurrent constipation can be prevented. But there are still some things you as a cat owner can think of:
- Fluid – helps to dissolve the stool and to “lubricate” the intestines. It is therefore important that the cat drinks properly. Make sure that there is always access to clean and fresh water.
- Exercise – important for stimulating intestinal motor skills.
- Keep the litter box clean so that the cat does not pull to use it