There is nothing to make a cat guardian feel helpless like watching our feline friend in distress and not being able to do anything about it. My cat Monty, who has been my faithful companion for ten years now, was having some difficulties with constipation recently and I think I was almost more distressed about the situation than he was. I read some information online that was not exactly encouraging. If a cat remains constipated too long surgery may be required to clear the obstruction. If a cat remains constipated too long the motility of his intestines can become compromised making issues with constipation a lifelong problem. He could even end up with the dreaded ‘megacolon’ which means the colon has become enlarged and is completely blocked.
Observing and assessing
The best thing we can do is to be aware of our cats’ bathroom habits. Part of the reason I was able to help Monty was that I caught on right away that something was wrong. It helps that he is my only cat. With multiple cats it would be easy to assume all the cats are eliminating, when really one or more is bound up. It helps that I scoop Monty’t litter box nearly every time he sets foot into it. If we let the box become too dirty it will be easy to see lots of little turds in there and think everything is fine, when really the cat is not going as often as he should be.
I might have been a little slow to catch on since Monty and I spend time outside together in his secure enclosure and he always does something out there, if you get my drift. I assumed to he was doing his number twos out there, but when he finally did a small hard one inside, I realized maybe there had been some days he did not go at all. I don’t walk over to examine what he’s doing outside, so unless he is spraying the fence to send a message to the neighbor’s cat I really don’t know whether he is peeing or pooping outside.
Cats usually poop at least once per day. The poo should be soft and wet enough that litter box dust kind of sticks to it. Monty might have been going every day, but maybe not and the amount was much less than usual. I could tell it was very dry and hard. He even cried out in pain one day while in his litter box. I might have assumed the neighbor’s little girl cat was back again, hanging out in Monty’s enclosure, because he does kind of howl when he sees her. (She has learned how to get in and out of his enclosure and he hates it when she trespasses.) It can almost sound like he is in pain when he is stuck inside looking out at her. I’d been watching his litter box habits though, so as soon as he cried out I came to find him and determine the source of his distress.
Video – Monty doing his business
Constipated. What to do?
Once I knew for sure he was having problems, I researched what to do and decided on two things. I started adding a little bit of coconut oil to his food and I mixed pumpkin into his food. I had both on hand. Where I live it’s cold so the coconut oil was hard. I kind of smushed it so that it was small and mixed completely with his food. I did not want him to aspirate a big clump of it, because that can lead to a really dangerous form of pneumonia. (Be careful if you use coconut oil for oil pulling to improve oral health– you do not want to inhale and get the oil into your lungs.) Monty eats so fast that he definitely inhales his food, so I made sure the coconut oil was well mixed in. It helped a little, but not enough.
I was lucky to also have pumpkin on hand. My husband loves to bake pies, so every autumn he buys a bunch of pumpkins, bakes them down in the oven, scoops the soft contents into a food processor, and then seals it in bags of pumpkin in the freezer for making pies. Each bag contains enough pumpkin to make one homemade pumpkin pie. By the time I realized the coconut oil was not cutting it the pumpkin I had put into the refrigerator had thawed. I mixed a few tablespoons with his food. By that same evening he produced a huge, soft turd. My husband and I have since thawed another bag of pumpkin and portioned it out into smaller bags for Monty. It seems like if he does not get a few servings of pumpkin per week the issue returns.
One caution about the pumpkin– if you buy it at the grocery store make sure it is just pumpkin in it and nothing else added that might be harmful for cats or not well tolerated. It is actually easy to do what Jeff does to make and freeze your own supply. Then you know what you are getting and that it is pure pumpkin only.
One other caution. Pumpkin is very powerful in promoting pooping. After I opened the first bag there was a lot left and I felt like it had been too long in the fridge to be safely refrozen, but there was no way Monty could consume that much before it would start to go bad. So I put the rest of the bag into a pan on the stove, heated it up, sprinkled some cinnamon on top of it and ate it like a soup with my breakfast. It was yummy and I reasoned it was very good for me, being high in magnesium and Vitamin A and fiber.
Encouraging water intake
He also does better with food with more moisture in it. Monty gets only wet food. I thought that he would never get bound up because he gets plenty of moisture from his food. However, all animals as they age can see a reduction in their thirst mechanism. This is true of humans as well. When Monty was younger he would pretty consistently come for a big drink of water every afternoon at almost the same time each day. I’ve noticed he does not do that anymore. I hardly ever see him drink any water even though he has plenty of fresh water available to him. His water dish is in the back room, away from where he is fed. Wild cats will not drink near where they are eating a kill. It is better to separate water and food. But even though we do that, and give him fresh water in a clean dish every day, he just does not drink much anymore. So we have started adding water to his food and selecting wet food varieties with the most liquid in them, such as the extra gravy version if one is available.
Bubbler – water fountain
I also have ordered Monty a cat bubbler– a cat drinking fountain. It hasn’t come yet but I am hoping moving water will motivate Monty to drink more water.
Power of Pumpkin
Unless there is some pressing medical need for you to completely clear the entire contents of your large and small intestines, do not do what I did. If you were thinking of getting a colonic though, you could save yourself money on that colonic and just eat the pumpkin soup. I never really got diarrhea from it, but I just went and went and went until by the last trip to the restroom at like seven p.m. I felt kind of weak like maybe I needed to lay down or something.
Perhaps that is how Monty felt after he did that gigantic poopie after a couple days with pumpkin mixed into his food. It was like a large dog had visited his litter box instead of a medium sized cat. I was tempted to take a picture of it, but then I realized no one wants to see a picture of Monty’s poop, even the people who do so enjoy reading about his antics on social media. He has fans, but no one is that big of a fan.
But at least I can say for all his fans out there that Monty is doing better. Wetter food, a little coconut oil once in awhile and a couple servings of food with pumpkin once a week are all keeping him regular and feeling well.
P.S. From Michael – Ruth is a valued contributor with years of experience in cat guardianship. Monty has a great life in America. His inside environment is enriched and he has a wonderful outside secure space.
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