Cats – they're springy, sneaky, athletic, furry companions that provide plenty of character and quirky behavior throughout their lives. Nevertheless, did you know that they're prone to constipation just like any other pet?
When cats become constipated, it can lead to painful straining, lethargy, weight loss, and vomiting. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your feline friend.
The Cause of Feline Constipation
The most common cause of feline constipation is dehydration and the most common cause of dehydration, especially in elderly cats, is kidney failure. As cats get older, their kidneys don't work as well as they once did and they begin to lose water. This can often lead to a change in stool – from moist and soft to hard and dry, which makes defecation difficult.
In other cases, feline constipation can be caused by a poor diet, medication, ingestion of foreign objects, an enlarged colon, or even hairballs. Rarely, constipated cats may actually be suffering from a pelvic fracture or tumor that is obstructing the bowels, or the cat may be avoiding the litter box because it is dirty, he is nervous of other cats in the house, or that type of litter irritates his nose or eyes.
Providing Relief for Constipated Kitties
If you've noticed your cat visiting the litter box frequently or straining to pass stools, they may be suffering from feline constipation. In these cases, the cat should visit the vet immediately. The vet will typically palpate the cat's abdomen to feel for blockages or built-up stool and may order a pelvic x-ray to check for obstructions or other underlying issues.
If they are dehydrated, the vet will likely treat the cat with IV fluids to restore the body's hydration levels and help him defecate normally. If the cat is suffering from impaired kidney function or kidney failure, a long-term treatment may be needed. This often entails putting the cat on a canned food diet to restore moisture in the body, adding liquid to dry food, or administering IV or subcutaneous fluids at home.
If the cat's constipation is mild, the vet may administer an oral lubricant, which can stimulate defecation and soften hard, painful stools. Although there are many types of over-the-counter stool softeners that will work for constipated cats, they should generally not receive mineral oil. This is because mineral oil can be accidentally ingested into the cat's lungs, causing further health problems.
If the cat's constipation is severe, the vet may order the cat to be sedated and an enema to be performed.
Coping with Chronic Constipation
In rare cases, feline constipation can become chronic, leading to a condition known as "megacolon" in which the cat's colon becomes distended and loses its ability to pass stool effectively. This can also develop spontaneously in some cats because of their genetics. Siamese are particularly vulnerable to the condition. These cats may require surgery to remove the colon and will have a guarded prognosis.
In most cases, feline constipation can be resolved through a series of easy treatments. Cats that seem to be straining or suffering while trying to defecate should see a veterinarian immediately. Although constipation is an unpleasant condition, for most cats, it is temporary and they can resume a normal life soon after treatment.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.