Ever noticed your cat having diarrhea but seems like it isn’t bothered at all? Should you call your vet right away in this kind of situation?
First of all, what is diarrhea exactly? In general, this condition is described as a rapid movement of ingested material through the intestine. This movement results in frequent repetitive bowel movements and sometimes excessive stools. The stools can be any color from brown to yellow, black to red, and may contain mucus too. It might be as loose as water, or simply just a bit softer than usual.
Like humans, it is possible for our feline friend to suffer from diarrhea for many different reasons. Keep reading this article to know more about cat diarrhea and remedies.
Why Does My Cat have Diarrhea?
Aside from liquid or soft stools, there are several signs of diarrhea. Symptoms primarily depend on the intestine involved:
- Small intestine – The diarrhea will be large in volume for each movement. The color might be yellow or brown due to bile in the stool. There will be no mucus. If there is blood in the feces, the stool will be black, as it will have digested by the time it passes out the body. Your cat might be flatulent and have bad breath. If your cat suffers from small intestinal diarrhea chronically, it might lose considerable weight or body condition. This happens due to the fact that its body is not absorbing nutrients.
- Large intestine – The diarrhoea will be normal in size, but be significantly more frequent than usual. Your cat may feel more urgent, and strain to go, but not produce anything. There is often mucus in large bowel diarrhoea, and if there is blood, it will be fresh, bright red blood. It is usually a normal colour, and defecation might be painful. This could be seen as vocalizing whilst straining.
- Mixed bowel diarrhea – This type of diarrhea can have a mixture of symptoms from large and small bowel diarrhoea.
Once confirmed your cat has diarrhea, it’s important to identify some of the possible causal factors of the diarrhea:
- Change in diet – a simple change in brand or flavor of food can cause diarrhoea, especially if it is done suddenly. Consider swapping back to the old food and introducing the food over the course of a week. If it still causes diarrhea, then your cat might be intolerant to a specific ingredient in that food.
- Dairy or other food intolerance – Cats cannot digest dairy well as they lack the specific enzyme to do so. If you have given your cat some dairy product and it has caused diarrhea, then follow the home remedy section detailed below. Other items of food may also cause an intolerance, which can only be worked out through a process of elimination.
- Ingestion of spoiled food – Spoiled food can simply be rotten, or it can be riddled with bacteria. Most cats will be able to get over the initial bout of diarrhea with a period of starvation to rest the guts, but sometimes the infection will need some help with medication from a veterinarian.
- Allergic reaction or inflammatory bowel disease – Some cats will be prone to getting inflammatory bowel disease, much like IBD in humans. This is when the gut becomes inflamed due to an allergic reaction to a certain food. This is usually a protein ingredient, such as chicken, beef, egg etc. A veterinarian will need to see a cat who has had an allergic reaction to help reduce the inflammation with treatment, and then discuss a novel protein or hypo-allergenic diet which may be suitable to avoid further inflammation.
- Bacterial or viral infection – Infections such as salmonella, e.coli and campylobacter can be picked up from other cats and the environment. The extent of the infection can be mild to extremely severe and so a vet visit may be required to treat it.
- Internal parasites (Roundworms, Coccidia, Giardia) – Parasites should be routinely treated for every 3-6 months to prevent infections which can be purchased from pet stores or your vets. Some parasites such as coccidia and giardia can be more resistant though, so if the diarrhoea isn’t clearing up, then your vet will be able to check for these parasites with a stool sample. Be aware that many of these can also infect humans, and so ensure you regularly wash your hands after touching your cat or its litter.
- Cancer of the digestive tract – Cancer of the digestive tract can be infiltrative. This means it isn’t necessarily a tumour, but rather a diffuse influx of cancer cells into the gut wall. When this happens, the bowel cannot absorb water or nutrients effectively, and this can cause diarrhea. The most common cancer of the gut in cats is lymphoma. Your vet may carry out a blood test or an ultrasound scan to rule this in or out.
- Certain medications – some medications can cause diarrhoea as a side effect. If your cat is on any medications, discuss the side effects with your vet, as stopping the medication suddenly might be more detrimental than the diarrhea.
- Hyperthyroidism – An overactive thyroid is a common problem in older cats. This increases metabolism, which in turn, increases the movement of the guts. Food therefore passes through the guts at a faster rate, causing diarrhea.
Time to Call the Vet
Now when do you worry and immediately call your vet? If your cat depicts the following traits, give your veterinarian a call instantly:
- The stool is black or tarry, or has fresh blood in. This is a sign of bleeding into the gut.
- The cat seems to be in pain.
- Kitten has diarrhea and vomiting but acts normal. This warrants an immediate call to the vet most especially if the kitten has not completed its vaccinations. Kittens can be affected by nutrient and fluid loss much quicker than adult cats.
- The cat is experiencing fever, depression, and dehydration.
- The cat has pale or yellow gums.
- The cat swallowed something poisonous.
- The cat is vomiting.
Otherwise, if your beloved cat has mild diarrhea, is not vomiting, is eating and drinking, and generally seems fine, then, it’s logical for you to try some home treatment.
Initial Home Remedies
Here are a few simple home remedies you can do when your cat has diarrhea but mainly looks fine:
- Starve your cat for 24 hours
It is important that the gut is entirely rested for 24 hours. This is best done by starving your cat if they are over 6 months old. They might not be happy about it, but it is in their best interests. If they are still a young kitten, then veterinary advice should be sought regarding diet, as they are more susceptible to developing a low blood glucose during a period of starvation.
- Feed your cat a bland diet
Start your cat on a bland diet after the 24 hours of starvation, such as cooked chicken or cooked white fish and rice. Veterinarians also sell gastrointestinal specific food, which is an excellent alternative if you do not wish to cook. This food can be bought in kibble or wet food form. A bland diet will enable your cat’s intestines to have a rest when they are inflamed and trying to recover. This diet should be continued until symptoms reside, unless your cat is under six months, and then you should seek advice from your veterinarian, as young cats have different nutritional needs.
- Offer plenty of water
Diarrhea has more water in it than normal feces. This water loss can cause dehydration quickly and so counteracting the water loss is important. To increase water intake in a cat which doesn’t want to drink, you can add water to the food so that it gets a meaty flavor. Cats will enjoy lapping this up after they’ve finished their meal. Also, cats enjoy drinking from moving water, and you can purchase a cat water fountain online from many different resources.
- Consider diet changes
After the diarrhea has started to resolve, consider what might have changed recently with the normal diet. Have you changed the diet recently? Either in terms of the brand or the flavor? If you have, change back to the previous one, as this might have caused a reaction. Frequent diarrhea due to dietary reasons might benefit from a food with a higher fiber content. Fiber regulates the water content in the guts and binds up the feces.
Nevertheless, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be mindful of the following elements to keep your cat from experiencing this disorder:
- Stick to the Good Diet
It can be troublesome to switch to a new diet. In trying out new food, it is a good idea to mix a small amount into your cat’s regular food over a period of a week.
- Skip the Dairy Products
If you are a fan of ice cream, milk, or yogurt, please refrain from sharing it with your cat. Your cat has insufficient lactase in its body which causes digestive issues. Without lactase, the lactose in dairy products is not digested in the system. As a result, lactose induces gas and diarrhea.
- Ward Off the Parasites
Routinely combat parasites. Worms such as roundworms or tapeworms can be picked up from hunting, sharing bowls and mutual grooming. Worming treatment should be carried out every 3-6 months depending on whether the cat lives indoors or outdoors, and in a multi-pet household.
- Get the Shots
To keep the anxiety at bay, get the proper vaccines. There are several cat diseases that have diarrhea as a symptom. Protect your furry friend from further medical illnesses by getting the necessary shots. Remember to annually boost them with your vet to keep your cat’s immunity going.
- Consider Keep Kitty Inside
Indoor felines have longer life expectancy than outdoor cats. With your cat staying inside, it is safe from toxins, dangers, other animals, and diseases. This is not suitable for all cats, as they love exploring and exercising, however if your have a kitten who has not yet been introduced to going outside, then you can consider it as a lifestyle choice.
What’s the Bottom Line?
When dealing with diarrhea, take notice of all the signs your cat is displaying. Book a visit with your vet once your cat’s diarrhea is coupled with alarming symptoms. If what you have is a kitten without vaccines, then this always will require a visit to the clinic.
Otherwise, if your cat has diarrhea but seems perfectly fine, you may look into simple home remedies as an initial treatment. Start by identifying the cause of your feline’s discomfort and respond with the appropriate remedy.
If condition worsens or doesn’t improve after a few days, then it is best to bring in your cat for a check-up.