What is Diarrhea in Cats?
Cat diarrhea is a condition in which the cat’s stool is mucousy, running, loose, or bloody. This is often accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Cat diarrhea is a symptom rather than a disease on its own. Some bouts of cat diarrhea are benign and can resolve on their own, while others are indicative of a more severe underlying condition.
Cat diarrhea is not an immediate cause for concern, but it requires close monitoring and seeking veterinary help if things get worse.
What Causes Diarrhea in Cats?
Common causes of cat diarrhea include health conditions such as bacterial infections, pancreatitis, thyroid dysfunctions, or even liver disease. Let’s have a close look at the underlying causes of cat diarrhea.
- Diet Changes. Sudden changes in the cat’s diet upset the stomach and result in diarrhea. If adding new food to the menu, take away the old food slowly and gradually.
- Dietary Indiscretions. This refers to eating inedible items and human foods or table scraps that are hard to digest. Dietary indiscretions wreak havoc on the GI tract and cause diarrhea.
- Food Sensitivities. Food sensitivities (food allergies and food intolerances) manifest with stomach upsets (usually diarrhea and, in some cases, vomiting).
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a specific disease of the cat’s digestive tract that causes diarrhea and is challenging to diagnose and manage.
- Infectious Diseases. Viral infections and bacterial infections are often causes of diarrhea. They trigger complex clinical manifestations and severe cases of diarrhea. Some infectious diseases are life-threatening if left untreated.
- Intestinal Parasites. Parasites in the GI tract, such as worms (roundworms or hookworms) and protozoa (Giardia, Coccidia), cause diarrhea. In such cases, the cat will probably have bloody diarrhea or exhibit mucus in the poop.
- Endocrine Dysfunctions. Some endocrine conditions like thyroid gland issues and diabetes mellitus exert harmful effects on the digestive system and trigger diarrhea.
- Systemic Diseases. Certain systemic pet health issues like kidney or liver disease, pancreatitis, and others can cause chronic diarrhea, especially in their advanced stages.
- Toxin Ingestion. Ingestion of poisons and toxic substances (chemicals, plants, certain human foods, and medications) triggers stomach irritation and causes diarrhea.
- GI Tract Tumors. Finally, cat diarrhea can be the result of tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. Luckily, such tumors are relatively rare.
What Are the Symptoms of Cat Diarrhea?
Cat diarrhea is accompanied by an array of signs and symptoms, including:
- Loss of Appetite. Loss of appetite is often associated with diarrhea. This can be caused by exposure, infection, or disease and should be monitored closely.
- Vomiting. It is not uncommon for a cat with diarrhea to experience vomiting. Vomiting can be accompanied by nausea and excessive salivation or drooling.
- Lethargy. Cats will become lazier when they do not feel well. This conserves the energy they need to recover from an illness.
- Loose Stool. Loose, dark, tarry, bloody, or mucousy feces are all symptoms of diarrhea in cats.
- Increased Bowel movement Frequency. Your cat going to the litter box more often than normal can be a clinical sign of diarrhea or an irritated GI tract.
- Accidents around the House. Diarrhea is often paired with an increased urgency that may not allow cats to make it to the litter box.
- Straining to Defecate. When a cat has a hard time using the litter box, it may be a sign of diarrhea but can indicate constipation, so it is important to keep an eye on the behavior.
- Dehydration. Prolonged diarrhea leads to excess loss of fluids and electrolytes and causes dehydration – sunken eyes, sticky saliva, and decreased skin elasticity.
- Weight Loss. If your cat has noticeable weight loss that was unexpected, it could be a sign of diarrhea. Keep an eye on their food and water intake as well as their bowel movements to be sure.
What Does the Color of Your Cat’s Diarrhea Mean?
The color of a cat diarrhea can have different meanings.
You should seek veterinary care if you notice blood in your cat’s stool or notice it is an abnormal color for any reason. We list some common colors and what they may indicate below:
- Mucous-Coated Diarrhea: If the cat’s stool is covered with mucus, it is usually a sign of colitis or the presence of intestinal parasites.
- Red Bright Diarrhea: Red (fresh) blood in diarrhea indicated bleeding in the distal parts of the gastrointestinal system or issues with the anal glands.
- Black or Tarry Diarrhea: Black, tarry (digested) blood resembling coffee grounds tells there is bleeding in the upper parts of the GI tract (stomach and small intestines).
- White Diarrhea: Usually, white diarrhea discoloration is a result of fat present in the poop and indicates issues with the pancreas.
What Does the Consistency of Your Cat’s Diarrhea Mean?
The consistency of the cat diarrhea can tell you much about the possible cause. Most common causes present in similar ways, so oftentimes, the consistency of diarrhea that may indicate one cause can actually be a side effect of a different cause.
- Runny and Loose Diarrhea: This is often a sign of food intolerance, and a bland diet can help with this. However, it can also be the result of infectious diseases.
- Chunky or Grounded Diarrhea: A generally less severe diarrheal symptom but can be a sign of malabsorption of water. Soluble fiber can help resolve this issue.
What Should I Do if My Cat Has Diarrhea?
There are several over-the-counter supplements and medications that can be used to manage mild cases of cat diarrhea at home. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Honest Paws Pre+ Probiotic. This probiotic blend features inulin for great probiotic growth and six strains of bacteria. Overall, the unique blend of probiotics and prebiotics support digestion and boosts the cat’s immune system.
Rice hull and rice extract blend provide fiber to help form a cat’s stool into a healthy shape and consistency. It contains 5 billion CFUs and is safe for cats of all ages. Plus, it comes in a delicious chicken flavor and a powdered form that can easily be sprinkled on cat food.
Nutri-Vet Anti-Diarrhea Liquid for Cats. This oral anti-diarrheal medication contains pectin to soothe a cat’s stomach. This provides a protective coating on the gastrointestinal membranes to prevent inflammation.
Kaolin is also included to absorb water and increase the bulk of the stool. It is made by vets in the USA with globally sourced ingredients. This product carries the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) quality seal.
VetriScience Laboratories – Fast Balance Gi Paste Gastro Intestinal Support for Cats. This fast-acting and easy-to-administer formula provides immediate GI support for cats, dogs, and horses. It is balanced with the specialized yeast extract mannan oligosaccharides.
Other beneficial bacteria are Bacillus subtilis and mixed lactic acid bacteria. The formula is designed to maintain balanced microflora levels in a cat’s gut to promote the best possible digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Pet Naturals Digestive and Immune Support Supplement for Cats. Often recommended for immune support and times of increased stress, this probiotic is also safe for daily use. It does not contain wheat, corn, or artificial ingredients and is made in a tasty duck flavor.
This probiotic guarantees a minimum of 100 million CFUs that help to normalize digestion and reduce gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It is made in the USA in an NASC-approved facility.
Vetoquinol Pro-Pectalin Oral Paste for Cats. The pectin in this oral paste helps to protect the lining of the intestines. It balances the microbial flora and promotes intestinal health with a pH-balanced formula that normalizes digestion function and reduces occasional loose stools due to stress or diet changes.
This unique formula helps to soothe irritated intestines and restore healthy bacteria to normal levels. The palatable chicken flavor is ideal for dogs and cats, and the dial-to-dispense syringe makes dosing easy and accurate.
What Do You Feed a Cat with Diarrhea?
When Should I Worry About My Cat’s Diarrhea?
Often times cat diarrhea is not a symptom of something serious.
However, to be sure, you should take your cat to the vet if it has experienced diarrheal symptoms for more than 1-2 days or if its feces is of an odd consistency. If your cat has had frequent bowel movements for more than 48 hours, it is time to see a DVM, and they can treat the gastrointestinal stress your cat is experiencing.
You should also see be concerned and see a vet if your cat is showing additional signs like loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and dehydration.
The vet will perform a physical examination and request additional diagnostic tests such as stool sample analysis, blood work, abdominal x-rays, or ultrasound to determine the underlying cause and suggest a treatment plan.
How can I Prevent Cat Diarrhea?
There are a few proven ways to prevent cat diarrhea. We list some of them below:
- Probiotics. Probiotics are a great way to promote a cat’s health. These microorganisms help to prevent inflammation in the intestinal tract and promote a healthy microbiome inside a cat’s gut.
- Hydration. Keeping your cat adequately hydrated with the use of electrolytes or wet cat food is an excellent option to prevent diarrhea in healthy cats. This allows a cat’s feces to collect moisture as it moves through its intestines, and this develops the texture and firmness of the poop.
- High-Quality Cat Food. Feeding cats high-quality food that prioritizes natural meat protein is important for cats. Cats are carnivores and do not do well consuming things like grains or additives regularly.
- Regular Health Check-Ups. Finally, it is important to have your cat regularly checked at the vet. It is also important to keep your cat up-to-date on core vaccines and practice scheduled dewormings.