How Can I Help My Cat With Constipation? Our Expert Advice


Last Updated on: August 21, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Constipation is an unpleasant but relatively common occurrence in cats. It happens when cats’ poop becomes so dry and hard that it gets stuck. Cats generally have a bowel movement every 24 to 36 hours, and their poop normally contains a fair bit of moisture.

Constipated cats produce dry, hard stools when they finally get things moving. It usually indicates the presence of a health concern that needs to be identified and addressed. Reach out for help if your cat goes for 48 hours without having a bowel movement. However, you can help your cat if they’re constipated by increasing their water and fiber intake and implementing stress-reducing measures.


What Causes Feline Constipation?

Constipation is often caused by dehydration, but it can also be linked to several conditions, such as kidney disease and hypothyroidism. When signs such as nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and hiding are seen, in addition to constipation, it’s often a signal that something systemic is happening.

Stress, inflammatory conditions, and allergies can cause bowel problems. They can also become constipated if they hold things in for too long, which can be caused by pain, stress, mobility issues, fear, or hygiene concerns. Overweight cats sometimes suffer from constipation since they’re prone to developing intestinal inflammation.

gray british shorthair kitten in cat litter box
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Are There Ways to Improve the Situation?

Yes. You can help your cat by tweaking your pet’s diet and increasing the amount of exercise they get.

Change Your Cat’s Diet

Constipation can sometimes be a side effect of food allergies and sensitivities. They can cause digestive tract inflammation in some cats, which can lead to constipation. Avoidance is usually the safest and easiest way to deal with food allergies and sensitivities, so tweaking your cat’s food may make it easier for them to go to the bathroom.

However, before making any changes to your pet’s diet, speak with your veterinarian to ensure you select a product that’s right for your cat’s age and meets all their nutritional needs.

Increase Your Cat’s Water Intake

Cats sometimes have trouble pooping if they’re not consuming enough water, and indoor cats are notorious for not drinking enough. Two products can help cats increase their fluid intake: cat fountains and wet food. Since cats usually prefer to drink running water, giving your companion a cat fountain may also encourage them to consume more water. Wet food contains a substantial amount of moisture, and some brands have 75% or more.

Invest in Enrichment Toys

Cats are sensitive and can become bored and stressed if they don’t have enough to keep them busy. Stressed cats can experience other digestive difficulties, such as vomiting and diarrhea, in addition to constipation. Increasing the number and variety of toys available to your cat may help reduce any anxiety they may be feeling and relax them enough to go to the bathroom.

clever siamese cat playing with puzzle toy to get treat
Image credit: Agata Kowalczyk, Shutterstock

Increase Your Cat’s Physical Activity

Like humans, cats need to get moving to stay physically and mentally fit. Cats that don’t get enough exercise often end up with pent-up energy that manifests as stress. Playing with cats for 20 to 45 minutes daily gets their hearts pumping. It’s best to keep the play sessions short; 10 or 15 minutes of activity per round is just about right for most cats.

Brush Your Cat More Often

Cats develop hairballs when fur doesn’t pass through the digestive tract. They’re often vomited up, but hairballs can also get stuck in your cat’s stomach or intestines, leading to constipation. Regularly brushing your cat can reduce the amount of fur they ingest when grooming. Short-haired cats need to be brushed about once a week, but long-haired cats are particularly prone to developing hairballs and require daily brushing.

Help Your Cat Maintain a Healthy Weight

It can be challenging to determine if your cat is a healthy weight, but you can speak with your veterinarian for guidance. To help your pet drop a few pounds, measure their portions and limit treats to about 10% of their diet.

Add Vertical Hang Outs

Because constipation is often linked to stress in cats, giving cats places to hang out where they feel safe and comfortable can go a long way towards limiting constipation-causing anxiety. Cats benefit from having high places to relax and nap, like cat shelves, trees, and perches. They also give cats places to retreat when they want to escape a noisy visitor or irritating dog.

black cat on modern wallscapes
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Create a Peaceful Space for Your Cat

Cats have sensitive hearing, so they often become stressed when exposed to loud, repetitive noises. Creating a space for your cat to relax away from it all may help improve stress-related constipation. Pick a peaceful location as far away from the noise as possible, and make sure your cat has all the essentials nearby, including a litter box, toys, water, a bed, and a scratching post.

Clean the Litter Box Daily

Cats sometimes become constipated because they’re holding it in to avoid using a stinky litter box. They can be extremely picky about their bathrooms. Simply cleaning your cat’s litter box more frequently may be helpful if your pet avoids the bathroom out of hygiene concerns.

Multiple Cats

Make sure to have at least one litter box per pet, plus one extra if you have multiple cats, to prevent situations where one cat systematically prevents the other from accessing the litter box. Avoid placing litter boxes in the same area as your pet’s food and water bowls since cats dislike using the bathroom close to where they eat.

Senior Cats

Senior cats and pets with mobility issues sometimes have litter box issues due to pain and difficulty getting around. Litter boxes placed close to where older cats like to hang out can make it easy for them to reach the bathroom, and large litter boxes with low sides are often easier for pets with painful joints to navigate.

Add Fiber to Your Cat’s Diet

Increasing the fiber in your pet’s diet can support their gastrointestinal health and encourage efficient intestinal movement. It also helps water stay in the digestive tract, which minimizes constipation. Sugar-free canned pumpkin is often suggested as a tasty way to increase a cat’s fiber consumption. However, it’s best to contact your veterinarian before giving your cat fiber for constipation to ensure it’s appropriate for your pet.

cat eating food from bowl
Image Credit: Seattle Cat Photo, Shutterstock

Conclusion

Occasional constipation in cats can be managed by increasing your pet’s water and fiber intake. It is often related to dehydration but can also be linked to inflammatory conditions, allergies, and stress. However, if your cat has not defecated in 48 hours, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian since there’s often an underlying issue responsible for the problem.


Featured Image Credit: Dina da, Shutterstock

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