The Scoop on Cat Poop

You can learn a lot about your cat's health from his poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, watch for a few key signs when you scoop out the litter box.

Cat Poop: What’s Normal?

Most cats will poop at least once a day. If they’re healthy, their poop should:

  • Be deep brown in color
  • Feel not too hard or too soft or mushy
  • Not smell too foul, though some odor is normal

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might have it. Sometimes, it comes and goes quickly. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or come back on a regular basis.

Diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem, but if it lasts longer, your cat can get dehydrated, which can be dangerous.

Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:

  • Changes to their diet or food allergies or intolerances
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Worms (intestinal parasites)
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Cancer

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.

The treatment your cat will need depends on what’s causing his diarrhea. Some will need prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisolone, to control inflammation. Your vet may recommend a special diet if she thinks a food allergy or intolerance, IBD, or colitis is the problem.

To prevent diarrhea, don’t give your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt -- many cats can’t digest them properly. Also, if you switch the brand or type of food you give him, be sure to introduce it over several days by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until he’s eating only the new stuff.

Constipation

When a cat is constipated, he’ll strain a lot when he tries to poop or won’t be able to produce anything for the litter box. You don’t need to worry if it only happens sometimes. But if it’s more common for your pet, you should contact your vet.

Continued

Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:

  • Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
  • Kidney problems
  • Feline megacolon -- when the colon gets very large and its muscles no longer squeeze, making hard, dry stool build up inside
  • Something blocking their colon, such as string or bones
  • Diets that don’t have enough fiber
  • Problems inside the colon, such as tumors or narrow places
  • Spine problems or pain

To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give him more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to his regular food. Or she might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest.

It also helps to make sure he gets more exercise and drinks more water so that waste will move through his system more readily.

You should talk to your vet about any poop problems your cat has, but this chart may help you figure out what may be causing them:

 

Symptom

Appearance

Frequency

Possible causes

Constipation

Small, hard, dry poop

Less than once a day

Dehydration, megacolon, dietary issues

Constipation

Small, hard, dry poop that has a lot of hair

Less than once a day

Hairballs, over-grooming

Constipation

Thin, ribbon-like poop

Less than once a day

Colon problems, like a tumor

Diarrhea

Black, tarry, runny poop

It varies

Stomach or intestinal bleeding. Call the vet right away

Diarrhea

Smelly, pudding-like poop

2-3 times daily

Food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease

Diarrhea

Gooey poop filled with mucus

Multiple times daily

Too little fiber; colitis

Diarrhea

Soft, frothy, greasy poop with mucus

It varies

Parasites

 

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on 4/, 017

Sources

SOURCES:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): “Diarrhea,” “Constipation.”

Veterinary Information Network: “Constipation and Megacolon,” “Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” “Tapeworms,” “Irritable bowel syndrome.”

American Animal Hospital Association: “Intestinal parasites.”

Merck Veterinary Manual: “Constipation and Obstipation.”

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