Kitten Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

One of the critical limitations of the kitten’s physiology concerns their bowel movements. Constipation is a prevalent condition among cats of all ages – although proven to be more dangerous to the vulnerable young ones. 

Clinical Signs

Cats are creatures of habit and most of the unbreakable routines they acquire as they grow up begins at the peak of their kittenhood. But even a month is still too early for a kitten to develop predictable timely use of the toilet. Hence, basing one’s observation on periodic bowel activity might seem like a a poor reference point.

It is pretty much common for most cat owners to become unaware that one (or more) of their pet’s offspring have constipation.

constipated cat

Unlike diarrhea, this condition does not have a very obvious set of clinical signs. It would take the expertise of a licensed veterinary physician to provide a more accurate diagnosis.

Any of these three symptoms could be associated with a broad category of medical conditions – with root causes ranging from benign to serious. However, any of these symptoms combined (chronologically) may point to constipation as the underlying illness.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

But for pet owners who are relatively less knowledgeable about these symptoms, it is best to observe their kittens during and after their use of the litter. In fact, kittens can still be afflicted by this sneaky digestive illness even without the outward ill effects that seem apparent for keen pet owners or vet physicians.

The little ones may show obvious signs of struggling (e.g. crying and prolonged straining) while relieving themselves. But even if such indications are absent, it does not mean that the kittens are off the hook.

After using the litter, it is important for pet owners to know whether or not the kittens are relieving themselves at a normal frequency.

One can draw valid conclusions right after cleaning their litter (if the refuse contains very little wastes). 

Ideally, kittens 5 weeks old and above should be able to relieve themselves at least once in 24 hours – especially considering that at their prime age, they already learned to hold their bladder at such length of time just like their adult counterparts.

Root Causes

As a serious physical condition, constipation is just a consequence of something that went wrong in the kittens’ normal bodily function. 

A lot of things can go wrong in underdeveloped physiology and it is important to consider the following as root causes:

  • Dehydration

The most common culprit of difficult solid excretion is the lack of water regulating the movement of bodily fluids. In fact, constipation can be a natural consequence of a young feline’s diet transition – from mother’s milk to dry food.

In other cases, dehydration is a direct result of not being able to drink enough water.

The digestive tract that is accustomed to passing stool for liquid substance will only be able to produce small hard feces (of minimal volume at best).

Kittens are usually able to learn how to drink from the water bowl on their own at around 4 to 6 weeks of age. It is worth mentioning that a kitten’s body has higher water content and are less capable of regulating water loss (e.g. overheating).

  • Blockage

As soon as the kitten reaches the 5th week of its growth, it will begin mimicking the motor skills of its mother. The ability to canter, run, leap, and do various acrobatic angles will soon follow.

By the 7th week, the ease of movement (coupled by the peak of their youthful energy) makes kitten predisposed to playful behavior – for better or worse.

There can be an endless list of bad things that can happen due to a kitten’s mischievousness. Among these includes having solid objects getting stuck in its stomach or intestines as a result of playfully ingesting something ‘non-consumable’ (e.g. small household items).

This blockage either prevents the substantial volume of food and fluids from passing through the digestive tract or impairs the normal regulation of peristalsis.

  • Parasite Infection

The mother cat’s milk serves as a primary source of nutrition for kittens between the age range of newborn and below 5 weeks old.

While there is no question regarding its goodness, one of the fewest harms it can cause is a disease called Toxocara cati – also known as ‘feline roundworm’. Up to 75% of all cats are affected by this parasite – with the highest rates belonging to kittens.

This parasite infection can be transmitted from a mother cat to her kitten via the mammary glands.

Among adult cats, feline roundworm seemed relatively benign. But for the young feline creatures, this parasite is the leading cause of constipation.

It is even worth mentioning that constipation can be one of the least of the cat owner’s worries if their house pets carry such illness.

  • Neurological Latency

Considering their natural underdeveloped form, it is natural to expect kittens to have a subpar neurological function. Their brains are yet to fully synchronize with the nerve endings in their pelvic area.

In essence, kittens are barely trying to figure out how to use the organs that concludes the final process of solid waste removal.

Before reaching the 3rd week of their overall development, kittens are yet unable to relieve themselves independently on the cat litter. However, it is crucial to point out that such a prolonged period involving a series of latent digestive cycles is only possible with the aid of the mother cat.

cute cat playing

Prevention

The phrase “prevention is better than cure” also applies to beloved animal companions – particularly those as vulnerable as kittens.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to prevent a condition as prevalent as constipation.

  • Hydration

While keeping cats hydrated is easy during relatively cool seasons, summer daytimes accelerate the upsurge of body heat. Hence, prodigious amounts of water (e.g. ice cubes) is required to keep a number of felines (mother and kittens) quenched – especially since cats do not have sweat glands.

This method can work best by feeding 4-week old kittens high fiber cat food for constipation.

  • Safe Play and Grooming

As mentioned earlier, kittens at the prime of their youth would love to cultivate their curiosity by ingesting any small item that fits in their digestive tract. Such an accident can be completely avoided by simply being a responsible cat owner.

This means keeping the home cat-proof and spotlessly tidy. Furthermore, spending enough time brushing their fur means avoiding the risk of excessively licking themselves clean and gathering hairball in their stomach. Having hairball could also lead to your cat throwing off food right after eating them. 

  • De-worming

Compared to the methods of prevention mentioned earlier, de-worming is a countermeasure that also works as a ‘post-treatment safeguard’. In other words, removing parasites (including especially feline roundworms) after the kitten has been cured of constipation is one less major root cause to worry about in the foreseeable future.

Experts recommend de-worming kittens as early as 2 weeks of age and the therapy must be continued every other week (a total of 4 therapies).

  • Weaning

Neurological latency, specifically in terms of the inability to control bladder movement, is primarily caused by the lack of ‘external stimulation’ ever since the kitten was a newborn.

Being weaned by the mother cat effectively eliminates this root cause. Unfortunately, this type of prevention can become an extra hard work for cat owners raising an orphan kitten.

The proper hand-rearing procedure requires a number of considerations and specific parameters.

Treatment

No matter how preventable certain feline ailments are, they always find a way to afflict vulnerable kittens. Like all diseases that entail a number of vague symptoms and clear root causes, constipation can be evasive even among many careful cat owners.

A prescribed remedy (or an equivalent alternative) immediately follows after a vet physician confirms the diagnosis.

  • Home Remedies

Ultimately, dealing with constipation simply entails facilitating a more fluid movement of stool out of the body. In addition to increasing water and fiber content, laxative also ensures relief for constipated kittens.

Here are a number of excellent sources of fiber one can use as a home remedy:

  • Laxatone (laxative/stool softener): feed ½ to 1 teaspoon a day for 2 to 3 days to remove hairball, then ¼ to ½ teaspoon for 2 to 3 times a week as a muscle
  • Miralax (laxative/stool softener): mix ¼ teaspoon into wet food once a day.
  • Metamucil (psyllium husks for cats): mix 1 to 4 teaspoons into cat food every 12 hours.
  • Wheat bran: mix 1 to 2 tablespoons into cat food every 12 hours.
  • Canned pumpkin: mix 1 to 2 tablespoons into cat food for each meal time.

Any of these home remedies can be facilitated by incorporating a healthy way of life for the young feline animal companion. Pet owners could put up more play time to maintain a healthy weight – hence, a faster recovery.

  • Medical Procedures

If the degree of constipation is relatively severe for some kittens, vet physicians will strongly recommend applying medical treatment. They will administer fluids intravenously or directly through the anal canal (enema).

It is worth mentioning that the complexity of such a task is strictly not intended for non-licensed individuals to perform at home. Some of these types of enemas are actually very toxic to cats.

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