Constipation in cats is no fun for the cat, and no fun for the owner. Whether it's a one time event or a frequent problem, there are ways to help these cats.
Scoop the litter box out every day! Most cats will defecate once to twice daily. If you notice the amount of poop decreasing, or the size of the poops changing, pay close attention to your cat.
Watch the video below for a description of what to watch for.
If the cat constipation is only mildly bad, like this, then sometimes feeding a fiber source can help them. Canned pumpkin works for most cats, if they will eat it. A few tablespoons a day has helped many cats with mild constipation. This method works best if the situation is not allowed to get very bad before beginning the treatment, and should be continued every day for those cats that have constipation issues.
If you notice in your daily litter box cleanings that there is no poop one day, start watching your cat for signs that they are trying to poop and can't. A cat straining to poop might:
* be in and out of the litter box more often than normal
* vocalize while they are trying to have a bowel movement
* vomit, either while straining or immediately after trying to poop
* have a visible swelling under their tail
If you are seeing any of these signs, take your cat to your vet! It is very easy to confuse straining to defecate with straining to urinate. If a cat (or dog, for that matter) is unable to urinate, you have a life threatening emergency on your hands. Don't take the chance - take them in and get it sorted out and taken care of properly.
If you know that your cat is urinating, but is not defecating, you still need to take them to your vet.
I know that you really want to be able to take care of constipation in cats yourself, but it's much better if you don't. Your vet will likely give your cat an enema, which will relieve the problem temporarily. You should discuss with your vet what you can do to help to prevent the situation from happening again. Constipation in cats can be a recurrent problem.
Please, do not attempt to give your cat an enema yourself. You could perforate the colon (which will kill the cat), or if the wrong enema solution is used then the cat will die of that.
There is also a condition called megacolon in cats. This is a situation where the colon becomes very stretched out over time, leading to extremely large feces that cannot be passed. These cats must have medications to help them, and even with medications some will need occasional help from your vet. A stool softener is usually prescribed first, and a motility enhancer can also be used if needed. Both of these medications will be oral - you will need to be able to get either a liquid, or a pill, or both, into your cat.
Many things can. For instance, megacolon is a malfunction in the nerve supply to the colon, decreasing colonic motility. Because they can't push the poop through normally, it accumulates more than normal and so stretches the colon out. This then makes it even harder for the cat to move poop, and so the problem grows.
Sometimes cat constipation is simply caused by a diet that disagrees with that particular cat.
Cats that have medical problems that lead to drinking and urinating a lot are also prone to developing constipation. These cats are usually constantly mildly dehydrated (yes, even though they are drinking A TON, they are dehydrated, because they are losing all of that water in their pee). The colon is one of the sites in the body that water can be conserved. As much water as possible is recovered from the feces in this situation, which leads to very dry hard poops.
As always, if you truly have a concern for the health and well being of your friend, then you should take them in to be seen by your vet!
Page last updated 12/10/12.