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Why Your Cat is Constipated and How You Can Help

 by jaime on 05 Jul 2014 |
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If you notice that your pet is straining without successfully passing a bowel movement or you see that your cat's stools are small and hard, constipation is probably the explanation. There are a number of possible underlying causes of this problem, and a few different ways to provide your cat with relief. Here are the key facts that you should know about understanding and treating a constipated cat.

Reasons for your cat's constipation

Firstly, it's important to think about whether your cat might be dehydrated, as dehydration prompts the cat's body to conserve as much water as possible (leading to dry stools). Dehydration can develop due to a lack of regular drinking, habitual eating of dry food (i.e. kibble), or underlying health problems such as kidney disease or thyroid problems. If you think that your pet is drinking enough water and you feed the cat moist food, you should visit your vet so that blood tests for underlying conditions can be conducted. If a condition is found, appropriate treatment for that disease should improve your cat's hydration and thereby tackle the constipation.

Bowel obstructions
Is your cat particularly hairy, or prone to finding and chewing items that could be dangerous? In either case, it's possible that a bowel obstruction of hair or a foreign object is preventing the cat from defecating. However, obstructions can also occur because of internal growths like tumors and polyps. A scan performed at your vet practice should reveal whether constipation is caused by an obstruction, and if one is found then it may need to be surgically removed. If your cat habitually swallows large quantities hair, make a habit of grooming them more regularly so that less hair is available. Meanwhile, try to keep potentially chewable items hidden away from your cat's reach to prevent ingestion.

Side effects from medication
If your pet is on medication, one of the drugs could be causing constipation. Constipation is one of the most common side effects of antihistamines (for treating allergies or itching), diuretics (for heart disease), and antibiotics. In some cases, it may be possible to try a different type of medication if the constipation is very severe, but in other cases your vet may suggest regular doses of a stool softener to encourage bowel movements.

Rarer causes
It is also worth noting that constipation may also be caused by certain types of cancer, a diet that is particularly low in fiber, an abscess around the anal area, or a neurological problem that has caused nerve damage in the cat's lower body. When you report constipation to your vet, always ask about all possible causes.

How to prevent constipation

If you want to prevent repeated bouts of constipation, there are some smart things that you can do at home. In addition to feeding your cat moist food and making a fresh water supply constantly available, you can add canned or cooked pumpkin to the daily meals. Pumpkin is very high in both fiber and moisture, and many cats really like the taste.


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