When assessing the health needs of pets, it is important to recognize health problems common to certain animals. For example, kittens are similar to human babies in a number of ways and should be treated carefully and with respect to their developing systems.
In terms of a kitten’s digestive tract, it is vital to remember their digestive systems are not yet fully functioning, as their development is still in progress, and they must be fed appropriate foods their bodies can utilize. Their intestines and colon are still forming and storing up beneficial bacteria to help with nutrient assimilation. Often, when kittens are fed inappropriate foods, problems arise.
Symptoms of Kitten Constipation
Kittens can and do become constipated, and this is characterized by the lack of a daily bowel movement, or by several days elapsing without a bowel movement. Kitten constipation is a serious health condition, as constipation can cause organ obstruction. In worst-case scenarios, serious illness and even death can occur from extreme constipation. Symptoms possibly alerting you to digestive issues in your kitten are the lack of a bowel movement, extreme abdominal distention and bloating, lack of appetite, or symptoms of pain such as excessive meowing.
Kittens that have been living in an animal shelter, or have been taken in from the street are especially susceptible to constipation as they are frequently malnourished, or have ingested foods that are difficult for their underdeveloped digestive systems to break down. It is also common for stray or shelter kittens to have a parasite, which can compromise overall digestive health and also lead to constipation. Many kittens work hard to groom themselves at an early age. Fur lodged in the digestive tract is common in felines of any age and can cause blockages manifested as constipation.
Causes of Constipation in Kitties
When kittens become constipated, it is important to recognize the problem quickly and begin helping the kitten to become regular, while also ruling out more serious causes of the constipation. Kitten constipation can be a common occurrence, especially for felines that are or have resided in a shelter. Baby kittens’ digestive tracts are made for milk from the mother cat. Their bodies are made to break milk down efficiently, and the beneficial bacteria and nutrients contained in the mother cat’s milk would help the kitten digest food and stay regular. However, many kittens are taken from their mothers too early, are put on regular cat food too early, or are living under circumstances where they are unable to nurse.
Cow’s milk, hard, dry cat food, or being fed table scraps too soon or in too large quantities can cause kitten constipation. These foods are not easily digestible, and this may place a strain on the kitten’s system, thus creating constipation. Kittens not able to move around (for example, those living in a cage) are also at risk for constipation as their muscles and digestive systems are not getting the exercise needed for the body systems to operate efficiently. Dehydration can also cause constipation because the digestive system is not receiving sufficient amounts of liquid to move waste out of the body. As waste moves through the intestines, it absorbs water and this helps create a bulky, moveable stool. Without adequate water, bowel movements may become hard, dry, and difficult to pass.
Relieving Kitten Constipation
When your kitten is constipated, there are some home remedies for providing relief. For kittens unable to lap fluids (instead of nursing), use an eyedropper or doll bottle to feed the kitten water. Keeping the kitten hydrated is very important. Feeding the infant cat goat’s milk can be beneficial as it’s easier to digest than cow’s milk. Consulting with a vet over other liquid-food options is important before feeding it to your kitten. You can also feed your kitten with the eyedropper or, if the kitten is capable, providing a low-rimmed bowl the kitten can lap out of will also suffice. Avoid feeding kittens hard cat food and table scraps until it is about 3-5 months old, or older if the kitten continues to struggle with digestive problems.
Gently massaging the kitten’s abdominal area may help stimulate the intestinal muscles and nerves to move on their own, and will also help rule out abdominal growths or obstructions as a problem. If your kitten has been in a shelter or frequently resides in a cage or other small space, it is a beneficial practice to provide it with regular exercise each day. This will aid the kitten’s body in eliminating waste, and in promoting overall health.
If your kitten continues to have digestive and constipation problems, and does not show any improvement from home remedy efforts, you may need to visit a professional veterinarian and have your kitten thoroughly examined. Kitten constipation can be a serious issue if left untreated or if it occurs too often. Be good to your new pet and care for it just as you would any other newborn.