Yellow Cat Poop: a Vet Explains What to Do

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  • Diligent cat owners know their kitties inside and out. We get used to their routines, eating preferences, and even their litter box habits. It may sound gross, but paying close attention to their bowel movements is an important part of being a cat owner. Changes in the appearance of their poop may be an early sign that something is amiss. Changes in color and consistency may be an indicator that their gastrointestinal health is declining. So what does yellow cat poop mean?

    In this article, we will discuss various causes of yellow poop and when you should become concerned.

    What does cat poop typically look like?

    Normal cat poop comes in a variety of colors and consistencies. It can range from brown to light tan in color. It should always be formed in small nuggets or longer sausages with a smooth surface. The consistency of the stool should be firm but not too hard. Softer stools that lose shape may be a sign of gastrointestinal problems. Very hard, small stools may indicate dehydration or constipation.

    Most cats will poop one to two times a day. Some cats will poop every other day. Any increase or decrease in defecation frequency may also be an early sign of illness.

    So how about yellow poop? Some cats can have light-colored yellow stools because of their diet, but bright yellow poop is not normal.

    Top reasons causing yellow cat poop

    • Normal variation due to diet – Light-colored cat kibble is often produced as light tan to yellow colored feces.
    • Food coloring additives to food – Dyes and pigments in foods can pass through the gastrointestinal tract unchanged. This can cause all the stool to appear yellow in color or have spots of yellow within brown feces.
    • Liver or Gallbladder disease – Diseases of the liver and gallbladder can cause blood levels of a byproduct called bilirubin to rise. This will result in icterus which is yellowing of the skin or eyes. These pigments are also excreted in the urine and feces and will cause a bright to dark yellow appearance.
    • Bacterial Overgrowth – Bacterial overgrowth can cause changes in the breakdown and transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract. This can cause the food to be poorly digested and more yellow in color.
    • Zinc toxicity – Zinc toxicity causes the breakdown of red blood cells and the release of excessive levels of bilirubin. This can also lead to icterus and bright yellow stools.
    • Breakdown of red blood cells – Any condition that causes excessive breakdown or destruction of red blood cells such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia can cause excessive bilirubin production.
    • Gastrointestinal Parasites – Parasites can cause diarrhea and interfere with the digestion of foods. Stools may be very loose and light yellow in consistency. A foul smell can also be an indicator of parasites.

    When is yellow cat poop not a concern?

    Now that we understand the various causes of yellow stool, we need to determine when it is or is not a health concern.

    I would not be overly concerned about yellow poop if it seems to be normal for your cat. Some kitties will have naturally light yellow to tan-colored feces. As long as the stool is otherwise normal in consistency and texture, I wouldn’t fret.

    You may also wish to check the color of their food. If they are eating a light tan kibble or food with dyes in it, light yellow appearing poop may be normal. Change in diet can also bring on yellow poop.

    Correlate the color of stool to their overall health. If your cat is behaving normally and does not have any other signs of illness, this change is not likely an emergency.

    When is yellow cat poop a concern?

    Yellow poop is concerning if it comes on suddenly. Watch for any signs of illness or tummy upset, such as vomiting, lethargy, or poor appetite. Yellow poop is especially concerning if there are changes in the consistency of the feces, like runny diarrhea or large amounts of mucus. A stronger than usual foul smell may also be an indication that there is a problem with their digestion or bacterial overgrowth is present. Monitor the stool for evidence of parasites. Gastrointestinal parasites range in appearance depending on the species of parasite. Roundworms are large and tubular. Tapeworms are white and rice-like in appearance.

    If your cat has persistent vomiting, no appetite, weakness, or yellowing of the skin/eyes, this is especially concerning. Bright yellow feces may be a sign of liver, gallbladder, or blood problems and should be investigated right away with your veterinarian. These conditions can be life-threatening and require immediate veterinary care.

    What should you do if your cat’s poop is yellow?

    If you notice your cat has yellow poop, here are some things you can do to investigate or remedy the problem:

    • Check their food:
      • Evaluate their diet and look at the color of the morsels of food. Light-colored kibble can cause light yellow feces. Check the ingredients for any addition of dyes or pigments. If the food was recently changed, this could be a potential cause of color change
    • Collect a sample:
      • Yellow poop may be a sign of gastrointestinal parasites or bacterial overgrowth. This is especially true if diarrhea and a foul smell are present. Collect a sample of the feces to bring to your veterinarian for fecal testing. Special tests like a fecal culture can be performed to look for bacterial changes in the stool.
    • Perform a diet trial:
      • If your cat is showing signs of tummy troubles, you can try offering a bland diet consisting of boiled chicken and rice. This is an easily digestible food source and may help improve the stool.
    • Discuss routine deworming with your vet:
      • Cats can carry gastrointestinal parasites. Talk to your vet about deworming medication. This is especially important for indoor/outdoor kitties who may be at higher risk for contracting parasites. Cats should also be treated with flea preventatives to prevent tapeworms.
    • Probiotics:
      • Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria and are often helpful for the treatment of uncomplicated diarrhea. They may improve stool consistency and are often the first-line treatment for diarrhea.

    When to see a vet for yellow cat poop

    If your cat displays any of these clinical signs, it is important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible:

    • Vomiting
    • Ongoing diarrhea that does not improve after 2-3 days or contains blood
    • Lack of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Lethargy/weakness
    • Evidence of parasites in the stool
    • Yellowing of the skin or eyes – this is a dire emergency

    Other tips for gastrointestinal health in cats

    Here are some tips to keep your cat’s tummy health in tip-top shape:

    • Feed a high-quality diet formulated for cats
    • Avoid quick diet changes. Always perform a gradual change in diet by slowly mixing the old and new diet
    • Do not give your cat table foods
    • Limit the number of treats offered
    • Have fecal testing performed as directed by your veterinarian
    • Consider prophylactic deworming in indoor/outdoor kitties
    • Avoid feeding raw diets
    • Schedule routine veterinary visits

     

    Author

    • Dr Paula Simons graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) in 2019. She is currently working at 'Cornell University Veterinary Specialists' (CUVS) in Connecticut as an Emergency and Critical Care veterinarian resident (see her work profile). CUVS is a 24/7 Emergency and Critical Care Facility certified by the Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society, indicating the highest level of patient care.