Feline constipation is a relatively common problem affecting cats of any age. The most common cause is hairballs. For mild cases, laxative therapy may help.
The most common cases of constipation in cats are seen in middle aged to older males. Cats usually become more prone to this problem as they age, or become less active.
Domestic Shorthair, Domestic Longhair, and Siamese are the biggest targets in terms of breed. In order to understand things better, let's define what we mean by constipation, and normal and abnormal bowel movements.
Normal vs. abnormal: normal goes something like this...
Most cats will have a bowel movement once or twice per day. Other cats are less frequent and may be on an every other day schedule. If your cat has no other health problems, and the pattern remains fairly constant, then your vet may consider either of these two scenarios "normal."
Feline constipation goes more like this...
If your cat is suffering from constipation, however, the pattern may change.
The usual scenario is a period of delayed, smaller volume (often pebble-like), or total lack of, bowel movement.
Attempts at, or successful defecation may or may not be painful.
Some cats may have intermittent diarrhea or bloody stool throughout this time.
Periods of constipation may last less than a day, or can be as long as several months. Litter box behavior may change in obvious ways during this time.
It is easy for a cat owner to mistake this change for a behavioral litter box problem. Be alert that if your cat exhibits any change in litter box usage, constipation may be at fault.
For example, some cats will simply sit in the box for some time, apparently making no attempt to defecate. Sometimes the behavior includes multiple attempts to defecate, but with no results. Some cats will visit the box every few minutes and just move the litter around.
Other cats will exhibit behaviors that indicate they are truly uncomfortable. This may include howling or crying before, during, or after these attempts. Straining while in the box may be evident.
Your cat may associate litter box usage with pain, and stop using it, even after the constipation subsides. A retraining may be in order here. Never scold or punish your cat for not using the litter box - it won't help.
Even if you don't notice a behavior change, you may be able to tell if your cat has been having trouble with her bowels.
Evidence of feline constipation can be seen in the feces both inside, and possibly outside, the litter box. The feces may be unusually dry, hardened, and often of small diameter.
Due to an often prolonged inability to defecate, feline constipation may lead to or result in other systemic issues... these might include lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, and weight loss.
Since hairballs are a common cause of feline constipation, hairball remedies, additional fiber in the diet, and increased water consumption may resolve the problem. If your cat is constipated, your vet can map out a course of treatment for you to follow.
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