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Cat Constipation: How To Identify It & How To Help Your Cat

By Bridget Reed


Just like in humans, cat constipation is a common problem. Although it usually only causes discomfort and mild pain, it can become a bigger health issue if left unaddressed. 

Thankfully, there are several ways you can help your constipated cat if you can identify the cause of their constipation. This article will help you identify and treat your cat’s constipation and determine if it is severe enough to warrant medical attention. 

What Is Constipation?

Before diving into the causes and symptoms of constipation in cats, it is important to understand what constipation is. Constipation is a medical condition where stool cannot pass through the bowels. This may cause your feline to stop passing bowel movements completely or to experience painful bowel movements. 

Usually, constipation is more common in older or overweight cats with slower digestive systems. When your cat eats something they cannot digest, such as bones, hair, and litter, they may experience constipation. Dehydration can also contribute to and worsen constipation.

What Are the Causes of Constipation in Cats?

There are several different causes of constipation in cats. Anytime things are not moving properly through your feline’s intestine, they may experience constipation. If they are dehydrated for any reason, your furry friend will be more likely to become constipated. 

Other causes of chronic constipation in cats include:

  • Spinal pain or problems
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Hairballs, especially prevalent in long-haired cats
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies (such as small toys or small animal bones)
  • Pelvic issues that lead to a narrowed pelvic canal
  • Obesity and lack of exercise 
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Allergies
  • Nerve problems
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism

Your cat can become constipated if they have to hold their stool for longer than normal. When your feline holds their feces in, their large intestines begin to reabsorb water. Pain, stress, obesity, gland issues, and different blockages are all reasons your cat may be holding in their stool. 

What Is Megacolon?

One of the most common causes of constipation in cats is megacolon. Megacolon refers to a dilated and weak colon which can result in extreme constipation in cats. When your cat suffers from megacolon, the muscles in their colon become weak and cannot contract and expand with enough force to expel stool out of the colon. 

The cause of megacolon is unknown. It may happen due to problems with the muscles lining the colon, neurological impairment, or both. Your cat can also develop megacolon over time if they routinely experience constipation. 

When your cat experiences constipation over a long period, their colon gradually loses the ability to contract, which can result in megacolon. 

What Are the Symptoms of Constipation in Cats?

Now that you know more about the different causes of constipation in cats, let’s closely look at the different symptoms. It is important to identify the symptoms of constipation in your feline because it can be difficult to tell if your cat is constipated or is suffering from another medical issue. 

When your cat is constipated, you may notice that they are hesitant to pass stool and seem to experience mild pain or discomfort while doing so. Given that cats are private creatures, it may be difficult to catch them in the act in their litter box. 

Try to keep an eye out to see if your cat actually defecates when they go to the litter box. One visible symptom of constipation in cats is when they frequently try to use the litter box, but nothing comes out. 

Other signs of constipation in cats include dry, hard stool. Usually, cat feces is brown and well-formed. Generally, your cat’s poop should be so moist that litter sticks to it. When they are constipated, no litter will stick to the stool, and it may end up inside or outside the litter box because, as passing stool becomes more difficult, your cat may leave the litter box before they are finished.

Once constipation progresses, you may notice your cat starts to experience more intense pain. They may meow excessively or make more noise than normal while defecating. You may also notice your cat start to slow down and become depressed or lethargic. It is important to seek medical attention if your cat seems unusually low-energy because their condition may worsen and become more serious. 

Although constipation is a common issue in cats, keeping track of how long your cat is constipated is important. If they do not begin to defecate regularly a few days after you begin to treat their constipation, it may be advisable to take them to be seen by a veterinarian. 

How Can You Treat Your Constipated Cat?

If you think your furry friend is constipated, there’s no need to worry. There are several simple ways you can treat feline constipation at home. Treating constipation as soon as possible is important so that it does not lead to permanent colon damage or more serious health conditions. 

What Should I Do if I Think My Cat Is Constipated?

The first thing you should do if you think your cat is constipated is to determine the cause of their constipation. The best way to determine what is causing a block in your feline’s digestive system is to take them to the vet. 

Once you know the cause of your cat’s constipation, you can begin to treat them at home. 

What Are At-Home Remedies for Cat Constipation?

There are several different at-home remedies you can try to cure your feline’s constipation. The first step for your constipated cat is changing their diet. Usually, a dietary change is all you need to help your cat pass normal bowel movements. 

If you only feed your cat dry food and they are constipated, they may benefit from a switch to wet food. It is important for your cat to ingest enough water daily, so giving them wet food containing a lot of liquid can help rehydrate them and relieve their constipation. 

You can also consider switching your cat to a high-fiber diet with probiotics to help firm up their stools. Another way to encourage your cat to drink more water is to add a little bit of water to their cat food

You can also try putting their water bowl in a different spot. Make sure that you regularly clean your cat’s water bowl. Given that cats are very clean creatures, they will not drink out of a dirty bowl.

You can also help cure your cat’s constipation by encouraging them to exercise more. If your cat doesn’t exercise enough, their digestive system won’t get moving, and they will be more likely to experience constipation. 

What Can the Vet Do for My Constipated Cat?

If your cat has a severe case of constipation and needs medical treatment, there are several things the vet can do to ease their pain. The veterinarian may suggest fecal removal, which involves manually removing the fecal matter causing a blockage in your cat’s digestive system. 

The vet may also prescribe your feline a laxative. Laxatives, such as Miralax, are medications or supplements that soften stool and add moisture to it, making it easier to pass. There are several different laxatives and stool softeners you can give to your cat, so talk with your vet about what option is best.

In very extreme cases, your cat may need an enema to remove the built-up stool. Enemas can sometimes require hospitalization, so your cat does not lose a dangerous water level.


There are several causes of cat constipation and side effects you can watch for in your feline. If you are worried that your cat is constipated, you can increase their water intake and change your cat’s diet. 

Although constipation can be worrying for pet parents, with the help of your vet, your feline will be feeling better in no time.


Cancer in Cats: More Research Needed | Veterinary Medicine at Illinois

Feline Diabetes | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Hyperthyroidism in Cats | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

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