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June 7, 2021

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Constipated

  • Nutrition
  • Cat Food
  • Cat
Grey tabby cat in woman's arms looking out of window

Some evidence suggests that cats "self-domesticated" themselves approximately 10,000 years ago by controlling rodent populations, helping farmers and integrating themselves in our lives for protection. Our relationship with cats is as ancient as it is symbiotic. Unfortunately, cats can suffer from ailments similar to those seen in humans, including constipation which can lead to serious health issues if left untreated.

Signs of Constipation in Cats

There are several obvious signs of constipation, but some cats can live with chronic constipation without their human realizing it.

The more visible signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Straining while inside the little box
  • Defecating outside the litter box
  • Small and hard stools or loose stools containing blood
  • Lack of appetite

It's important to note that straining in the litter box may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, especially in male cats, and can be mistaken for constipation. if you notice this happening, it is best to have a vet check your cat out. Some cats may not show any of these, but they only defecate every few days. Therefore, if you notice your cat is struggling to relieve themselves, pay close attention. Cats should have a bowel movement about once a day. If your cat is not going to their litter box daily, then there may be a chance they are constipated. These symptoms can be attributed to unrelated issues as well.

Causes of Constipation in Cats

There are many reasons why a cat may become constipated.

Some of the main reasons include:

  • Dehydration
  • Obstruction of the colon by a foreign object
  • A tumor or a hernia
  • Trauma or nerve damage
  • Painful defecation due to trauma
  • Joint pain
  • Impacted anal glands
  • Certain medications
  • Obesity

For a cat to become dehydrated, their food and water intake have to be minimal, and this may be an indication that something else may be going on. It's essential to determine the underlying problem causing your cat to become constipated as soon as possible.

How to Address Constipation in Cats

When correcting constipation in your cat, the remedy will be to treat the underlying cause through a work up with your veterinarian. The type of treatment needed will depend on the severity of constipation and the level of distress your cat is in. A cat with underlying medical issues contributing dehydration may require frequent and ongoing fluid therapy. However, Sub Q fluid therapy is not as scary as it might sound. Many vets will be willing to show you how to do it at home for your cat. A diet with moderate crude fiber content may resolve mild constipation however in some circumstances, choosing a diet may be trial and error. Fibre supplements such as canned pumpkin and adding water to your cat's food can help loosen up your cat's stool.

If the constipation is more severe, your cat may have to undergo an enema or, if the stool is too compacted, manual removal of the feces. In the latter case, anesthesia will be necessary and cats are generally sedated for enemas as well. If the stool's removal is relatively uncomplicated and successful, your cat should have no further issues.

If constipation is severe and goes unnoticed for a long time, it can stretch the colon so far that the digestive tract muscles are damaged permanently. In this case, the only way to proceed is by removing the damaged portion of the colon surgically in order to restore normal function.

Tips for Preventing Constipation in Cats

Since dehydration contributes to constipation in cats, you must ensure your cat gets an adequate amount of water consumption daily.

Introduce Wet Food

If your cat hasn’t been introduced to wet food, now is a great time to start! Wet cat food contains a high moisture content, allowing your cat to get the hydration they need. The Go! Solutions
wet food recipes
can be a great solution for constipation in cats. Packed with premium recipes and drool-worthy flavours, it’s a perfect option for cats that are also picky eaters. We recommended mixing it up with their dry food or serving it on it’s own! To add even more moisture, try adding some lukewarm water to dilute the texture.

Provide Fresh Drinking Water

Another option is to place various water bowls throughout your home. Additionally, try adding a water fountain - this way, the water is constantly flowing and always fresh.

Provide Daily Exercise

Just like humans, our cats need to get their bodies moving too. Regular exercise helps to stimulate the muscles to continue contractions & move things along, and therefore, easing strain or any discomfort when it comes time to use the litter box. Using cat toys and implementing regular playtime will help keep your cat in good shape and help prevent constipation.

In most cases, cat constipation is a condition which starts with prevention that can be done right from your home. It’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of symptoms that may indicate your cat is experiencing constipation. Remember to maintain your cat’s water bowls with fresh, clean water, exercise them daily, and also to feed them a balanced, premium diet. If issues continue to occur, visit your vet for further assistance.


Magda Romanow holding black cat

Magda Romanow

Shelter Owner

Magda has been involved with animal rescue groups for 22 years. She opened up her own cat shelter 18 years ago and it has grown tremendously ever since. Katie’s Place specializes in hard to place cats. They are a “last chance” shelter. The shelter is always full, as is her home.