Anyone who has suffered from constipation knows the uncomfortable feeling of trying to "go to the bathroom" but not being able to go. Cats, just like people, often suffer from constipation with the same uncomfortable feelings. But in cats, the problem can get a lot more serious quickly.
Untreated, constipation can lead to other problems in cats, such as litter box issues, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and even death. It is important to note, if you are unsure if your cat suffers from constipation, it is best to consult your veterinarian right away. This is one problem you don't want to let go untreated.
How To Tell If Your Cat Is Constipated
Signs of Constipation In Cats
Signs of constipation include frequent visits to the litter box without leaving any feces behind, straining to relieve himself, meowing while in the litter box, vomiting after attempting to relieve himself, urinating or defecating outside the litter box, and hard feces. Also diarrhea can be a sign of constipation. It is possible for liquids to pass around solid feces and produce diarrhea but the cat still cannot eliminate the harder, solid feces. Some of these symptoms are also characteristic of urinary tract infection. So once again, if you aren't positive that it's constipation; consult your veterinarian immediately.
Begin By Preventing Constipation In Your Cat
While there are several methods that can be used to relieve your cat's constipation, it is much easier if your cat doesn't become constipated in the first place. There are a few things you can do to help prevent constipation from occurring.
Oftentimes, cats don't drink enough water. So make sure your cat always has fresh water available. In addition, consider purchasing a pet drinking fountain. My cats really like the drinking fountain they have. The trickling water seems to attract their attention and gets them to drink more water.
In addition, consider switching to an all wet food diet instead of a dry food diet. Canned (wet) food is close to 80% water while dry food is roughly around 12% moisture. Canned food can provide more moisture and is closer to what a cat would normally eat. If you cannot switch completely to canned cat food, consider giving wet food at least once per day.
Also, more fiber can help. Adding pumpkin, squash, flax seed meal, psyllium husk, Benefiber, or Metamusal to your cats diet can provide more stool and make it easier to push out. Be careful with fiber though. Too much fiber can constipate. Always start slowly and watch how your cat's stool looks. If your cat's stool looks harder or bigger in diameter, cut back on the amount of fiber you are adding.
Use Only 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree For Cats
Make sure to use 100% pure pumpkin puree. Do not use the pre-made pumpkin pie mix in a can since it has sugar and spices added. The fiber from the pumpkin will help hold water in the stool and make it softer and easier to pass.
Start out with a small amount and add to your cat's wet food. If the pumpkin doesn't help, add a little more. Most cats will need 1 to 2 tablespoons added to their food in order for the fiber to work.
Since you won't be using an entire can at once, freeze small portions of the pumpkin and thaw out a portion as needed.
TIP: Put pumpkin in an ice cube tray and then freeze. Once the cubes of pumpkin are frozen, place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container.
Pumpkin can also help relieve diarrhea in cats too. The fiber will absorb some of the excess water in the colon. In addition, you can use squash, ground flax meal, or psyllium husk in place of pumpkin if your cat prefers it or if more readily available.
Fish Oil For Cats
An Omega-3 fatty acid supplement or fish oil is used as a lubricant to help the hard stool pass out of the body easier. Fish oil or other types of oil with some fat content are preferred since they are better nutritionally than other types of lubricants such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly.
Most people have a can of tuna in the cupboard. If it is tuna packed in oil, take a little of that tuna flavored oil and mix into your cats food. Even if you have tuna packed in water, the tuna-flavored water may help with the constipation by providing some natural fats and extra moisture. But always use the tuna packed in oil if you can for the best results.
Give Milk To Relieve Constipation In Cats
Most of us have been told that cats like milk or cream. But actually cats are lactose intolerant (allergic to milk) and it causes diarrhea. In the case of constipation, milk can soften the hard stool and make it easier to pass. Present your cat with a small dish of milk. Start out with an 1/8 cup (1 fl. oz.). Some cats don't like cold milk so warm it up a little or allow it to come to room temperature before giving it to your cat. For cats that are prone to constipation, milk can be part of feeding to keep them regular.
Cat Constipation Relief with Hairball Remedies and Petroleum Jelly
Hairball remedies, such as Laxatone, often contain mineral oil, glycerin, or petroleum jelly. While these are all lubricants that can help relieve constipation, they aren't he best things to use. These types of lubricants can bind with fats, vitamins, and minerals as to where they can't be absorbed by the body. Therefore it is best to give these types of lubricants before the cat has eaten.
If is not recommended that these types of lubricants be used all the time. However, I have read articles by veterinarians that give their cats petroleum jelly several times per day with no ill effects. These vets do caution that that petroleum jelly can interfere with digestion of fats and essential nutrients and to always give to a cat that has not eaten for a while.
Simply take about 1/2 teaspoon of petroleum jelly on your fingertip and gently place it into your cats mouth. Most cats tolerate this very well since petroleum jelly is tasteless. This small amount of petroleum jelly dissolves almost immediately and is very hard for the cat to spit out. I have heard of some cats who actually like the taste of petroleum jelly.
Hairball remedies can be administered the same way if the cat will not lick it from your finger. Many hairball remedies recommend placing the jell on one of the cats paws. In my experience, this method is very messy especially if your cat shakes his foot vigorously like my cats do.
Hairball remedies come in several flavors, so try to pick a flavor that your cat likes for a better chance at success. Laxatone is also available in Laxatone Soft Chews cat treats (shown above).
A Word About Laxative For Cats
Constipation in cats can also be alleviated through the use of laxatives. Most treatments that are actually considered a laxative must be prescribed by a veterinarian. The most widely used prescribed laxative is Lactulose. It is a sticky, syrupy liquid that causes more water to be retained in the colon thus hydrating the feces. Lactulose acts much like fiber does to retain water in the colon through a natural milk sugar. Cats absolutely do not like the taste of Lactulose. It is a sticky, messy solution to this problem. But it does work. Cats typically take 1 ml per 2 pounds of body weight.
A newer laxative has been becoming more widely used as of the last few years. It is MiraLax, an over-the-counter human laxative. MiraLax pulls water into the colon through a chemical compound called PEG3350 (polyethylene glycol 3350), not to be confused with the chemicals in anti-freeze.
MiraLax is considered to be more effective than Lactulose and is easily obtained at most drug stores and pharmacies without a prescription in the United States. MiraLax is colorless and tasteless crystals that can be mixed in with wet food or a small amount of baby food such as chicken, beef, or turkey. However, if you taste a few crystals of MiraLax, you will discover a slightly bitter taste. Therefore make sure to always thoroughly mix it into your cat's food before feeding.
Start out with 1/8 teaspoon of MiraLax per day. Increase the dosage amount slowly if the constipation does not clear up in a few days. If you need to go above 1/4 teaspoon per day, consult your vet first.
MiraLax is sold under the name RestoraLax in Canada.
Shawn Davis (author) from Rochester, Pennsylvania on October 30, 2016:
I would think the blood could possibly be from the kitten straining to relieve himself but it's hard to know. It's best to have this problem addressed by a professional. A wet food diet is best for any kitten or cat. I have one cat however who will not eat wet food at all. So I have no choice but to feed him dry food. The other two cats eat both wet and dry food throughout the day. If you decide to change their diet, remember to do it slowly. Introduce just a small amount of wet food at first to see how they handle it. As they start eating more wet food, you can cut back on the amount of dry food you feed. Diet changes should take 7 to 10 days to complete.
Caroline on October 30, 2016:
my 16 week od male cat has slight blood spots on his anus sometimes after hes been to the litter box. He doesnt seem to be unwell although oen of my cats had a bit of a sicky on teh carpet last week. TO be honest I wonder if he picked up something when he went for a short pre op check for neutering. he has had some runny poos since then, although not always. But I am noticing this little bit of blood around his anus at times. which i have never noticed on any of my other cats. They are all fine apparently and none go outside so are all pretty healthy. could this be something to worry about? they are still eating three small meals of mixed kibble each day .. shouod they be having wet food instead ? I am always loathe to tamper with their diet in case it upsets their stomachs but wondering if amybe its the diet .... he doesnt seem unhappy. Any ideas ?
Shawn Davis (author) from Rochester, Pennsylvania on June 15, 2015:
Hello Jasmine. Very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. As with any treatment, you will find vets that approve of it and others that do not. Remember, Miralax is a chemical compound and many people are against giving any chemicals to their cats. I certainly wouldn't give my cat any laxative if he didn't need one.
I know from experience that Miralax works. Benefiber did not work for my cat. In fact, I think it made his stool to big and made it harder for him to pass it. We still have occasional problems with Miralax but overall, it's been a huge improvement.
I'm not sure how much water you need to add. I used to make a soup type mixture from the canned food. But I found my cat didn't always eat all of it. So now I mix the Miralax into the pate type canned food and don't add any water. My cats drink a lot of water at their fountain so dehydration has never been an issue. With constipation, the more water the better.
When adding Miralax, I tend to keep the amount of food a little smaller just so my cat eats all of it within about 30 minutes. My cats often eat, leaver, then come back to eat 5 minutes later. Sometimes they go get a drink and come back for more food.
If you don't have a pet drinking fountain, you may want to consider one. They are a chore to keep clean especially if you have a dog and it also drinks from it. But overall, it's a good investment for an owner of a constipated cat.
jasmine on June 03, 2015:
i called my vet and they said not to use the miralax but use benefiber instead but that's to help keep u regular once your not constipated any more i want to try the miralax for my cat she already gets a can of wet food. 1 teaspoon of real pumpkin, fish oil, i understand that you put it in their canned food but i want to know how much water to use. I already put some water in the canned food. Oh she also get laxatone 2 and the vet put her on science diet rd. i want to make sure she doesn't get dehydrated please help me im so desperate
Shawn Davis (author) from Rochester, Pennsylvania on June 18, 2014:
You're welcome. You need to start off with a small dose of MiraLax at first. Maybe 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon mixed into your cat's wet food. I use 1/4 twice daily. Plus try to get your cat to eat as much wet food was possible. Dry food is the major cause of constipation. So the less dry food, the better.
SageCanton on June 16, 2014:
That's good to know about the Lactulose - my cat has not been on it that long. If it stops working I'll try adding the MiraLax to canned food. Thanks for the tip :)
Shawn Davis (author) from Rochester, Pennsylvania on June 16, 2014:
Very god point about the sodium content of canned fish and chicken products. No sodium added products are the best way to go for both animals and people. Lactulose does work well but I find it never works for more than a few months. I've found that a small dose Lactulose once per day and 1/4 teaspoon of MiraLax twice a day mixed with canned food is working the best consistently now. Of course, this is the solution which works best for my cat. All cats are different and may need different methods for treating constipation.
SageCanton on June 15, 2014:
Excellent hub - some great advice - although I would caution against the use of tuna water or oil as it can contain excessive sodium which is harmful. Before using a canned fish product, make sure that it is salt-free. Btw my cat is currently on Lactulose and I can vouch for the fact that it does work well :)