What To Do About Cat Constipation
Cats are normally regular so any sign of cat constipation should be taken seriously. Constipation is defined as a difficulty in passing feces. If your cat is constipated, she will visit the litter tray less often and have difficulty passing feces. Anything passed is likely to be hard and dry, although in some cases small quantities of liquid or mucus may be passed instead of a normal movement.
However, if your cat visits the litter tray more often than usual, instead of less, and passes nothing except perhaps a few drops of urine, the cause is probably not constipation but cystitis, an infection of the urinary tract. Cats with cystitis need to be seen by a vet urgently because in some cases there is a blockage which can be life threatening. Equally if your cat cannot pass feces at all, the bowel may be blocked and you should see a vet right away.
Having identified that your cat is constipated rather than anything else, you may wonder what has caused it. It might be that the cat is dehydrated. Another common cause is an accident. Maybe your cat fell or was hit by a car and his pelvis was fractured. It might have healed without you being aware anything had happened, but it can cause an obstruction that can lead to constipation. Or, the cat may have eaten something that is blocking the passages. It could be a bone, a chewed toy or a hairball that has passed through instead of being vomited up. Occasionally drugs, tumors or other illnesses may cause constipation. Or some cats will stop passing feces if they are upset by a change in their routine, for example if you have changed the litter product in their tray.
In all cases, if your cat has constipation you should take him to the vet. Unless the cause is already known the vet will probably take X rays, with or without barium enema, to identify whether there is something blocking the colon or bowel. If this does not reveal the cause, they may try colonoscopy where the colon is observed directly under anesthetic.
Treatment of constipation often begins with rehydration, since many constipated cats are dehydrated. Your cat may be put on an intravenous drip to achieve this. At the same time, any drugs that may be causing the problem will be changed or stopped. In the case of a pelvic obstruction, surgery may be indicated. In other cases, compacted feces present in the bowel will be removed, often by enema and massage. This process may need to be repeated over several days. As you will realize, it is not possible to do this at home, and that is why a constipated cat needs professional treatment as soon as possible.
Cat constipation, like constipation in humans, tends to recur. You will need to watch your cat in case it happens again. Your vet may recommend preventive measures such as increasing the fiber in the diet. Bran and psyllium are common natural bulking agents.
If you give bulking agents to your cat, be aware that they need a much smaller amount that a human. One teaspoon is often the dose. It is also very important that the cat takes in extra water, because these fiber products will absorb water which can leave the cat dehydrated again. So either mix water into the food when adding these products, or make sure that the cat has a good supply of fresh water to drink from. In this way you can help your cat to avoid suffering cat constipation again in the future.