My Cat Is Not Pooping – What Can I Do?

As we get to know our cats, we begin to understand their litter box habits.

Not only do we have an idea of how often our cats pass stool, but we generally know how much stool we will encounter each time we clean their box.

So when you suddenly notice that you are not finding any poop in their litter box, this will typically raise some concern.

While a change in your cat’s poop habits may not seem like a reason to worry, constipation in cats can lead to some serious complications in the long run.

In this article we will discuss the details of constipation in our feline friends, and help you answer the question of why your cat is not pooping.

What To Do If My Cat Is Not Pooping

What Is Constipation?

The term constipation refers to a buildup of stool within the colon, making it more challenging to pass the stool as a result.

The feces in the bowels can essentially become impacted and dehydrated, causing the colon to strain as it attempts to pass the stool.

If the constipation is not addressed early on, more and more feces will begin to build up.

This is not only extremely uncomfortable, but it can lead to serious intestinal complications as a result.

Can Cats Get Constipated?

Just like humans, cats can experience constipation.

Constipation is actually a common digestive ailment in our feline friends, with many cats experiencing a mild form of constipation at some point throughout their life.

Not only can the average cat develop constipation, but it is a common side effect of many medical conditions that our furry friends experience.

Because of this, constipation should always be on a cat owner’s radar.

What Causes Constipation In Cats?

As we mentioned above, constipation is quite common in our feline companions.

Everything ranging from diet habits to sudden injury can disturb a cat’s digestive health, leading to eventual difficulties when they attempt to pass stool.

To help you better understand what may have caused your cat’s constipation, let’s list a few of the most common causes below.

Some of the known causes of constipation in cats include:

  • Decreased water intake
  • Hairballs
  • Lack of fiber in diet
  • Dehydration from underlying illness
  • Obesity or lack of exercise
  • Injuries to the hind legs or hips
  • Medications that slow gut motility
  • Impacted anal sacs
  • Stress that leads to litter box avoidance

If your cat has experienced any of the above factors, they are more at risk of developing constipation and other GI difficulties.

It’s important to note that some cats also experience constipation without any known underlying cause, and these cases are typically considered idiopathic (occurring without a known cause).

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Pooping?

When determining how long your cat can go without pooping, it’s important to consider their normal litter box routine.

There is no concrete rule of how often a cat should poop, as every cat’s litter box habits will vary.

This is why it is so important to determine your cat’s standard poop schedule, as this can alert you to any sign of developing constipation.

Though there is no set rule of how many bowel movements your cat should have a day, we typically expect a healthy cat to pass stool at least once every 24-36 hours.

If your cat goes 2 days or more without pooping, they could be experiencing some level of constipation.

My Cat Is Only Pooping Small Amounts

Sometimes a cat can still poop small amounts when they are experiencing constipation.

Small amounts of stool can sneak past larger fecal impactions, creating the impression that your cat is still having their routine bowel movements.

However, if they are pooping significantly less than they typically would before, this could be a sign of constipation as well.

An example of this is a constipated cat that is passing small amounts of liquid stool.

These cats may strain for long periods in the box, only producing a drop of liquid diarrhea from all their efforts.

The act of straining can help the liquid stool move past the fecal impaction in the colon, but may not be enough to pass the dehydrated poop that is still trapped within the body.

Should I Be Concerned If My Cat Is Not Pooping?

Constipation is something you should always take seriously in your furry friend.

Though a decrease in stool production may not seem like the end of the world, it can lead to some major complications if their constipation is left untreated.

To help you better understand why you should reach out to your vet if your cat is not pooping, let’s discuss some of the most common complications of constipation in cats.

Fecal impactions

A mild case of constipation can lead to a fecal impaction if the constipation is not resolved quickly.

As the motility of the stool slows down, this will just cause more stool to build up in the colon.

The stool will typically become more and more dehydrated the longer it stays in the colon, making it even more challenging to break down and expel.

Abdominal Pain

Constipation can lead to significant abdominal pain in the cat affected.

As the stool becomes more impacted, this can cause a back up in the colon and the rest of the large intestine.

The normal contraction of the intestines can be extremely uncomfortable if the impacted stool is unable to pass, leading to the presence of abdominal pain until the issue is resolved.

Megacolon

Megacolon can either be a cause of significant constipation in cats, or can be a secondary complication of unresolved constipation in cats.

This condition refers to the dilation of the colon due to weakened muscles in the area, causing the colon to become distended and filled with fecal material.

The colon will continue to fill with stool until the issue is resolved, and may even lead to permanent loss of colon muscle contraction in severe cases.

Not all cases of megacolon can be treated, making it essential to prevent this complication at all costs.

Symptoms Of Constipation In Cats

If you think your cat may be struggling with constipation, there are some symptoms that you can be on the lookout for.

Cats can struggle with constipation of different severities, so it’s important to be aware of all the potential signs on the list.

Some of the most common signs of constipation in cats include:

  • Dry or hard stool
  • Segmented balls of stool
  • Spending long periods in the litter box
  • Straining when passing stool
  • Change in their normal litter box posture
  • Propping their feet up on the litter box edge when passing stool
  • Crying out when in the litter box
  • Finding hard stool outside of the litter box
  • Only passing small amounts of stool after straining

More severe signs of constipation in cats can include anorexia, vomiting, abdominal pain, vomiting, stiff posture, lethargy, and hiding.

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned here, especially the signs of severe constipation, we suggest reaching out to your veterinarian for guidance.

Diagnosing Constipation In Your Cat

If your veterinarian thinks your cat may be constipated, there are a few different diagnostic tools that can help them determine the best treatment plan going forward.

First, you can expect your vet to gather a thorough medical history, as well as performing a physical exam.

This will typically involve your veterinarian asking you about your cat’s medical history and their current symptoms, along with checking their vital signs.

Once they complete this, they can then move onto diagnostics.

Abdominal Palpation

Your vet can typically palpate your cat’s abdomen in an attempt to feel any hard stool in the large intestine.

This can also help your vet determine whether or not abdominal pain is present, as painful cats will typically react during this portion.

Rectal Exam

A rectal exam can allow your vet to feel for any hard stool that is currently in the colon, as well as check for any abnormalities within the area.

Your vet will do this by placing their fingers in your cat’s rectum and exploring the area gently.

If your cat is not tolerating this exam and your vet thinks it’s necessary, your cat can receive sedation as needed.

Radiographs

If your cat has not passed stool in 48 hours or more, your vet will likely suggest x-rays.

Abdominal radiographs will search for any evidence of fecal impaction, pelvic injuries, colonic strictures, or even obvious tumors.

Bloodwork

While blood tests will not diagnose constipation, they can certainly diagnose any underlying illness that could be causing their dehydration.

Even if no underlying disease is present, blood work can be beneficial in cats experiencing more severe symptoms of constipation.

How To Treat Your Cat’s Constipation

There are different treatment options available based on the severity of your cat’s constipation.

While cats with mild constipation may only need the help of a diet change and laxatives, other cats will require multiple enemas.

Every case will vary, so let’s break down each treatment option that your vet could explore.

Hydration

If your cat is experiencing constipation, adequate hydration of the intestines is essential in helping them pass the hardened stool.

This can be done on an outpatient basis with the use of subcutaneous fluids, while other cats with severe dehydration will need to be hospitalized on IV fluids.

Your vet can determine your cat’s level of dehydration based on their physical exam and diagnostics.

Laxatives

Laxatives can be extremely helpful in relieving constipation in cats.

Some forms of laxatives will increase gut motility in effort to pass stool, while others will draw fluid into the intestines in effort to moisten the hardened stool in the colon.

Your veterinarian will determine the best laxative option based on your cat’s needs.

Enemas & Manual Extraction

Cats with significant fecal impactions may require an enema and manual extraction to relieve their constipation.

This is most often performed while your cat is sedated, allowing your vet to break up the stool impaction without any discomfort to your cat.

A standard enema typically involves using a catheter to pulse warm saline and lubricant into the rectum.

This will help to hydrate any hard stool in the colon, allowing it to break apart and be evacuated during their next bowel movement.

The process can be repeated until the constipation is resolved.

Dietary Modification

Diet modification may be needed to not only assist in resolving a cat’s current constipation, but also to help prevent it from occurring in the future.

Every vet will have their own preference when it comes to discussing diet options, but this could involve high fiber diets, supplementing with wet food, prescription digestive diets, and even dietary supplements.

Can You Help Your Constipated Cat At Home?

Once your veterinarian determines the best treatment plan for your cat, there will be other ways that you can help your constipated cat at home.

Not only can these tips promote a smooth recovery in cats that are already constipated, but they can help to prevent future constipation in at-risk cats as well.

To offer your cat the best chance at a full recovery, let’s list a few of the most effective tips to relieve your cat’s constipation at home.

Increase Their Water Intake

Many cases of constipation in cats are a result of dehydration, so it’s essential to increase their water intake going forward.

You can do this by investing in a cat water fountain, placing more fresh water around the house, and even mixing wet food in with their kibble.

Manage Their Weight

When a cat is overweight, they are unable to form an effective posture when it’s time to pass stool.

Because of this, constipation can develop as a result of potential fecal impaction. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight will not only reduce the risk of constipation, but help to prevent an array of health complications down the line.

You can do this by offering them a quality diet, having their food amounts approved by a vet, and promoting daily play time.

Promote Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle can slow down a cat’s gut motility in some cases.

Getting up and moving can not only help to regulate a cat’s digestive health, but it can help to prevent excessive weight gain as well.

Some of the best ways to keep your cat active include playing with a cat wand, making sure they have plenty of toys around, offering them a cat tower for climbing, and having fun with cat lasers.

Minimize Stress

Stress plays a huge role in managing a cat’s digestive health.

A stressed out cat may feel more inclined to hide away for long periods, increasing the risk of fecal impaction with fewer litter box visits.

Any change in your routine or environment can lead to stress for your feline friend, so it’s important to approach these issues with patience and care.

Dietary Supplements

Some cats with chronic constipation can benefit from the use of daily stool softeners or dietary supplements.

It’s important to note that this should only be implemented if your veterinarian approves it, as they can point you in the direction of the best products for your cat’s needs.

Final Thoughts

Constipation is a common complication in our indoor feline friends.

Be sure to follow the tips for prevention that we discussed above, as well as reaching out to your veterinarian at the first sign of constipation in your cat going forward.

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