Constipation in cats is common, painful but treatable. Although constipation can happen to all ages of cats, it’s most common in older cats that aren’t as active as they used to be. Constipation can be caused by blockage (such as a hairball), by diet, by medications or loss of muscle tone through aging.
Warning For Newborn Kittens
Constipation can be fatal in the newborn kitten. Mother cats normally lick their kittens in the anal-genital area to get the kitten to both urinate and defecate. If the newborn is orphaned, than mother’s tongue can be simulated with a lukewarm wet cotton ball. If a newborn kitten does not have a bowel movement in 72, it can die due to the build up of toxins in the body.
Kitten-Rescue.com recommends that constipated kittens that have not passed any bowel movements in 24 be given a couple of drops of mineral or vegetable oil in with their formula. But if the kitten has not had a bowel movement in 48 hours, call the vet. Kittens begin to get muscle control when they are about a month old.
If any part of the digestive tract is blocked, then it will be hard for the stools to pass through. The most common material blocking the intestines is the cat’s own fur. Cats will often swallow their loose fur as they groom themselves. The best way to prevent this is to brush your cat regularly to get rid of the loose fur in advance. Petting the cat will often loosen up dead hair. Although this will not eliminate hairballs entirely, it can help cut down on their frequency.
Other blockages can be from any strange object the cat swallowed. If the cat is also vomiting or passes pools of blood, please get it to the emergency clinic immediately. The vet may also want to check the anal region to be sure there isn’t a tumor or piece of bone caught in there that may be causing the problem.
A diet that doesn’t have enough fiber or water will also make a cat constipated. Water and fiber help move the stools along the digestive tract. Senior cats need to be put on a lower calorie diet to help compensate for their lack of activity. However, senior cats should still be encouraged to play. Minor but regular exercise may help stimulate the bowels.
Obese cats often become constipated. It’s as if their fat is constricting on the digestive organs, but it’s really the high fat content of the diet clogging things up. Overweight cats often need to take medications for illnesses such as diabetes, which also may contribute to feline constipation.
Leave out several bowls of water for the senior cat, especially if there are other pets in the home that may be scaring the older cat away from water.
“Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, et al. Howell Book House; 1995.
“ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats.” James R. Richards, DVM. Chronicle Books; 1999.
Pets Canada. “Diarrhea and Constipation in Cats.” http://www.pets.ca/cats/articles/cat-diarrhea-constipation-intestinal-disorders/
Personal experience, especially with elderly cats