Constipation in Cats

Constipation in cats is a common condition, which has a number of possible root causes.

Constipation in cats is usually easy to recognize. If you notice that your cat has dry, hard, or pebble-like stool, and/or she cries or seems to have difficulty with a bowel movement, then she is probably suffering from feline constipation.

Related behaviors can include refusal to use the litter box completely, or many unsuccessful litter box visits within a short time frame. Sometimes your cat will seem to be playing with the litter in the box for several minutes on each visit. Large amounts of hair in the stool may be an indicator, as well as defecating outside the litter box.

Possible causes of constipation in cats:

The number one cause of constipation in cats is hairballs, but there are some other possible physical causes...

Physical Causes

  • hairballs
  • low fiber diet
  • lack of water consumption
  • old age/lack of exercise/poor abdominal muscle condition
  • consuming indigestible items (grass, paper)
  • intestinal blockage due to disease or foreign object

Psychological Causes

Psychological causes include litter box aversion, which has several root causes...

  • dirty litter box
  • poorly placed litter box
  • disturbances such as loud noises or strangers close by
  • competition with another cat in the house
  • life or environmental changes
  • other stresses of any kind

Relieving feline constipation:

Hairball Management

If hairballs are at fault, then hairball management is obviously crucial.

  • regular grooming, every day if possible
  • commercial cat laxatives
  • prescribed preparations (such as lactulose)
  • high quality cat food
  • high fiber diet/possibly a senior diet
  • water always available
  • wet (canned) food (or not! - see below)

There is a bit of controversy surrounding the ingestion of moisture. Some veterinarians will blame wet food for part of the problem. The moisture content is high enough in canned cat food that your cat may not want to drink, which leads to the constipation.

This school of though recommends feeding a high quality, premium cat food of the dry variety, and offering your constipated cat plenty of water to drink.

Other veterinarians will say that you should feed wet food to your cat so that your cat gets the benefits of that extra moisture.

Work with your veterinarian as a solution has to be implemented on a case by case basis. If there is an accompanying litter box problem it will have to be dealt with as a separate, but related issue. Feline constipation is common, but it doesn't have to be common to your cat.

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