In this short video, Dr. Karen Becker explains the reasons for feline constipation, how to tell if your kitty has the problem, and what to do about it.
By Dr. Becker
Today we're going to discuss feline constipation.
The most common cause of constipation in a kitty is inadequate fluid intake. Cats are by nature infrequent and inefficient water drinkers. They depend on their diet for the majority of their water intake, which is how nature intended things to work.
But herein lies the problem. Many cats are fed dry food, which isn't the food they are designed to eat. Cats are obligate carnivores designed to hunt mice.
Mice, as it turns out, provide the perfect balance of fiber (their fur), protein and moisture in one tiny package. Mice are 70 percent water, which provides kitties with exactly the amount they need for their bodies to remain hydrated and lubricated.
Causes of Kitty Constipation
When a cat's natural diet is replaced with a food containing only 10 to 12 percent moisture, dehydration and constipation are common symptoms. The lack of moisture causes the kidneys to become stressed, and stools turn dry, hard and painful to pass – the condition known as constipation.
If your cat is also obese and under-exercised, dehydration and constipation are exacerbated. Physical activity stimulates peristalsis (muscle contractions) which helps in moving feces through the colon. Many house cats have lifestyles that encourage eating too much and moving too little.
The ingestion of fur during grooming can further slow down transit time of waste in the colon, especially in cats that are eating a diet of kibble and not getting adequate exercise.
How Do I Know If My Cat is Constipated?
All cats should poop daily. Stools should be brown in color, formed (not loose), and soft enough that litter sticks to them.
If your kitty isn't pooping daily or is producing hard stools that litter doesn't adhere to, he could be suffering from constipation.
Not every constipated cat yowls in the litter box or vomits or stops eating – although all those are symptoms of constipation. Some kitties have constipation all their lives and the owners don't realize it because they aren't aware of the milder signs of constipation.
How to Help a Constipated Kitty
If you suspect your cat might be suffering from constipation, there are several suggestions I can offer including:
- Slowly transition kitty from dry to canned food. Read how to do this here. Although it can take weeks and even months to get your cat on a more species-appropriate diet, it's well worth the effort. Your cat will be much healthier for it.
- If your cat doesn't drink much water from a water bowl, add some to the canned food to help lubricate the colon. Depending on your kitty's personality, you can also consider purchasing a cat water fountain to replace the still water in the bowl. Many cats prefer moving water.
- Add a pinch of psyllium fiber at each meal.
- If your cat gets hairballs, consider adding a non-petroleum hairball remedy to each meal to help the hair pass through the GI tract.
- Some cats may need a natural laxative, such as aloe vera juice, added to their diet. Consult your holistic vet for suggestions on what type of natural laxative might be appropriate for your pet.
Be aware there are medical reasons for constipation, so make sure to talk to your holistic vet if you think your kitty is constipated. Your vet may recommend a natural therapy such as acupuncture or chiropractic, both of which can be very beneficial in helping to resolve constipation in some pets.