Keeping an eye on your kitty’s litter tray habits is a good idea, so any changes can be picked up on quickly. Constipation is not especially common in cats, but certainly can happen. If left untreated, cats can become poorly within a matter of days, so detecting it early is wise.
I see cases of diarrhea much more commonly than constipation, but it is certainly an issue which plagues some cats. Those who are elderly and dehydrated, as well as cats who have had pelvic injuries in the past, would be at most risk.
Should I be worried if my cat has not pooped in 2 or more days?
If your cat normally passes poop each day and they suddenly go a couple of days with nothing, this could be a sign of a problem. We’d want to know if they’re otherwise well; eating, energetic and being social.
Worrying signs would include abdominal bloating, licking of the genital, lethargy and food refusal.
TOP TIP: Cystitis is often confused for constipation by owners. A cat who is straining in the tray and passing small amounts of poop and drops of urine is more likely to be suffering from bladder inflammation.
How often should cats poop?
How often cats poo depends on a range of factors including their activity levels, diet and age. While a healthy 8 week old kitten may poop after every meal (4 times a day!), an adult may go 36 hours between each poop.
Most cats have a pattern, so it is worth getting to know your cat’s routine. If this changes, there could be an underlying medical issue.
Unsurprisingly, cats who eat more will pass more stool. Also, those who are lethargic and spend a lot of time lazing about may have less active guts, meaning they do not pass stool as regularly as they could.
How can I help my cat at home?
There are lots of things we can do from home if we feel our kitty is not passing poop as regularly as they should be. This includes:
- Improving hydration by offering wet food and more water. We can encourage drinking by using a water fountain, adding water to meals and providing cat soup or cat safe broth.
- Encouraging exercise with things like laser chasers and feather toys.
- Providing a few spoons of olive oil in their meals, to lubricate their gut.
- Gently massaging their abdomen, if they are happy for us to do so.
- For young kittens, we should be gently wiping their anus with warm, wet cotton wool after every meal. This stimulates poo, much like a mother cat would do after nursing her young.
- Ensuring our cats are up to date with their wormer, as a worm burden can lead to trouble passing poop.
- Eliminating fur balls.
Signs that you need to call the veterinarian
There will be occasions where your cat needs vet assistance, and it is important that we see a vet before they become too unwell.
If your cat has gone 3-4 days with no poop, if they seem uncomfortable or bloated, if they are lethargic or off their food or if they’re known to suffer with constipation / mega colon, then vet intervention is best.
The earlier we treat constipation, the better the prognosis.
Top reasons causing a normal cat not to poop in 2+ days
Stress or a recent change in their environment
Moving home, travelling by car or a recent vet visit are all things which can raise your cat’s cortisol levels. When they’re feeling anxious, their gut can slow down and they may go a bit longer than normal between poops. Importantly, we want to ensure they are happy using their litter tray and if they have moved home, that it is placed somewhere that they have privacy.
When going through periods of uncertainty, many cats benefit from calming supplements we put into their meals, as well as calming plug ins.
When a cat is not well hydrated, this will affect their guts. The food does not pass easily along the intestines, and they slow down and become sluggish. Other signs of dehydration include tacky gums and a prolonged skin tent. Owners may also notice their cat seems more sluggish. Mild dehydration can be treated form home by encouraging the cat to drink more and eat wet food. However, more serious cases may require vet intervention and IV fluids.
A lack of fiber makes it hard for stool to pass along the gut, so we want to ensure we’re feeding our kitty a balanced, healthy diet. Those fed home-made diets and those who eat too many treats may be lacking fiber. Opt for diets that are naturally high in fiber, and consider supplementing if needed. Good natural sources of fiber include pumpkin and bran.
Parasite burdens, particularly in kittens, can lead to trouble passing stool. Most kittens are born with worm burdens, and they need regular de-wormers to eliminate the issue. For adults, those who go outside, hunt and eat raw foods are most at risk of worms, though they can occur in any feline. Other signs of parasites can include diarrhea, a dull coat, bloating of the abdomen and excess hunger. We should regularly de-worm our cats and the frequency with which this is done depends on their age and lifestyle.
A gut obstruction
If there is something blocking the way within the intestines, this will inevitably stop the poo being passed. Some of the more common obstructions I’ve encountered in practice include plastic, wool and beads. Other signs of a blockage would include vomiting, dehydration and abdominal pain. If you suspect an obstruction, an urgent vet visit is needed. The vet may scan or x-ray the abdomen, to check for signs of a blockage. Sometimes a contrast dye will be needed. More serious blockages could need to be removed surgically and the sooner this is done the better.
Hair balls are quite common, especially in long-haired cats during shedding season (warmer weather). As well as constipation and fur in the stool, we may see them bring up fur balls. We can reduce fur ingestion by grooming our cats twice daily when shedding heavily, and using fur ball paste. There are also specific treats and diets which can be given from home.
There are certain medical disorders that can lead to constipation, including a narrow pelvic outlet (due to previous trauma), mega colon, kidney disease, tumors and intestinal strictures. When a medical issue is the cause, the cat will generally have other signs and the constipation can be an ongoing problem for them. Owners dealing with ongoing constipation may be using laxatives and enemas from home, as directed by their vet. They might also be feeding a specific diet and monitoring their cat’s fecal output closely. If they’re not getting on top of things quickly, however, they may well need to bring their cat to the vet for further care.
What would occur to my cat if left unchecked?
When constipation is left untreated, your cat will be very uncomfortable. Over time, they can develop severe abdominal pain, dehydration and extreme lethargy. Their gut can expand and this can affect the function long term, potentially leading to a serious medical issue called Megacolon. Middle-aged males seem more at risk of this condition (1).1
Your visit at the vet
What you should know or do before your visit
Try to have a record of when your cat has last passed poop. If the stool they passed was abnormal (perhaps dry or bloody), a photo of this should be brought along to the consult for the vet to assess.
Diagnosis & cost of diagnosis
Your vet will check your kitty from nose to tail, assessing their hydration and palpating their abdomen. They may also perform a rectal exam, checking for things like polyps or strictures. Your vet may discuss imaging of the intestinal tract, to see if there is an obstruction and to check for a large impaction or obstipation. This will cost from $200-500.
Vet treatments & costs
Treatment will depend on how advanced the constipation is and what has caused it. Some cats will do fine if we increase their water intake and provide some laxatives (these are inexpensive, usually about $10 or so). However, those with more severe constipation may need medication and enemas performed under anesthetic, as well as hospital admission and IV fluids. Managing a severe case of constipation could cost north of a thousand dollars.
Mild cases of constipation have an excellent prognosis and we can usually treat them easily and quickly. However, the lines are more blurred for those who deal with ongoing constipation or episodes which are difficult to manage. For those who go on to develop megacolon, surgery may be required (2) 2. Prognosis is good after surgery for the majority of patients.
- VIN Feline Megacolon
- VCA Constipation in cats