Constipation in Pet Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

When it comes to cats, it can be difficult to pinpoint when something is amiss. Your furry friend might try to hide their discomfort until it becomes unbearable. This can be especially true when it comes to digestive issues, which can manifest in a myriad of ways.

Constipation, for instance, is a widespread problem among cats that if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications. As a pet parent, it is therefore essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of constipation in cats, as well as how to prevent this condition from arising.

What Is Cat Constipation?

Constipation is a common ailment not just among humans, but also in cats. It occurs when a cat experiences difficulty emptying its bowels due to hard, dry, or compact feces. If left untreated, constipation can lead to more severe conditions such as megacolon, a dangerous condition where the colon becomes dilated and loses its ability to function properly.

Cats that are constipated may exhibit obvious symptoms such as straining or crying while trying to defecate, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal discomfort. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to take your cat to a veterinarian right away.

There are various factors that can cause constipation. Some common causes include a diet lacking in fiber, dehydration, obesity, intestinal obstructions, or a medical condition such as hypothyroidism. It’s crucial to identify the root cause of your cat’s constipation to prevent it from recurring regularly.

Mild cases of cat constipation can be treated with simple remedies such as increasing water intake, adding fiber-rich foods to their diet, or administering laxatives as directed by your vet. However, prompt medical attention is necessary if your cat’s constipation is severe and accompanied by vomiting or loss of appetite.

Ultimately, awareness of the early signs of constipation and timely veterinary care can help to prevent more severe complications and provide your feline companion with a better quality of life.

Causes Of Cat Constipation

Constipation is a common condition in cats, and several factors can cause it. Here are the leading causes of cat constipation:

  • Inadequate Water Intake: Water is a crucial element that helps to keep the digestive system functioning correctly. When a cat doesn’t drink enough water, fecal matter hardens and becomes difficult to pass.
  • Diet Lacking in Fiber: Cats require a diet that has enough fiber to ensure that their digestive system runs smoothly. A lack of fiber in their food can cause constipation.
  • Obesity: Obesity in cats puts them at risk of developing a range of health issues, including constipation. Too much body fat can increase pressure on the colon, leading to trouble emptying the bowels.
  • Medical Conditions: Several medical conditions can lead to constipation in cats. The most common are pelvic fractures, prostate tumors, or spinal cord injuries.
  • Intestinal Obstructions: Cats may experience constipation if there is an obstruction in their intestines. Ingesting objects such as toys, bones, and hairballs can cause blockages that hinder the passage of fecal matter.
  • Age: As cats age, their digestive system experiences changes, and their metabolism slows down. These changes can cause constipation to occur more frequently.

It’s crucial to identify the underlying cause of your cat’s constipation to ensure effective treatment. Consult with your veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms of constipation in your cat, such as difficulty defecating, lethargy, or vomiting.

Symptoms Of Cat Constipation

Constipation can be common in cats, and as pet owners, it’s crucial to pay close attention to any signs of this condition. Here are some common symptoms you should watch for:

  • Infrequent Bowel Movements: Generally, cats have one bowel movement per day. If your cat hasn’t defecated in two or more days, it could be a sign of constipation.
  • Straining to Defecate: A cat who is constipated may make frequent or prolonged unsuccessful attempts to defecate. They may also cry or yowl while attempting to defecate out of frustration and discomfort.
  • Hard and Dry Stool: Cat feces should be soft and formed. If you notice that your cat’s stool is dry, hard or in small, pebble-like forms, it could be a sign of constipation.
  • Loss of Appetite: Constipation can cause your cat to feel uncomfortable or unwell. A cat who is constipated may refuse to eat, which could lead to other health problems such as weight loss.
  • Lethargy: If your cat is constipated, they may seem to have less energy and be more lethargic than usual. This is because they may be feeling pain, discomfort, and bloating as a result of their constipation.
  • Vomiting: In severe cases of constipation, cats may vomit due to the buildup of fecal matter in their digestive system.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it’s essential to take them to a veterinarian promptly. They can determine if your cat is constipated and if so, recommend a suitable treatment plan to ensure your cat’s digestive system stays healthy.

Diagnosing Cat Constipation

If you suspect that your cat is constipated, it’s essential to take them to a veterinarian promptly. Here is how the vet will diagnose cat constipation:

  • Physical Exam: During a physical exam, the veterinarian will palpate your cat’s abdomen to check for any abnormalities or discomfort.
  • Medical History: The vet will take your cat’s medical history, including their diet, exercise habits, and any medical conditions or medications that could contribute to constipation.
  • X-rays: X-rays can help the veterinarian see the extent of the constipation and investigate any potential obstructions or blockages in the digestive system.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can help detect any underlying medical conditions that may be the source of the constipation.
  • Digital Rectal Examination: In some cases, the veterinarian may perform a digital rectal examination to check for any blockages or assess the quality of the cat’s stool.

Depending on the severity of the constipation and any underlying medical conditions, the veterinarian may prescribe medication to soften the stool, change the cat’s diet, or recommend additional diagnostic tests.

Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent more severe health problems from developing. Therefore, it’s essential for cat owners to be vigilant and seek veterinary care as soon as they notice any symptoms of constipation.

Treating Cat Constipation

Once a veterinarian has diagnosed your cat with constipation, there are several ways to treat it. Here are some common methods for treating cat constipation:

  • Laxatives: Veterinarians may prescribe laxatives to help soften hard stool and create a more comfortable passage. Laxatives come in various forms, including pills, powders, and gels.
  • Enemas: In some severe cases, veterinarians may recommend an enema to help remove the blockage in the digestive system.
  • Diet Changes: In most cases, veterinarians will recommend changes to a cat’s diet. Cat food that contains high amounts of fiber can help to regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. Changing your cat’s diet gradually can help avoid stomach upsets.
  • Increased Water Intake: It’s essential to ensure that your cat is drinking plenty of water to prevent constipation. You could encourage your cat to drink more fluids by providing clean water in multiple locations, adding a water fountain, or offering canned food as it contains more moisture than dry kibble.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help regulate digestive systems in cats. Engaging your cat in play will help them maintain a healthy weight, which can prevent constipation.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove an obstruction or blockage.

Cats that experience chronic constipation may require long-term treatment or a combination of treatment methods. As with most health conditions, early detection and prompt veterinary care are vital to ensuring successful treatment and recovery.

Prognosis For Cat Constipation

The prognosis for cats with constipation depends on several factors, including the cause of the constipation, how long it has been present, and if any underlying medical conditions affect the digestive system.

In general, if the cause of the constipation is identified early and treated promptly, the prognosis for a full recovery is good. As a pet owner, it’s crucial to be vigilant and recognize the symptoms of constipation in your cat, so you can promptly seek veterinary care.

In mild cases, treatment can be successful with simple remedies such as changes in diet and exercise. However, in severe and chronic cases, cats may require long-term treatment involving medications, surgery to remove an obstruction or blockage, or the use of stool softeners or enemas.

It’s essential to monitor your cat’s symptoms even after treatment to prevent the recurrence of constipation. Additionally, ensuring your cat has a healthy diet rich in fiber, adequate water intake, and consistent physical exercise can prevent future constipation episodes.

So, attention to preventative measures and early detection, coupled with prompt medical care, can lead to a positive prognosis for cats with constipation. As a caring pet owner, it’s essential to work closely with your veterinarian, so your cat receives proper treatment and can enjoy a healthy, comfortable life free from constipation.

Preventing Constipation In Cats

Preventing constipation in your cat is easier than treating it. Here are some ways to help prevent constipation in your feline companion:

  • Balanced Diet: Provide a balanced and fiber-rich diet for your cat. High-fiber foods can help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation. Ensure that you select high-quality cat food that meets the essential nutritional needs of your cat, based on their age, weight, and size.
  • Regular Exercise: Regular exercise for your cat is essential to optimize digestion and prevent constipation. Use interactive toys such as laser pointers, balls, and puzzles to keep them active.
  • Increased Water Intake: To prevent constipation, ensure that your cat has consistent access to clean, fresh water all day. You can add food rich in moisture, such as canned food, to your cat’s diet to increase water intake.
  • Brushing and Grooming: Regular grooming will help prevent hairballs from forming in the digestive tract, leading to constipation. Invest in a good-quality brush, comb, and grooming tools to maintain your cat’s coat and good health.
  • Regular Veterinary Exams: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are crucial for monitoring your cat’s health and identifying potential health issues before they become chronic. Ensure that your cat receives a proper cleaning of the anal area to prevent constipation caused by fecal impaction.
  • Laxatives: In some exceptional cases, giving your cat a dose of a suitable laxative prescribed by the veterinarian can help prevent constipation.

By implementing preventative measures like these, pet owners can prevent cat constipation and promote a healthy, happy feline companion. Encouraging your cat to lead an active and healthy lifestyle, providing a balanced diet filled with fiber, and maintaining their hygiene are key to preventing constipation.


Constipation can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition for your feline companion. As pet owners, it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms of constipation, recognize the causes, and take prompt action to prevent and treat it.

Maintaining your cat’s physical and mental health through a combination of balanced diets, regular exercise, good grooming habits, routine veterinary check-ups, and timely medical care can help prevent the condition from occurring in the future.

Remember, early detection is crucial, and prompt treatment can lead to positive outcomes and improved quality of life for your cat. By applying preventative measures, you can help maintain a happy, comfortable, and healthy feline companion.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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