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 it is proven to be more dangerous to the vulnerable young kittens.

Clinical Signs

Cats are creatures of habit, and many of the unbreakable routines they acquire begin at the peak of their kittenhood. However, even a month is still too early for a kitten to develop a predictable use of the toilet, so basing one’s observation on periodic bowel activity might seem like a poor reference point.

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

constipated cat

Unlike diarrhea, constipation does not have an obvious set of clinical signs. It takes the expertise of a licensed veterinary physician to provide a more accurate diagnosis.

Any of these three symptoms by themselves could be associated with a broad category of medical conditions – with their root causes ranging from benign to serious. However, all three symptoms combined in chronological order may point to constipation as the underlying illness.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

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

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

After using the litter-box, 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, such as if the refuse contains very little waste.

Ideally, kittens 5 weeks and older and above should be able to relieve themselves at least once every 24 hours – especially considering that at that age, they have already learned to hold their bladder for lengths of time, just like their adult counterparts.

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Root Causes

As a serious physical condition, constipation is 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 a 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 its 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 substances 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 around 3 to 5 weeks old. It is worth mentioning that a kitten’s body has a 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, and 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 kittens 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 include 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 a substantial volume of food and fluids from passing through the digestive tract, or impairs the normal function 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 few harms it can cause is transmission of a parasite 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 seems relatively benign, but for young feline creatures, this parasite is the leading cause of constipation. It is even worth mentioning that constipation can be the least of a cat owner’s worries if their pets carry such an illness.

  • Neurological Latency

Considering their natural underdeveloped form, it is natural to expect kittens to have a subpar neurological function. Their brains are not yet fully synchronized with the nerve endings in their pelvic area. Basically, 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 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. She stimulates the baby to eliminate by washing their genital region.

cute cat playing

Kitten Constipation Prevention

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

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

  • Hydration

While keeping cats hydrated is easy during the relatively cool seasons, summer daytime accelerates the upsurge of body heat. Therefore, large amounts of water are 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 love to cultivate their curiosity by ingesting any small items that fit in their digestive tract. Accidents like these can be completely avoided simply by being a responsible cat owner.

This means you would need to cat-proof and spotlessly tidy your home. Furthermore, spending time brushing your cat’s fur means avoiding the risk of excessively licking themselves clean and gathering hairballs in their stomach. Having hairballs could also lead to your cat throwing up food right after eating.

  • Deworming

Compared to the methods of prevention mentioned earlier, deworming 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 deworming kittens as early as 2 weeks of age, and they must continue it every other week, for a total of 4 treatments.

  • Weaning

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

Being weaned by the mother cat effectively eliminates this root cause. Unfortunately, this type of prevention can become extra work for cat owners raising an orphaned 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 affect vulnerable kittens. Like all diseases that have a number of vague symptoms and clear root causes, constipation can be evasive even among the most careful cat owners.

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

  • Home Remedies

Dealing with constipation simply means facilitating a more fluid movement of stool out of the body. In addition to increasing water and fiber content, a 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 any hairballs, 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 your young feline companion. Pet owners could even incorporate more play time to maintain a healthy weight, which would lead to a faster recovery.

  • Medical Procedures

If the degree of constipation is relatively severe for some kittens, vets will strongly recommend applying the 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 not intended for non-licensed individuals to perform at home. Some types of enemas are actually very toxic to cats.

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