Constipation is a condition, characterized by infrequent bowel movements, and difficult or painful defecation, mainly due to the passage of hard and dry stool. It is considered an indicator of some bowel problems. Like humans, cats are also prone to get constipated, especially if their diet is poor and does not contain sufficient amounts of dietary fiber.
What Causes Constipation in Cats?
Dehydration, as well as lack of enough fiber in the diet, are the two most important causes of constipation. When there is not sufficient water in the body, the colon absorbs more water from the stool, in an attempt to conserve water. The result is dry and hard stool, and painful defecation.
Similarly, fiber is very essential for ensuring regular bowel movements, and not having enough fiber in the diet often results in constipation. In addition to these, certain medications, pelvic injury, and neurological problems, like injury or damage to the nerves of the colon, anus, and spinal cord, as well as paralysis can also manifest in constipation.
Other important causes include, hypothyroidism, kidney failure, obstruction of the colon due to the development of tumors or the ingestion of any foreign object. Cats like to groom themselves a lot, and while doing so, they can ingest a lot of fur, which can accumulate in the alimentary canal to form a hairball. A hairball can cause obstruction of the colon, and thus constipation. Sometimes, cats can also exhibit a reluctance to defecate, which in turn can cause the stool to stay longer in the colon. As a result, more water is reabsorbed from it, which makes it hard and dry.
Signs and Symptoms
Constipation is a very uncomfortable and sometimes, painful experience. The most common signs and symptoms observed in constipated cats are:
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Hard and dry stool
- Straining for a prolonged period to defecate
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Not defecating in the litter tray (probably because they begin to associate it with painful defecation)
Treatment and Prevention
An increase in the intake of fluid and dietary fiber is the most effective initial treatment option for constipation. To increase the amount of dietary fiber, you can add rice bran or psyllium to your cat's diet. Otherwise, you can give her canned pumpkin. Lactulose and other stool softeners can also be used, as per the guidance of an expert veterinarian. These can help soften the stool, and ensure its easy passage.
If constipation is caused by a hairball or an accumulation of hair in the alimentary canal, then petroleum jelly can be used. But, be sure to consult the veterinarian before using petroleum jelly. Sometimes, laxatives and enema may be required, if the affected cat does not have bowel movement for several days. A damage or injury to the nerves or muscles of the colon would, however, require surgery.
For constipation, prevention is always better than cure. So, take care that your cat does not get constipated by including fiber-rich food in her diet, and encouraging her to do regular physical activities. Similarly, an increase in fluid intake can also help prevent constipation, and the problems associated with it. Lastly, a cat can get stressed even due to a slight change in her environment or surrounding, which too can manifest in certain health problems. So, take care of the issues that can cause stress and anxiety in your cat.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.