Symptoms and Signs of Cat Constipation

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Effects of Constipation – From the Cat’s Point of View

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 red, inflamed, swollen and painful. Sometimes, after repeated attempts to pass a bowel movement, a small amount of hard dry stool may come out, with or without being accompanied by a loose liquid fecal discharge.

Symptoms of Constipation in Cats – What the Owner Sees

Severely constipated cats can have a number of different symptoms. Owners may notice one or more of the following signs if their cat becomes constipated:

  • Straining to defecate (“tenesmus”), with little or no successful results
  • Passage of small amounts of rock-hard, dry fecal material
  • Passage of small amounts of greasy loose stools around hard, dry fecal balls
  • Passage of small amounts of bloody loose stools around hard, dry fecal balls
  • Excessive vocalization while attempting to defecate, caused by painful impaction
  • “Scooting” the hind end across the floor, carpet or ground
  • Licking and/or biting at the anal area

Cats that have prolonged or chronic constipation may also develop one or more of the following symptoms, in addition to those mentioned above:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Reluctance to play
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Rejection of favored food treats
  • Red, irritated, inflamed anal area

While mild constipation often resolves on its own, severely constipated cats almost always need veterinary attention. If left unattended, the colon of constipated cats can become impacted, and even completely blocked, with fecal matter, which makes it difficult if not impossible for the cat to defecate. This creates a potentially life-threatening condition called “obstipation”. Obstipation in cats, and in other companion animals and people, is a medical emergency that requires veterinary treatment on an inpatient basis.

Cats at Increased Risk

Severe constipation and obstipation are reported more frequently in middle-aged and older male cats. The reason for the gender association isn’t well-understood. Domestic shorthairs, domestic long hairs and Siamese cats are predisposed; the reason for this breed association also remains a bit of a medical mystery.

Special Notes

Cats, like people, periodically suffer from constipation. This condition can be caused by diet, dehydration and/or drugs, but sometimes it is the result of an underlying medical condition that has never been previously diagnosed. The symptoms of constipation are uncomfortable and often painful for affected animals. Companion cats will be thankful and relieved if their owners recognize and find an effective solution to this unpleasant, annoying problem.