If your cat is yowling when she uses the litter box or seems unable to have a bowel movement, she probably has feline constipation. This condition can make your usually happy feline irritable, and it may be a signal that there are other health issues involved. For a speedy resolution, it is important to know what you can do to help your pet and when to call the vet.
Causes of Feline Constipation
Cats of any age can become constipated, although it usually happens to older cats. The following are the most common causes of feline constipation:
- Diet - Just like their human companions, diet plays a big part in whether or not the animal has regular bowel movements. Salty or fatty foods are often the culprit. It is best to feed your cat a balanced diet that doesn't consist of human food.
- Dehydration - All animals need to have a constant, fresh supply of water. Additionally, cat's don't drink a lot so they get most of their water intake from their food. This makes wet or canned cat food an especially important part of their diet.
- Dirty litter box - Cats don't like to use a dirty litter box. If you don't keep the litter box clean, they may hold back when trying to have a bowel movement. This eventually leads to hardening of the stools. Occasionally, some cats also refuse to use a litter box if they don't like the scent of the cat litter.
- Lethargy - Everyone, including cats, need a little exercise. If your feline leads a sedentary lifestyle, she may experience occasional feline constipation.
- Tumors - Unfortunately, some animals develop tumors that block their fecal matter from passing.
Types of Constipation
A cat may have one of three types of constipation. They are as follows:
- General Constipation - An animal may have slight constipation where she is either unable to pass a bowel movement at all, or only does so with difficulty. The animal may pass some blood-tinged diarrhea while constipated.
- Obstipation - An animal with this condition has a blockage of the colon, making it impossible for her to pass a bowel movement without a vet's intervention. Obstipation is caused by the build up of hard fecal matter in the colon.
- Megacolon - An animal that has this level of constipation has lost muscle control in the colon. The cat has a blockage, usually caused by obstipation, that needs to be relieved with veterinary assistance.
Treatments for Constipation
Depending upon the degree of the problem, various methods are used to treat feline constipation and prevent it from happening in the future. If there has been no change in the cat's bowel movements after 24 hours, call a veterinarian for assistance. The current treatments, after diagnosis, include the following:
- Hydration - A cat that is properly hydrated has the best chance at having normal bowel movements. A dehydrated animal will have hard stools that contribute to the condition. An animal requiring a veterinarian's assistance will be re-hydrated intravenously.
- Enemas - An animal may be given an enema to help it pass the hard stools. Cats occasionally have to be anesthetized for this procedure since passing the stools can be very painful.
- Surgery - In the most severe cases, cats may need a surgical procedure to remove the blockage from their colon.
- Diet - This is one of the most important parts of the cat health equation. Cats should be fed a balanced diet that doesn't include human food. An animal that is recovering from constipation will require moist cat food, and you can gradually re-introduce some dry food into their diet.
- Fiber - If a cat has a chronic problem with constipation, a veterinarian may suggest adding bran to the diet or even over-the-counter dietary fiber medications that can be mixed in with food or water. Alternately, look for some of the newer high fiber cat food forumulas or discuss things you can add to your cat's diet to increase the fiber. Some cats like to eat canned pumpkin, for example, which is a great source of dietary fiber.
No animal should have to suffer the painful effects of feline constipation. If you notice your pet straining or yowling when using the cat box, keep track of whether or not she is able to pass a bowel movement. For the health of your cat, a veterinarian should see an animal that has not had a successful bowel movement after 24 hours.