Diarrhea is not uncommon in cats. Just like humans and dogs, cats can occasionally get diarrhea. Understanding how to react if their cats develop diarrhea is important for cat owners.
About diarrhea in cats
Diarrhea in cats is characterized by unshaped stools that can range from soft to watery. It occurs when there is a disorder in the gastrointestinal tract. The stool is removed from the body in response to inflammation or other GI problems.
Some cats with diarrhea have accidents around the house. Make it clear to you what is going on. However, if your cat has a defect in the litter box or outdoors, you may not notice diarrhea immediately. Very loose stools can look like lumps of urine when you scoop the box. Look for any accompanying signs that can help determine if your cat has diarrhea or not.
Signs of diarrhea in cats
- Loss of appetite
- Caked stool or spots around tail and anus
- Frequent trips to the litter box
If you have more than one cat and find diarrhea in the litter box or around the house, it is important to determine which cat has diarrhea. This can take some time and effort. You can try separating the cats and carefully watching each cat’s litter box. It is also possible that both cats have diarrhea.
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Causes of Diarrhea in Cats
There are many possible causes of diarrhea, some more common than others. Diet-related causes are among the most common causes of diarrhea. Your cat may have eaten something that does not match it. Or a change in diet could have caused diarrhea.
- Dietary Indiscretion (Eating Something Inappropriate)
- Diet change
- Food allergy/intolerance
- Gastrointestinal parasites
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract
- Medication side effects
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Toxin exposure
What to do if your cat has diarrhea
If your cat only has one or two diarrhea events with no accompanying signs of illness, you may want to watch and wait. Withhold food for 12 to 24 hours; make sure your cat has access to fresh water.
Contact your veterinarian if:
- Your cat is showing other signs of illness such as vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, or discomfort
- Your cat has excessive gas
- Diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours
- Diarrhea often occurs during the day
- Diarrhea contains blood (or you notice blood around your cat’s anus)
- Your cat’s stool is black and/or tarry
- You suspect your cat has been exposed to a toxin
- You see worms in the stool
- Your cat is on medication
- Your cat’s belly looks enlarged
If you notice certain signs, it can be an emergency situation. Contact your veterinarian or visit the ambulance immediately if your cat is extremely sluggish, disoriented, or unresponsive. It is also an emergency if your cat’s gums are white, bluish, or grey.
Treatment of diarrhea in cats
If your cat needs to see the veterinarian, try bringing a sample of diarrhea. Your vet will need information about your cat’s environment, diet, medication, recent history and health background. After a physical exam, your vet will likely want to analyze the stool sample to look for parasites (and possibly bacterial overgrowth). Blood tests may be needed to determine the underlying causes and assess the cat’s current condition.
Most vets will prescribe medication for diarrhea and recommend temporarily switching to a mild diet to treat diarrhea.
If the underlying cause can be determined, it will be addressed appropriately. If the vet diagnoses intestinal parasites, your cat will need a worming machine. Antibiotics are needed for bacterial infections. If toxin exposure is suspected, the veterinarian will begin aggressive treatment to prevent the toxin from causing further damage. If the diarrhea is severe, cats may need to be hospitalized.
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How to prevent diarrhea in cats
The best way to prevent diarrhea in cats is to prevent the things that cause diarrhea. Feed a complete and balanced cat food and avoid table waste. Keep potential toxins like houseplants and chemicals out of reach. Take your cat to the vet once or twice a year, based on the veterinarian’s recommendation. Routine stool analysis is important for cats outdoors, but indoor cat stools should also be regularly checked for parasites.