4 Sticky Situations that cause Constipation in Cats

Constipation in Cats


Does Your Cat Suffer From Constipation?

This uncomfortable condition can occur as a one-off, but worryingly it can become recurrent. Un-fur-tunately, the more frequently a cat becomes constipated, the more likely permanent damage to the bowel wall becomes, making this a problem that you definitely want to get on the run.


Signs your Cat is Constipated

The constipated cat is restless, stepping in and out of the litter tray, perhaps straining, and maybe even crying as she pushes. The cat may wash her bottom more than usual, and unless she manages to pass a motion, may eventually she go off her food and possibly even vomit.

Warning! Whereas constipation is uncomfortable, a urinary blockage is life-threatening. In the early stages both conditions have almost identical symptoms. So if your cat starts to strain, immediately check for wet patches in the tray. If she’s not urinating or the urine is blood tinged, get straight on the phone to the vet.

If the cat is constipated, she can still urinate and so there should be wet patches in the litter, but few stools. If you aren’t sure, clean the tray and monitor it regularly over the coming hours.


An Overview of Constipation

Constipation is the inability or unwillingness to pass feces. It can occur in cats for a variety of reasons, and key to keeping your cat comfortable, is understanding WHY your cat has a problem.

The causes of constipation are broadly as below:

  • Behavioral: For example, the cat that refuses to use a dirty tray
  • Physical: The cat may have a fractured pelvis which healed badly
  • Medical: The cat has an underlying medical problem which makes defecation difficult, such as a megacolon (a large, baggy bowel)
  • Dietary: For whatever reason the cat needs a higher level of fiber than is usual

To get to the bottom of the problem (see what we did there!) let’s look at each factor in more detail.


#1: Behavioral Issues

If your cat is young or middle-aged cat, then be suspicious their problem is behavioral.

Constipation can be the result of being reluctant to visit the litter box. When a cat feels bashful and crosses her legs, this means the feces spend longer in the bowel. The issue is the bowel busily works at reclaiming as much water as from the stool, which means the longer it lurks in the rectum the drier and more difficult to pass it becomes.

The most frequent reasons for litter tray avoidance include:

  • A dirty tray: After all, who likes using a dirty toilet?
  • The wrong cat litter: Some cats are fussy about how a substrate feels under the paws.
  • Bad associations: If the cat received a fright whilst using the tray (such as the washer went into spin cycle right beside her) she may avoid it in future
  • Shared trays: Some cats are picky about their pur-sonal habits and refuse to share a tray
  • Bullying: In a multi-cat household a boss cat may bully the others while they’re in the vulnerable position of toileting.

In this case, as well as treating the constipation, to avoid a recurrence you need to make things more ‘convenient’ for the cat, such as:

  • Cleaning the tray daily or using a self-cleaning litter box
  • Trying a different litter substrate
  • Offering trays in different locations
  • Increasing the number of trays (The golden rule is: One tray per cat, plus one spare tray)
  • Addressing bullying issues so peace can break out


#2: Physical Problems

The classic example is the cat that was hit by a car in younger life and sustained a fractured pelvis. Unfortunately the break healed in such a way that the pelvic outlet (the space framed by the pelvis in which the rectum sits) is narrowed. This means it’s tricky for poo to pass through and it gets stuck in a log jam.

Other examples include the over-weight cat that is too lazy to get up and visit the litter box or the long-coated cat that bowel becomes choked up with hair.

Where possible address the underlying issue by putting the podgy puss on a diet or brushing a fluff-ster daily. When a narrow pelvis is the problem, speak to your vet about an appropriate diet or gentle laxative to keep things moving.


#3: Medical Complications

The older cat that has stiff arthritic hips, finds it difficult to squat and push, with the result they wait until desperate. As you know, this leads to a dry stool and the big event becomes quite a trial.

Another common medical cause is the dehydrated cat, such as those suffering from kidney disease or diabetes. These cats’ bodies work extra hard to reclaim water, meaning their poop leans towards the dry side.

Be alert for possible signs which could indicate a medical issue, such as difficulty jumping or increased thirst, and speak to your vet. It might be your cat needs to take arthritis medication to ease sore hips and keep things moving along nicely. Or else, increasing the cat’s water intake with a change of diet or providing a drinking fountain can help.

Another classic cause of constipation is megacolon, where the bowel becomes big and baggy and can’t push poop along. This is best treated with your vet’s help using a combination of gentle laxatives, high fiber wet food, and possibly even surgery.


#4: Dietary Considerations

For the cat with a tendency to constipation, sometimes a change of diet can make all the difference. High fiber cat foods retain moisture for longer, making their ‘offerings’ stay soft for longer and are easier to pass. For this reason, canned moist food may be a better choice than dry biscuits.

However, some cats bizarrely do better on a low fiber, highly digestible diet, so chat to your vet about what’s best for your cat.

So there we have it, the bottom-line on constipation in cats!  Who knew poop could be so absorbing?