Constipation in Cats
Defining Constipation in Cats
Constipation is the infrequent, incomplete or difficult passage of feces from the colon, also called the large intestine or large bowel. The colon is the terminal end of the digestive tract. It starts with the cecum, which is a dilated pouch at the end of the small intestine, and includes the rectum, which adjoins the anal canal. The colon is the main area where digestive waste products are concentrated and stored. Water normally is reclaimed from those waste products, forming the final fecal end product. Most cats defecate once or twice daily. If a cat only defecates every two to three days, digestive waste material remains in its colon, becoming increasingly hard and dry. Constipated cats strain to pass feces, with little if any fecal output. This is called “tenesmus”. Cats with colitis, urethral blockages or feline lower urinary tract disease can also show signs of straining; these conditions should be ruled out before treatment for constipation begins.
Constipation is a fairly common problem in domestic cats. The causes of this condition are many and varied. They include behavioral and environmental things, such as sudden changes in a cat’s household routines, household members or daily activities, lack of enough exercise and dirty litter boxes. Dietary indiscretion (so-called “garbage gut”) is a major cause of constipation in dogs, but not so much in cats. Some cats do get constipated by eating indigestible things, like
Constipated cats, like constipated people, feel bloated and uncomfortable. They typically squat and strain while they are trying to defecate, and often have little or no successful results to show from their strenuous efforts. Their fecal material becomes hard and dryer the longer that they are constipated, which makes it increasingly harder to pass. The constant straining, which is medically referred to as “tenesmus,” often causes the cat’s anus and the surrounding area to become
Owners who suspect that their cats may be constipated should consult with their veterinarian to determine whether the cat indeed is constipated and, if so, why that condition has developed. The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and take a complete history from the owner about the cat’s overall health and why the owner thinks that constipation may be the problem. The history will cover the cat’s appetite, normal and/or abnormal recent behavior, diet
The goals of treating constipation in cats are to clean out the colon, reestablish the cat’s normal hydration, correct any identifiable underlying cause of the condition and, hopefully, prevent it from recurring in the future.The treatment options for constipated cats depend on why the cat became constipated in the first place. If an animal is only occasionally and mildly constipated, dietary supplementation with high-fiber, bulk-forming ingredients such as flax seed, wheat bran, rice bran or