Constipation in Cats

Keeping your cat in good health is what all pet owners want, but just like humans, cats get sick, too. Unfortunately, cats can swallow harmful objects that cause them to become constipated, and it's the owner's job to help him feel better.

Constipation in Cats
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Overview
According to "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" (Delbert G. Carlson, et al, 1999) cats normally have a bowel movement at least once a day. But if a cat only passes small, hard and relatively dry stools or a couple of days go by without passing any stool, then the cat has constipation.
Causes
The main cause of constipation is that the digestion process in the cat has been slowed down. Hairballs are a common cause, especially with long-haired cats. Swallowing other objects like bits of cat toys, cloth or plants can also cause constipation. Diet is another cause if the cat does not get enough water or eat enough fiber. Older cats that lose the strength of their digestive muscles may also have trouble passing stools normally.
Symptoms
The cat will often be irritable because constipation can be painful. It may also seem lethargic. The cat will often crouch in the defecating position, in and out of the litter box, but will not be able to produce any stool. The cat also may cry out in discomfort. Sometimes constipation will cause a cat to miss the litter box in the urgency to try to pass stool.
Kittens
Newborn kittens need to defecate every time they feed. Their mothers will lick under the kitten's tails to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. A constipated newborn may look bloated and cry out more often than usual. According to KittenRescue.com, kittens with constipation for 24 hours or more need treatment with the hairball remedy Laxatone. After 48 hours, the kitten needs to go to a vet.
Treatment
Immediate treatment can be to make sure the cat is getting enough water and exercise. Exercise helps stimulate the bowels. If this does not seem to help, bring take the cat to the vet to be sure that the problem is only constipation. If it is, treatment may include changes to cat food higher in fiber, laxatives such as wheat bran or an enema.
Warning
The symptoms for constipation in cats are also the same symptoms for fecal impaction, colitis and feline urologic syndrome (FUS). However, in FUS, the cat will often pass tiny amounts of bloody urine, which generally is not seen in constipation. If constipation has not cleared up in two days, please contact your veterinarian.
Resources
reference
"Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" (Delbert G. Carlson, et al, 1999)
reference
ASPCA: Feline Constipation
reference
Kitten Rescue: Kitten Diarrhea and Constipation
resource
Laxatone
resource
ASPCA: Feline Constipation
resource
Constipation in Cats: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments