Just like humans, felines can become constipated. Feline constipation is a common occurrence in cats that are eight years old and over. However, cats of any age can become constipated. Granted, there is no set number of bowel movements you should expect from your feline. They eat, they poop right? However, much like in humans, if your cat is not moving its bowels regularly it’s probably constipated.
Constipation is not a disease but is simply a symptom of a deeper problem in your cat’s digestive system. The longer your cat suffers from constipation the higher its chances are of developing more serious problems. Your cat could lose its appetite altogether, become listless and lethargic, have problems maintaining the health of its fur, and even have difficulty moving around due to abdominal discomfort. Cats with severe constipation may vomit frequently or have blood-tinged diarrhea. Don’t assume, just because your cat has diarrhea it’s over its illness. As strange as it may sound, diarrhea can flow around impacted fecal matter.
Your cat’s colon and your own operate in much the same way. It shouldn’t become a holding tank for toxins, which may occur when undigested food begins to putrefy and leech back into the bloodstream. You see–the lining of the colon allows vitamins and nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and if your cat’s colon is backed up with fecal matter it cannot digest food properly. If severe constipation occurs and your feline becomes completely impacted, toxins stored in your cat’s colon are thus reabsorbed into its body.
Symptoms of Feline Constipation
- Your cat is having infrequent bowel movements
- Your cat strains or cries when trying to have a bowel movement
- Your cat produces little or no stool on a regular basis
- Your cat travels to the litter box frequently, yet does not eliminate
- Your cat licks its anal area more than usual or to the point of damaging tissue
- Your cat seems to be uncomfortable, anxious, or in pain
Types of Feline Constipation
- Constipation: The term “constipation” is used to describe the stage when your cat initially starts having problems pooping.
- Obstipation: This, the second stage of constipation, occurs when your cat has become so severely impacted it cannot pass any stools at all.
- Megacolon: This stage of constipation occurs when fecal material sits in your cat’s colon for a prolonged period, gradually becoming harder and drier. By this point your cat’s colon has no muscular movement and fecal matter simply builds and builds in the colon. Most felines have to undergo surgery if they have Megacolon.
Causes of Feline Constipation
Feline constipation is often caused by ingesting hair. Anyone who has been around cats knows they spend much of their day grooming. A cat’s tongue has small barbs on it that feel like sandpaper and these barbs pull on your loose hair which is then ingested. All this hair collects in the intestines and form hairballs. Cats usually cough up their hairballs or pass them in their stools; but hairballs remaining in the intestines are the most common cause of constipation. In some severe cases, a veterinarian has had to remove these dense lumps of hair through surgery or other means in order to help the affected feline. There have been reports of some hairballs being removed measuring three inches in diameter!
Signs your cat may be having a problem with hairballs stuck in their intestines are numerous. Your cat may have a hacking, dry cough, a poor appetite, vomit after eating, exhibit “dry heaves”, develop a brittle or dull coat, experience a sharp drop in weight, or start chewing on grass for no apparent reason.
As you know, cats are very concerned with cleanliness. Not only are they meticulous groomers, but they may refuse to defecate in a litter box that’s too dirty. This can lead to constipation because they start holding it in while searching for a good spot to “go”. In addition, cats are creatures usually preferring little change in their lives. If you have recently replaced its litter box, or even the box’s location, your cat may hold his bowel movements and refuse to defecate. This can also lead to constipation.
Other causes of constipation are similar to those in people. These include insufficient water consumption, or actual dehydration, and improper eating habits. Water is important for keeping the body hydrated and operating at its best. A lack of water makes stools hard and then difficult to pass. Humans and felines can develop rectal problems from trying to pass hard stools. Poor nutrition can also cause your pet to become constipated. If your cat eats a diet high in salt or fat it may become constipated. It may also become constipated if it has eaten a small animal, such as a rodent, and has trouble digesting it.
If your cat is showing signs of constipation you should address it as soon as possible. Constipation is very painful and can be very dangerous if left untreated. Be alert for symptoms such as excessive hairballs, anxiety about disruptions in its normal routine, displaying sensitivity or aggression if you pet its stomach, or any odd or sudden changes in dietary habits. As always, consult your veterinarian for additional information about your cat’s health and maintaining its optimum digestive function. Happiness to you and your feline friend!