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Diarrhea in Cats: Common Causes & When It's Serious

Diarrhea in Cats: Common Causes & When It's Serious

Diarrhea in cats is a common issue seen by our Flat Rock vets. We are here to explain some common causes, how to stop diarrhea in cats and when it is considered to be a serious issue.

Diarrhea in Cats

Our Flat Rock vets see a lot of cats suffering from diarrhea for quite a lot of reasons.

Depending on the lifestyle your cat lives, you may not actually know the details of your cat's bathroom habits. Cats are also very good at grooming themselves so you may not be able to tell that they are sick because the signs can be cleaned away. For this reason, routine veterinary visits are important.  

There are a number of 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 definitely 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, there are many other problems that 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 mention it because older cats are prone to developing motility problems in their colons leading to constipation. In these cases, the cats often manage to only pass a small amount of more 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 just one episode of diarrhea but is acting normal, you likely won't need to be too concerned. Keep an eye on your cat's litterbox to see if the issue clears up. More than 2 episodes could mean that there is a health issue, which would be a good time to contact your vet. 

If your kitty is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they 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 of time 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:

  • Vomiting
  • Unusual drooling
  • Blood in stool
  • Weakness
  • Lack of Appetite
  • 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

Your cat should never be given human medication without first talking to your vet to determine if it is safe. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to cats.

Increasing the amount of fiber your cat is eating is considered a great ‘equalizer’. However, our Flat Rock vets 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 give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of their diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

If your cat is suffering from an episode of diarrhea, contact our Flat Rock vets today to book an appointment for your cat or for urgent care so we can make sure they are in good health. 

Contact (828) 697-7767