Why does my cat have diarrhea?

Diarrhea in cats is a common issue that we see at our veterinary clinic. No doubt if your cat is suffering from diarrhea your top priority will be curing the condition. Today our Seattle vets explain some common causes, and how to stop diarrhea, and chronic diarrhea, in cats.

Diarrhea in Cats

Our Seattle vets see a lot of cats suffering from diarrhea, and for a range of reasons.

You may or may not be aware of the specifics of your cat's bathroom habits, depending on her lifestyle. Furthermore, because cats are very particular about grooming, the tell-tale (or tell-tale) signs of diarrhea may be missed, especially in the early stages. As a result, regular veterinary visits are critical.

There are several more serious reasons why your cat could have diarrhea.

What Causes Diarrhea in Cats

Below are some of the most common reasons for diarrhea in cats:

  • Parasites –  Parasites can irritate your cat’s gastrointestinal, causing all kinds of diarrhea involving the small and/or large bowels. Significant numbers of parasites that cause diarrhea are more common in younger kittens
  • Infections – Viral or bacterial infections can also cause diarrhea and also occur more frequently in younger cats
  • Dietary Indiscretion or Diet Change – Cats tend to be more careful about what they eat than dogs, but sometimes they eat inappropriate things like grass, string, etc. Even a purposeful change in diet from one food to another can cause diarrhea
  • Stress – Just like with people, stress/anxiety/excitement can result in GI upset (especially lower bowel irritation or colitis)
  • Primary Inflammatory Disorders – Like inflammatory bowel disease in people, inflammatory disorders can cause your cat to develop diarrhea
  • Metabolic Diseases – From disorders of the pancreas or liver to thyroid imbalances, many other problems upset the motility or environment in the GI tract resulting in diarrhea
  • Medications/Toxins – Most know that certain antibiotics can upset the GI tract but other medications and certain toxins can also cause diarrhea
  • Constipation – Constipation may seem counterintuitive, but I bring it up because older cats are more likely to develop motility problems in their colons, which can lead to constipation. In these cases, the cats frequently only manage to pass a small amount of additional liquid stools around the obstruction.

But how do you know whether your cat's diarrhea requires a visit to the vet?

When To Contact Your Vet

If your cat has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your cat's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your cat has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your kitty is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, it could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a hairball. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your cat is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Contact your vet right away if your kitty is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Cats showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your cat has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your cat is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

How to Treat Diarrhea in cats

Never give your cat human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to cats.

Increasing fiber intake is an option since it is considered a great ‘equalizer’. However, I think it is best to go with multiple smaller meals of something easily digestible. That means a low-fat, mostly carbohydrate diet like potatoes, pasta, or rice with a little bit of chicken, turkey, low-fat cottage cheese, or yogurt. Some cats are also happy to eat meat-based baby foods.

When it comes to your kitty's health it is always best to err on the side of caution. By taking your feline friend in for an examination you allow your vet to determine the underlying cause of their diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

If your cat has diarrhea, contact our Seattle vets to book an examination for your beloved pet, we are here to help them feel their absolute best.