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<div>How Do I Know if My Cat Is Constipated? Vet-Reviewed Signs & FAQ</div>

How Do I Know if My Cat Is Constipated? Vet-Reviewed Signs & FAQ

Constipation is a common health concern in cats characterized by an inability to pass normal stool regularly. But how can you tell your cat is constipated?

The surest way to tell your cat is constipated is if it seems uncomfortable when defecating and produces hard, pebble-like stool. A constipated cat will have infrequent or difficult defecation. You can tell that something is amiss if you barely find any mess in your furry friend’s litter box.

In severe cases, the concern causes obstipation, meaning the stool is even harder, drier, and more compacted leading to no excretion at all.

Read on to learn the common causes of this problem and the early signs to look out for. We will also discuss how you can help your feline friend feel better.


What Is Constipation?

Constipation is an abnormal accumulation of stool in the large intestines (colon). One of the colon’s primary functions is to remove water and electrolytes from partially digested food. The remaining material is solid waste that should ideally move through the large intestines into the rectum to be excreted.

Constipation hinders proper bowel movements, causing the colon to retain stool longer than usual. As a result, the colon absorbs more water making the solid waste harder and drier. This makes excretion a painful and strenuous process, leading to infrequent or the absence of defecation.

corn cat litter
Image Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

Signs of Constipation in Cats

A healthy cat should poop once or twice daily. The poop should be deep brown, well formed, and not too hard or soft. You can tell that something is amiss if you notice any inconsistencies in the appearance and texture of your cat’s poop. Moreover, your pet likely suffers from constipation if it doesn’t produce stool in over 24 hours.

Some of the common signs of constipation in cats include the following.
  • Difficult defecation

  • Painful defecation

  • Hard, pebble-like stool

  • Passing less or no poop for several days

  • Blood or mucus in stool

  • More frequent but uneventful litter box trips

  • Abdominal bloating, hardness, or tension

  • Loss of appetite

  • Decreased energy

  • Vomiting

divider-catWhat Causes Constipation in Cats?

There are several issues that can contribute to constipation. Figuring out the exact cause of your cat’s concern can be challenging, making it necessary to consult your vet. Sometimes, the cause of constipation is as simple as dehydration, while other times, the issue is caused by a severe underlying condition.

Here are some of the common causes of constipation in cats.

1. Dehydration

Among the most common causes of constipation is dehydration. If your furry friend is not drinking enough water, the water absorbed by the colon can result in hard, dry, and hard-to-pass stool.

To keep your pet happy and healthy, providing food with sufficient moisture content is essential.

Most importantly, provide fresh drinking water throughout the day while monitoring your cat’s consumption. Many cats are not efficient at drinking water, and you might need to change their diet to high moisture fresh or wet food.

2. Over-Grooming

Cats are meticulous groomers. Over-grooming causes excessive accumulation of hairballs in the gut, which can lead to constipation.

Among the leading causes of behavioral over-grooming or psychogenic alopecia is stress. You can help your cat relax by establishing predictable routines and providing plenty of attention and affection. Also, provide mental and physical stimulation by investing in interactive toys and engaging in play sessions.

tabby cat licking her paw
Image Credit: SJ Duran, Shutterstock

3. Reluctance to Use the Litter Tray

There are numerous reasons why a cat can be reluctant to use the litter tray and opt to store stool in their colon for longer. It is crucial to find out that reason and address it with the urgency it deserves.

Your furry friend may avoid the litter tray for the following reasons.
  • The litter tray is in an unsuitable location

  • It is dirty

  • It hates the type of litter used

  • Other cats are using its litter tray

4. Health Problems

Furthermore, some health concerns can contribute to constipation.

These health problems can include but are not limited to the following.
  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Obesity

  • Megacolon

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Neurological problems

veterinarian is holding cute cat Burmese cat
Image Credit: ARVD72, Shutterstock


How Is Cat Constipation Diagnosed?

The easiest way to know if your cat is constipated is to monitor the frequency and consistency of their stool. Examining the poop is necessary, especially if your furry friend seems bloated and uncomfortable.

It doesn’t hurt to consult a vet if you cannot tell and address the precise cause of constipation. The expert can use any of the following methods to understand the problem and devise the proper course of treatment.

  • Physical examination under anesthesia

  • X-rays

  • Ultrasounds

  • Blood/urine tests

  • Biopsies

  • Colonoscopy

Veterinary doctor measuring heart rate of cute cat
Image Credit: Denys Kurbatov, Shutterstock

divider-catWhat Are the Veterinary Treatments for Cat Constipation?

The proper course of treatment for cat constipation often depends on the cause and the severity of the problem. A mild concern can be effectively addressed through dietary adjustments, enemas, and so on.

Other treatment options include the following.


Your vet can administer laxatives, especially if your furry friend has recurrent constipation.

There are different types of laxatives, including lubricant laxatives, osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives, and emollient laxatives. They all work relatively the same and help to make fecal matter softer, lubricate the colon, or stimulate bowel movements to make the passing of stool easier.

Oral Medication

Your veterinarian might also prescribe some oral medication to stimulate and regulate your cat’s intestinal motility. These medications work by assisting in the neuromuscular control of contractions in the colon.

Woman at home holding her lovely Devon Rex cat on lap and gives it a pill
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock


If constipation goes untreated, it can lead to obstipation, also known as complete or severe constipation, causing what is known as megacolon. This is a more severe form of the issue that results in the complete inability to pass stool. This is a more severe form of the issue that causes the complete inability to pass stool.

Often, the most effective treatment for megacolon is subtotal colectomy surgery. The procedure involves removing the non-functional section of the colon without touching the anal sphincter. Most cats recover well after the major surgery, and although there are a few side effects, your pet will still have full control of its bowel.

divider-catWhat Can I Do to Prevent Cat Constipation?

Constipation in cats causes immense discomfort and restlessness. It also poses the risk of more severe concerns like megacolon. Fortunately, it is possible to prevent constipation or resolve a mild issue with the following steps.

Make Some Dietary Adjustments

A proper diet can help ensure regular bowel movements. If your cat has suffered constipation severally over the past few weeks, it may be time to make some dietary adjustments.

Fresh, moisture-rich foods made up of animal proteins and supplemented with natural fiber sources such as pumpkin or psyllium husk can help prevent constipation. Such foods have the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy gut and stimulate proper bowel movements.

Moreover, you must encourage healthy fluid intake by providing plenty of drinking water. If your furry friend does not like drinking plain water, consider purchasing a water fountain to entice them to drink. You should also avoid feeding exclusively dry foods. 

orange and white cat eating on an elevated feeder
Image Credit: Princess Anmitsu, Shutterstock

Introduce Fiber & Probiotics in the Diet

Fiber can help prevent constipation by feeding good bacteria and ensuring the stool has a good texture and consistency. If your cat is already constipated, it will help to rehydrate and soften the solid waste, making defecation easier. Fiber can also come in handy if a cat has diarrhea by adding bulk to the loose stool.

Some of the best sources of fiber for cats include pumpkin puree, zucchini, carrots, and psyllium husk. Ensure you only provide sufficient fiber because too much or too little can cause digestive problems.

Don’t forget; probiotics are good bacteria and can aid in promoting digestive health. It is essential to administer them, especially after antibiotic treatments.

Encourage Regular Exercise

One of the leading causes of constipation is obesity. An overweight cat is more prone to inflammation which can impact healthy bowel movements.

First, you must ensure your furry friend eats appropriate food portions at the right frequency. Secondly, provide environmental enrichment to encourage it to be more active. Jumping, stretching, and rolling around boosts intestinal movement, which helps alleviate the risk of constipation.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Cats make wonderful companions because they are very adaptable. However, they are also sensitive creatures that can get stressed by abrupt changes in their routine, lifestyle, or environment. Stress and anxiety can cause digestive problems, including diarrhea and constipation.

One of the most effective ways of managing stress and anxiety is to keep your furry friend busy and entertained. Provide interactive toys and more predictable routines.

Furry tabby cat lying on its owner's lap
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Cat constipation is manageable, especially if you catch its early signs. Generally, you can know your cat is constipated if you notice changes in the frequency or consistency of its litter box deposits.

Handling cat poop has an “eww” factor, but it’s necessary if your furry friend shows signs of digestive problems.

Often, proper hydration and a balanced, easily digestible diet are enough to address mild constipation. The situation may require emergency medical intervention if your pet doesn’t defecate in more than 48 or 72 hours. You must move fast to save your furry friend from pain or discomfort.

Featured Image Credit: Litter Robot, Unsplash

The post How Do I Know if My Cat Is Constipated? Vet-Reviewed Signs & FAQ appeared first on Pet Keen.

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