Home treatment for cat constipation

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A page about home treatment for cat constipation. I won’t describe the symptoms of constipation – we know them. Cats can suffer from the same problem. Some of the treatments are based on human treatments.

What happens

When feces are retained in the colon for two or three days they become hard and dry. This makes them painful and a struggle to eliminate (polite word). Normally a cat will poop once or twice a day and perhaps once every 2 days if on a low-residue diet. Most cats aren’t on this sort of diet so the standard once a day should be expected but less doesn’t mean constipation provided the stools are soft and normal.

{note: straining to go may be due to colitis or FUS – Feline Urologic Syndrome. These need to be ticked off in a diagnosis before treating for constipation – colitis is an inflammation of the colon or large intestine}

Some causes of constipation

  • a low fiber and high in concentrated meat protein diet can cause constipation. This cause lends itself to a home treatment for cat constipation (src: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Dr. Carlson and Dr. Giffin)
  • a high fiber diet can result in larger stools, which in turn can lead to constipation (src: Your Cat by Dr. Hodgkins). This would seem to clash with the above but may not as both can cause constipation under certain conditions.
  • hair balls are a common cause of hard stools.
  • eating products/foods that are impossible to digest such as grass, cellulose, cloth and paper for example can result in compacted feces and constipation.
  • the cat voluntarily overriding the urge to go to the toilet due to the presence of a number of factors and circumstances namely, strange surroundings (change in environment such as moving home), a refusal to use a dirty litter tray, going into a boarding cattery, a new cat in the house.
  • Older and less active cats can have reduced bowel movements and weaker abdominal wall muscles.
  • constipation is sometimes due to a condition called megacolon (this condition can also be caused by constipation). This is the permanent stretching of the colon and rectum. (see a veterinarian about this).
  • another possible cause is pain because of a fractured hip or pelvis (caused by a road traffic accident, for example). A narrowing of the pelvic canal due to the healing process after an accident can cause constipation.
  • a narrowing of the rectum due to polyps or small tumors can also produce constipation.
  • I’m going to add my little contribution and say that inactivity can promote the onset of constipation. In other words it may be a factor which exacerbates the situation.
  • cats on medication (antibiotics) could suffer from constipation as a side effect of the medication. A laxative (see below) may the answer.
  • parasite infestations.
  • not drinking enough water will compound problems.
  • dehydration that can happen in cats with renal disease can cause constipation.

Cat constipation – Signs/Symptoms

If our cat uses a litter we’ll be familiar with our cat’s stools. As I have said previously you can tell quite a lot, as a layperson, about your cat’s health from his or her stools (yes I know it’s a bit gruesome but we have to monitor our cat’s health and this is one good way). If we are close to our cats (emotionally I mean) we can tell if something is wrong and indeed may notice her straining to go and not producing. Constipation is best dealt with early.

A cat with chronic constipation caused by fecal impaction often eliminate a watery almost liquid stool that could be mistaken for the opposite condition, diarrhea, when in fact it will be a liquid stool forced around the impacted stool in the colon.

Our cat won’t be going to the toilet as frequently or regularly. This should be readily apparent if like me you do the litter. She/he may also have a bloated and lethargic appearance and not eat as heartily as usual. She may look a little agitated around or in the litter and/or meow (in discomfort) when she goes.

Home treatments

Removing the conditions under which constipation occurs should ensure long term success. I’m going to initially refer to treating humans for constipation. The classic human treatment is to turn to a high fiber diet. In the UK that can be All Bran cereal and prunes – the classic old man’s breakfast! This and other high fiber foods will usually work, for humans, or at least help a lot and if not it’s down to laxatives, the milder the better initially.

Turning to cats. As a common cause of constipation is dietary (the first item in the list above) a change in diet would be called for as a good starting point for dealing with this condition.

The Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook has these recommendations:

  1. There are commercial high fiber cat foods, which are formulated for senior cats (I guess the food will be labeled accordingly). These cat foods contain more fiber and less fat than average commercial cat foods. If these fail to assist try Hill’s Science Diet Feline Light (I think this called “l/d”), which is a dry food or Hill’s Feline “w/d” or “r/d” (this one is expensive as far as I remember and at one time could only be bought at veterinarian surgeries). w/d and r/d is available in wet and dry food. Personally I would prefer the wet food as does Dr. Hodgkins who is the author of Your Cat and a cat food specialist veterinarian. Dry food places a requirement on the cat to drink more water, which may mean less water intake, which in turn can lead to urinary tract complications. This assessment is made through personal observation and experiences with my own cat companion. www.alternativepethealth.com recommend (more as a preventative measure when feeding dry food) to add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dry food. This may or may not be acceptable to our cat, however.
  2. Another form of home treatment for cat constipation recommended by the authors of the above book is to add bulk-producing laxative and fiber supplement such as Metamucil. This product is for people, which shows how similar certain illnesses suffered by cats are to those suffered by people. This product can be effective for mild constipation. Dare I say it I use something similar myself as I take medication that causes constipation. I use Fibre Sure (must be a UK product because of the spelling of Fibre). These laxatives work by absorbing water in the colon and soften the feces and promote defecation. Metamucil is an American product (I think) but available in the UK.
  3. Another product that would fall into the category of home treatment for cat constipation (and not mentioned in The Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook) is Nutrifyba 250g, which is a dietary supplement and which helps maintain normal bowel function.

Other forms of laxatives are “stimulant laxatives”. These may not be suitable for repeated, indefinite use. One such product is Katalax. This is designed to help remove hair balls and contains soft paraffin, cod live oil and malt extract. Another is Laxatone. This is bought in a tube and comes in Tuna flavor. This is an American product I believe and may not be available in the UK.

Home Treatment for Megacolon in Cats

Addressing the other causes above:

4. Removing “disruptions” in the life of a cat (cats like routines) is another useful form of home treatment for cat constipation. Although new events are sometimes unavoidable they will or should resolve over time whereupon the cat will settle. A mild laxative as referred to above may suffice.

5. Regular brushing/grooming by us, particularly for a long haired cat, is essential really and will help minimize hair balls one cause of constipation.

6. Clearly a well cared for litter tray is a prerequisite to remove any possibility that the cat is voluntarily not going due to inadequate toilet facilities. In addition, as much exercise as possible is always good for health and can aid the digestive tract and bowel movement. I can speak from personal experience……

7. Long term, if we are up to it, perhaps the perfect dietary remedy is to make our own cat food from raw products. Although this must be done to a good standard and with the proper supplements to replicate a wild cat’s prey. I made a post about this here and another here: raw food diet.

8. Plenty of play, human and/or other cat or pet interaction will help keep our cats exercised and important factor in preventing constipation.

9. Other products to consider (type these – one at a time – into Google search to find suppliers). These are herbal and natural remedies and supplements etc.:

  • Purrfectly Natural Gourmet is recommended (USA only?)
  • PetAlive Natural Moves(available in the UK and USA)–Pet Essences (UK available)
  • King Bio Natural Medicine (USA) explore the website
  • onlynaturalpet.com (USA) explore the website for remedies

Other causes can only be dealt with by a veterinarian, who should be consulted if in any doubt.

Update March 2011: A visitor shared her experience in using mineral oil mixed with we cat food

Home treatment for cat constipation – Other sources: alternativepethealth.com

Note: Photo: this cat is (or “was”, but I really hope that he is still alive – the photo taken 2 years ago) called Babado. He had a neurological disorder that caused symptoms including constipation. He is a survivor. He is photographed in a cat shelter. He is a character. I like this cat a lot. I want to give him a kiss.

Finally, there is a great page on cat constipation on the Simple Wag website. Visit it by clicking on this link.

56 thoughts on “Home treatment for cat constipation”

  1. In reading over these comments a second time, I realized that there’s no mention of “anal gland” impaction. I knew that this happened to dogs, but had never heard of it in cats.

    When I first took Mitzy in with constipation, the vet said her anal glands might be impacted, which would add to constipation. Sure enough, they were. And she screamed when they were expressed.

    About 6 months later, and another vet found the same thing, and expressed them. The charge for this was $50!
    I know that this is something we can do at home, if we get instructions and have some help.

    Are other readers aware of this potential for constipation? Has anyone discovered this issue with their cat?

    The biggest discovery for me with my long haired cat, Mitzy, was that her stools contained a lot of fur. She doesn’t cough up fur balls, so instead she ingests it, which contributes to dry hard stools.

    So, now I “de-shed” her, with the “De-Shed Monster” tool, which works really well to get the undercoat that doesn’t come out with regular daily brushing. Getting some of that fur off, seems to help.

    Also, I’ve discovered that wet food alone doesn’t provide enough fiber for her system. So, I’ve had to resort to giving her some dry food again. I selected
    Blue Wilderness High Protein, Grain Free, Chicken, Weight Control, because it has the highest fiber content, at 8%.

    The ingredient list is available online, and I looked at it carefully by enlarging it for easier reading. It has really helped her to poop every day, instead of every other day or 3rd day.

    She drinks water more now, in addition to goat milk and goat yogurt. So, all these elements are contributing factors.

    I dig through that litter box like it contains “treasures” because they are the visible clues to a cat’s health, or lack of.

    Paying attention to changes in this, and other behaviors can really help with health issues, whether physical or emotional. Cats are highly sensitive to many things we may not realize. A list of these can be found here by searching, but I’m not sure what it listed under. Michael, can you help with this?

  2. I have a 5yr. old long haired cat that I took to the vet for constipation. She got an enema, and was put on Royal Canin Hi Response DRY(hi fiber),Hill’s WD and Lactulose. After much research, I discovered that these “prescription” foods are not healthy. She was still only having movements every other day.

    I transitioned her completely off DRY food, and started to discover the “difficult” truths of how pet food is made. I began to really read labels! I’ve tried some high quality foods, adding water. Also supplement with raw ground chicken/turkey combined with a “pre-mix” for more nutrients.

    Another thing I did was give a “little” goat milk and plain goat yogurt. She loves them, and they are good for the belly.

    Also, she’s developed a taste for coconut oil, and eats 1-2 teaspoons a day.

    I’ve also added these things to food: oat bran, ground chia seeds, and various other hi-fiber. She still only poops every other day. I’ve been using Laxatone, but it’s for hairballs, which she doesn’t have.

    I did something I never read about anyone doing. I broke open her stools, to find “long hair”. This is the “root cause” of her constipation! This led me on a search for a tool to get rid of the excess hair. I tried the Furminator, but it didn’t work for her. So, I got the ShedMonster at Walmart, and that really gets the fur out. It’s about a 4th of the price of Furminator, and works better for her.

    This is only the 2nd day of using it. I wipe her down with a damp towel afterwards to get rid of excess. I’m also going to clip some of the long hair on her sides and butt area.

    I just wanted to share this because I haven’t seen any posts that mention getting rid of excess fur with a de-shedding tool. I always combed and brushed her daily, but it wasn’t enough.

    I hope this information helps other long haired cat guardians.

  3. ROUND ONE fought and won!

    Understandably, the terms “Catastrophe” and “Cat-Ass Trophy” are interchangeable – and both seem quite appropriate.

    Itchy Brother seemed to understand what we were going to do last night, but he talked me into waiting until daylight hours. We spent a pleasant night, with him snuggled into his favorite position on my legs, purring quite loudly.

    I prepped the syringe by washing it and lubricating the plunger so it operated smoothly, and ran a bit of emery-cloth on the spout end to smooth the sharp edges.

    The enema solution I prepared was 50% vegetable glycerine, and 50% slightly warm water for the first “injections”. The syringe is 10cc, and it worked like a charm. I held him in my lap on his back, his head on my chest, pressed his back legs up to his chest with my left forearm and used my right hand to insert the tip (after wiping a bit of glycerine on his bottom for lubrication)

    Not knowing much of the exact anatomy of the feline rectum, I was ever so careful as I inserted the tip, and found that pressing the plunger just a bit (to expel some liquid) as I did so helped in “aligning things” and pushing past the two sets of sphincter muscles.

    I full expected him to resist or squirm, but lots of conversation and eye contact was used, and he actually started purring as I administered the solution!

    The first plunger-full just went right in, so I refilled it quickly and gave him two more in quick succession. He was still purring, so I thought “what the hell!” and gave him two of pure glycerine (I think Olive or Coconut Oil would be as suitable), followed by three more of warm water with a shot of coffee in it (hey – don’t laugh: I read that coffee enemas are all the rage with the British royals!)

    That seemed about the limit of Dr. Itchy Brother’s patience, so we took a break. I tried massaging his abdomen, but he didn’t care much for my “deep massage” technique, so I just put my hands under his belly and kind of jiggled him up and down.

    That was kind of “weird”: the first few “jiggles” his belly felt quite firm, and then – I am going to guess everything went past the impaction – his belly went soft and I could actually hear the water start sloshing around as I jiggled him!

    (he acted quite comfortable and content as I did this, ever so gently of course)

    He started to act like he was ready to evacuate after about 10 minutes, quite a long time I was thinking. I set him in the tub, he started scratching at it, squatted, and expelled about maybe 25cc of liquid.

    The liquid was clear to start, and then turned only slightly “muddy”. He was done as far as he was concerned, so I picked him back up and administered four more syringes of warm water and glycerine, and jiggled his innards around again, a bit more aggressively.

    This time, he acted a bit distressed, and vomited when I set him back in the tub. He salivated quite a bit first, and then puked about 3/4 of a cup of his morning meal of dried kibbles (yes, he needs wet food, I know)

    Itchy expelled maybe another 20cc of mostly clear liquid, hopped out of the tub, and as I was wiping the tub he simply EXPLODED by the door, all over the floor.


    All told, Itchy eliminated maybe 3/4+ cup of very, VERY hard feces, and likely half or more of the liquids I administered to him, in the form of a heavy slurry.

    I picked him up, took him outside and let him go run under a car parked in the grass next to the house. I watched him squat a bit, but could not see what he eliminated and just left him to relax and recuperate. As I walked away, he let out a very loud holler, and I am guessing he had a large mass pass.

    Later, I will move the vehicle and look, and do hope to find some real “prizes” there. I just checked on him, and he is sunning himself and looks quite content.

    I am pretty sure that Itchy was suffering that condition called “megacolon”, and that he was rapidly approaching that final hour with it, the point of no return. He has been mostly “plugged” for quite a while, a number of months. I have read that manual removal of the impaction (surgery), antibiotics, hospitalization and many return visits to the Vet are almost always the prescribed course of action for this.

    Well, folks: If you are like me, and without the resources to fund such a medical adventure, please know that this rather aggressive home treatment seems to have done the trick!

    I will repeat this process, every two days, until he starts using the litter-box productively again.

    Thank you ever so much for allowing me to share Itchy’s treatment plan and these positive results with the world, dear Michael Broad!

    I had no idea if it was going to work, or if I was going to fail and cause the miserable demise of my best friend in the world.

    (and thank you God, too!)

  4. “The old grey (mare) cat just ain’t what (s)he used to be, ain’t what (s)he used to be, ain’t what (s)he used to be…
    “The old grey (mare) cat just ain’t what (s)he used to be, many long year ago…”

    (Sorry, but that old nursery rhyme just got stuck in my head as I started to write this)

    My wonderful old (81 cat-years or so) feline friend Dr. Itchy Brother has been exhibiting the classic signs of being plugged to the gills for a few months now.

    Only now and then will he complain – an occasional yelp as he poops – and he seems to eat and drink enough to keep him in apparent fair health and spirits otherwise, but I would be ever so remiss not to attend to this condition.

    Dietary changes and considerations (including dropper after dropper-full of olive oil) don’t seem to produce the needed results. I have read that relieving the impaction (yes, his stools are quite dry and hard, like broken pieces of a Presto-log) is vital, before any other type of treatments.

    Apparently, a lot of loose stool back behind a “plug” can be a dangerous situation for him, from what I have read elsewhere. Tonight, I am going to attempt his very first enema, and just keep repeating the process until some “normal” poop is evacuated.

    I have read that glycerin suppositories are highly recommended, but alas: I have none. However, I do have some liquid Vegetable Glycerin.

    Just to “get things going”, I am going to use that as the first solution I administer him, maybe mix it 50/50 with warm water.

    The only thing I have with a small enough tip to administer the enema is a syringe for refilling printer-ink cartridges. I have a standard enema bag, but the tip is far too large for Itchy’s wee widdle bung.

    THERE IS A REASON I AM WRITING ABOUT THIS BEFORE I ATTEMPT IT: if I hit “Post Comment”, I will have committed to doing the deed. I said “tonight”, and this will steel my resolve and I will not put it off, as I have been want to do so many times before.

    I will write a follow-up, and let all know how the syringe/glycerin/water “solution” to the problem works out. I am going to be “winging it” all the way: I have limited supplies to work with, no money to purchase any additional online or at the store, and the nearest Vet is a $40 for gas round-trip.

    “HERE GOES!”

    (at least “there HE goes!”, I hope!)

    • Hi Bruce. Loved your comment. Very instructional and I really like first hand experiences. Please come back and tell us how you got on. There is a disconnect between what the books say for home treatment and actually delivering the treatment I feel!

      All future comments of yours will be published immediately without moderation. Thanks for visiting and sharing.

  5. I found a kitten that apparently crawled away from the nest, around 3 weeks old, eyes just barely open, and Ive been feeding him on the bottle with kitten replacement milk. He has had 2 bowel movements but today he seems more bloated than usual and I havent seen any “poop” in his box. What is the recipe for a natural enema for this tiny baby and what would be small enough to administer it without hurting him.

    • Have you tried wiping his bottom with a damp cloth or something like that to stimulate bowl movements. “Hand-fed kittens must have their anal and genital areas massaged with a wad of cotton soaked in warm water after each feeding to stimulate the elimination reflex”.

      If kitten is constipated a warm water enema can be given by eyedropper to an older kitten (2-3 full droppers after each feeding) or give up to 1-3 cc of mineral oil by enema. Milk of Magnesia (3 drops per ounce of body weight) can be given by mouth.

      Best of luck and thanks for visiting. The info is from an excellent source.

  6. If it is hard for you to make PDFs, I can help and mail you the small size PDFs with watermarks of PoC and it will make an addition to the site. <3


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