“Help, my cat has diarrhoea but seems okay otherwise, do I need to be concerned?” This a concern most cat owners will have multiple times.
We all love our cats and when they do something unusual it is natural to be concerned. By noticing your cat has a complaint and expressing concern you are already being a good cat owner.
While it may not be the glamorous topic, knowing your cat’s elimination habits is all part of being a good cat owner. Your cat or kitten cannot directly tell you when they are unwell being an attentive owner, you can help you by noticing things before they get too bad and can hopefully be stopped easily.
Cats are extremely stoic little creatures who are good at hiding when they are uncomfortable and potentially unwell. So how do you know when veterinary intervention is needed and is there anything you can do for your cat’s diarrhoea at home?
Your Cat has Diarrhoea but seems okay: Why and what to do?
This post covers:
- Why does my cat have diarrhoea?
- When does my cat require Veterinary attention
- Questions your vet may ask about your Cat’s diarrhoea
- Tips for preventing your cat from getting diarrhoea
Why does my cat have Diarrhoea?
There are so many reasons a cat or kitten may have diarrhoea. Some of which may be more serious and some of which are easily fixable. Therefore please try not to worry too much initially, diarrhoea in cats is not always a concern.
Potential reasons your cat may have diarrhoea:
Dietary intolerance / Food allergy
This is a hypersensitivity reaction to certain ingredients in a cat’s diet. Certain breeds are more prone to it than others, and it can occur in pets that have been fed the same diet for years but suddenly develop an allergy to one of its ingredients.
The symptoms can either be your cat has diarrhoea but otherwise seems fine with a good appetite throughout, or itchiness, in particular, licking at the paws.
Diagnosis is either via a blood test sent to a specialised laboratory to measure antibodies to different ingredients or by conducting a strict dietary trial. The long term resolution is identifying the ingredient responsible and eliminating it from the diet.
Many cats can be scavengers and will eat things they find lying around outside, some of which might be harbouring nasty bacteria that cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
Certain bacteria are worse than others; the 3 ones to worry about are E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter as these can be passed to humans. However, bacterial infections are usually easily treated by a course of antibiotics.
Stress or environmental change
Is your cat naturally anxious? Or have you recently made changes to your cat’s environment? A cat which is prone to stress can also be prone to bouts of diarrhoea in reaction to this.
If you have a naturally anxious cat then closely learn their behaviour and triggers. Try to minimise stress and frequent changes to their environment. The natural pheromone product Feliway will be useful for your cat, while it will not treat diarrhoea, it has been designed to help minimise stress in cats, which may be causing the stomach upset.
Make sure your cat is wormed with a licensed veterinary product every 3 months to prevent an infestation building up and causing diarrhoea and weight loss. While cat worms is not a veterinary emergency, it is something which should be treated as soon as possible.
Inflammatory bowel disease
This is an inflammation of the wall of the intestines, usually due to a defective immune system. It is characterised by a long history of intermittent or constant diarrhoea that is non-responsive to antibiotics or a dietary trial.
While IBD cannot be cured in cats, it can be successfully managed ensuring your cat has a long and comfortable life without diarrhoea.
A disease of the adrenal or thyroid glands can cause diarrhoea in cats. These can be diagnosed via blood tests and treated appropriately.
Diarrhoea does not always mean cancer, therefore, you should not automatically be concerned about this, but sometimes it can do. There are a number of different types of cancer that can cause diarrhoea, all of which have different prognoses. Your Vet will assist you with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer if found.
When Does Cat Diarrhoea Need Veterinary Attention?
- If your pet is off his/her food completely or is unable to hold down water, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- If your cat has recently developed diarrhoea (and/or vomiting) and seems depressed, lethargic or flat, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- If your cat’s diarrhoea (or vomit) contains a large amount of blood or is very dark looking, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- If you suspect your cat has a high temperature or is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- If you have a young kitten with diarrhoea or a very elderly cat, contact your vet sooner rather than later as these cats may become dehydrated more quickly.
- If your cat has developed diarrhoea shortly after starting a new medication (such as a Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory) then stop the medication and call your veterinarian for further advice.
If none of the above is applicable, you may not need to immediately take your cat to the vet.
Instead, you can try to offer him/her a small amount of chicken and rice (or a similar bland diet).
If it is eaten, continue feeding small amounts of chicken and rice 3 times a day for the next 3 days. This bland diet will be gentle on the digestive system as your pet recovers.
The majority of cases of sudden onset diarrhoea will respond to this protocol, in some cases adding in a probiotic paste such as Pro-Kolin will also be beneficial.
If after 3 days, the diarrhoea has not stopped or if your cat stops eating/becomes lethargic during this time, it is strongly advised you take them to your Veterinary surgery for an appointment. Please do not leave it too long.
Questions you may get asked about your cat’s diarrhoea if you take them to the vets
Here are some questions to ask yourself, so that you are well prepared to answer any questions your veterinarian might ask if you end up seeking his/her advice.
How long has your cat had diarrhoea for?
Has your pet suffered from episodes of diarrhoea in the past?
If yes, there may be a dietary intolerance to deal with and therefore specific foods to avoid.
Is your cat bright and well or depressed and lethargic? If the latter is true, more urgent diagnostics and treatment may be necessary.
How is your cat’s appetite? If your cat is still eating it is a good sign that the cause of the diarrhoea is a simple one that is easy to fix.
Is the diarrhoea watery or just slightly loose? If it is very watery then it suggests fluid is being actively secreted into the intestines, and there is more of a danger from your pet suffering from dehydration due to fluid loss.
Has there been any vomiting at all?
If your cat has been vomiting too then the disease is affecting the front end of the digestive tract (oesophagus, stomach and small intestine) in addition to the back end (small intestine and large intestine). This could be due to something your pet has eaten, or due to toxins in the bloodstream that make the animal feel nauseous.
Is there any blood in the diarrhoea?
Blood can take on two forms; bleeding into the small intestine results in black faeces as the blood is partially digested by the time it reaches the anus. Bleeding into the large intestine or rectum leads to reddish faeces, with more fresh-looking blood.
Large amounts of blood in the faeces is a worry and needs immediate veterinary investigation to check for nasties such as anticoagulant toxicity, severe infections and tumours.
Tips for preventing your cat from getting diarrhoea
Feed a high-quality diet
While it can often to be tempting to go for low-cost cat food or the latest food on offer, pay close attention to the brand and why it may be so low cost.
Ensure your cat is being fed a well-known high-quality brand to ensure they are getting everything they need from the food and to help prevent stomach upsets. Ensure you are feeding a complete diet as opposed to a complementary diet (this will be stated on the packaging).
If your cat has a naturally sensitive stomach or is prone to loose stools, discuss this with your Vet. There are veterinary brand foods available for long-term use designed for these reasons which can assist your cat.
Avoid frequent food changes
Once you find high-quality food which your cat enjoys, stick with it. Resist the temptation to frequently switch your cat’s food as it can play havoc with their bowels.
It is easy for us to humanise animals and assume they will get bored having the same food at every meal but they will not. Of course, you can occasionally give a different food for a treat or have two different foods to go between but as a whole try to stick to the same food.
If you are planning on changing your cat’s food, make a slow transition over the space of 5-7 days to prevent any stomach upsets and loose poo. This is especially important when taking on a new kitten.
As much as cartoons have led as to believe that cats love/need milk, cats are lactose intolerant. Milk and dairy-based products will give your cat diarrhoea and they will make your cat put on a lot of weight if given frequently, therefore, avoid them.
Shop bought cat milk is available and are lactose-free but they are not essential to a healthy cat’s diet, therefore not necessary.
Ensure parasite treatment is given regularly and on time
Be sure to follow your Vet’s advice and protocol regarding parasite control – especially if you have an outdoor cat. Ensuring regular parasite control will ensure your cat is free from any worms which may affect their stomach and bowels.
Cats do get diarrhoea. The majority of the time it will be absolutely nothing to worry about but it is important to keep a close eye on their behaviour and length of an episode so you can intervene when veterinary treatment is necessary.
A cat with diarrhoea which seems okay and otherwise eating is usually not of concern and generally, within a day or two, their stools will be back to normal.