While the chore of litter box cleaning is not the most glamorous, it provides valuable insight into the health of your cat. Regular bowel movements are important and any deviation from that indicates trouble. Signs of constipation in cats can include straining and, of course, an empty litter box.
If you notice your cat having difficulties, investigate further. Constipation can quickly turn into a serious problem.
What Causes Constipation?
The most common cause of constipation is dehydration. Cats are notoriously challenging to keep hydrated, particularly if they eat a completely dry diet.
Other causes of constipation include:
- A lack of fiber in the diet
- Painful defecation
- Lack of exercise
- Orthopedic problems
- Blockages or tumors
- Disease (including kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes)
Senior cats are more susceptible to chronic constipation. They are less active, weaker, and more likely to develop issues like kidney disease.
What to Do
If your cat is constipated for over 24 hours, the best thing to do is give your vet a call. You can discuss methods to try at home first, but will also have the peace of mind that your vet doesn’t think it’s necessary your cat comes in for examination.
For mild constipation in cats, a vet may suggest one of the following methods:
- Hydrate – Encourage your cat to drink more water. Some cats respond well to water fountains. Consider transitioning them to a higher moisture diet. Even making canned food a small percentage of your cat’s diet can make a difference here.
- Increase Fiber – You can increase fiber through diet and supplementation. Wheat bran and Metamucil are popular choices. Use the original formula of Metamucil and ask for a dosage recommendation.
- Pumpkin – Canned pumpkin is a go-to for digestive issues. For cats prone to constipation, try using pumpkin preventatively. Look for plain pumpkin without added sugar or flavoring.
- Laxatives / Stool Softener – Ask your vet for cat-safe recommendations.
- Increase Exercise – A cat needs to move around to get the digestive system working. If your cat is reluctant to become more active, try playful toys like lasers or wands. Cat trees are also handy for getting a cat moving.
- Hairball Treatment – If hairballs are the root of the problem, try an anti-hairball remedy or cat grass. Brushing your cat regularly helps prevent hairballs and is a beneficial bonding activity.
- Examine the Litter Box – If your cat has any hesitation about using the litter box, that will contribute to constipation. Keep the clean box in a quiet area of the home, away from any other pets. If that doesn’t work, experiment with a different box or litter.
If none of the above approaches help the problem, it may require more advanced intervention. Your vet could prescribe medication, an enema, or surgery. Surgery is only necessary in severe cases, such as major blockages in the colon. Monitoring your cat’s digestion daily will decrease the chances of a surprise emergency visit.