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Constipated cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: Tabby
Age: 2-5 years
Hi Dr. Marie,

The last time I emailed you (about a year ago), our cat, Keane, was having diarrhea problems. That cleared up after a little while, mainly because we switched his diet. We changed him on to Science Diet Sensitive Stomach formula, which quelled the diarrhea, but contributed to his stool being on the harder side. We didn't think too much of it because he would typically still go poo virtually every day. But sometimes the stool would seem particularly hard - almost in 'pellet' form. During this time he didn't act out of the ordinary (which he definitely did during his diarrhea), and has always been relatively active.

However, over the last two days, Keane has been pooping outside of his litter box. Whenever he goes outside of his litter box, to me, thats a sure fire sign that something beyond ordinary is going on. The consistency of his poo hasn't changed, but pooping outside of the box is a new behaviour.

So, for that reason, we'd like to ask you how we might deal with his constipation/hard stool situation. One quick note - Keane has a major plastic fetish that we have taken strict action with over the years. We are very good about limiting his ability to eat plastic bags lying around, but every once in a while we'll find a chunk of half digested plastic and worry what its done to his insides. He has always passed it, however, and he has almost never gone a day without pooping. However, when I search your site for 'constipation', I read a little about megacolon and it scares us quite a bit. I really don't think its anything THAT serious, but feel like the time has come to take some action.

Thank you for your help.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Good to hear from you again Mark.

Constipation can be a tricky issue in cats. Fortunately most cats who are constipated do not have megacolon though.

There are a number of things that can be done for constipation. One of the first things I usually do is change the food to VMD (or Royal Canin) Gastro. This is a presciption food so you can only get it from your vet's office. Their new formulation has psyllium in it and has done wonders for some of my constipated patients.

There are a number of other things that I recommend for constipated cats...but all of these are prescription so you would need to see your vet for them. I will often prescribe a medication called Cisapride which helps to move the intestines. I will give some cats lactulose which helps to soften the stool. Sometimes I will have clients pick up Miralax granules from the pharmacy to add to the food.

If you are able to increase the amount of water he drinks this will help as well as it will get more moisture into the intestines. Getting a water fountain to drink out of may help. (They make special ones for cats that keep the water circulating). Feeding some canned food may help as well.

And finally, some cats have constipation because of inflammatory bowel disease. This is difficult to diagnose because we need to take biopsies. However, if I have a case where I am really suspicious of inflammatory bowel disease then I will sometimes start on prednisone which helps a lot.

I would highly urge you to have a vet visit for Keane to go over the options mentioned above.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thanks for your advice, Dr. Marie.

Just as a quick follow-up, I should have also mentioned that we give Keane prednisolone to help him deal with his asthma. I'm not sure if constipation might be a side effect of him taking this medication though (2.5mg per day). Might you know off hand?

Also, I saw you write on a response to someone about constipation that you recommend bran. We have this readily available at home and could easily add a little to his diet. Might this be appropriate to try?

In the meantime, we will try to get him to drink a little more. He always gets wet food mixed in with the dry however. Would an increase in the ammount of wet food, to increase the moisture in his diet, be a good idea?

Thanks again for your help!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Ah the prednisolone is very similar to the prednisone that I was talking about for inflammatory bowel disease. So, IBD is less likely. No, prednisolone will not cause constipation.

You can certainly try some bran. Some cats with constipation issues do well with bran. But there are others who actually get worse on bran. The latest research is showing that most cats with constipation issues actually do better on a diet that produces less bulking, so I am no longer recommending bran. However, it's certainly worth a try. I'd start with a pinch on each meal.

An increase in wet food is definitely a good idea!

Dr. Marie

Customer reply:

Okay... Thanks again, Dr. Marie.

Best wishes,

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.