Constipation In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And More


Last Updated - December 12, 2023

Home / Cats / Constipation In Cats: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And More

Does your feline friend seem somewhat 'backed up' lately, leaving you puzzled and concerned about their well-being? Well, you're not alone! Cat constipation is a common problem impacting cats of every breed and age. Just like humans, our beloved furballs can experience digestive discomfort, too, and it's our responsibility as pet parents to help them feel their best.

While the topic of a cat's constipation may not be the most glamorous aspect of pet ownership, it's a crucial issue to address for the well-being of your beloved kitty. In this blog post, we will dive into the world of cat constipation to understand what it is, why it happens, and how you can help your beloved kitty feel their best again.

What Is Cat Constipation?

Constipation in cats is a common gastrointestinal issue where a cat has infrequent, difficult, or painful bowel movements. This occurs when the feces in the colon becomes dry and hardened, making it difficult to pass. Several factors can contribute to this condition, including dehydration, dietary concerns, insufficient fiber intake, hairballs, or underlying health issues. Symptoms often include straining in the litter box, reduced appetite, lethargy, and discomfort. While occasional constipation can be normal, chronic or severe cases require attention. Taking prompt action, including dietary modifications, enhanced hydration, and, in severe instances, veterinary attention, can relieve discomfort and secure your beloved furry companion's health and comfort.

Cat Constipation Symptoms

Identifying the signs and symptoms of constipation in cats is vital for early intervention and safeguarding the well-being of your feline companion. Here are the common indicators to watch out for:

  • Reduced or No Defecation
  • Dry and Hard Stool
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Discomfort: May display signs of abdominal pain, such as restlessness, vocalization, or sensitivity when their belly is touched.
  • Visible Discomfort: Restlessness, pacing, or frequent tail-chasing
  • Bloody Cat Poop or Straining
  • Weight Loss
  • Changes in Behavior: Restlessness, pacing, hiding, or becoming more irritable.

If you observe any of these signs persisting for more than a day or two, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian promptly. Early detection and intervention can prevent complications and ensure your cat's comfort.

Causes of Cat Constipation

Dietary Factors

A diet lacking in essential nutrients or an unbalanced diet can lead to digestive issues, including constipation. Ensuring your cat's diet is nutritionally complete and appropriate for their age and health status is crucial in preventing constipation.

Cats are obligate carnivores, but a complete absence of fiber in their diet can lead to constipation. Incorporating fiber into the diet adds bulk to the stool and promotes regular bowel movements. With enough fiber, the stool of most cats will become compacted and easier to pass.


Cats are meticulous groomers, but this habit can have a downside. When they ingest excessive hair, it can accumulate in their digestive system, forming hairballs that obstruct the normal passage of stool.


Cats are often recognized for their relatively low thirst drive, frequently relying on their diet to acquire sufficient moisture. When they do not obtain adequate water intake, their bodies may absorb excessive fluid from their stool, leading to its hardening and difficulty in passing. This issue poses a significant health concern, especially among cats that exclusively consume dry kibble.

Lack of Exercise

Cats that lead sedentary lifestyles are more susceptible to constipation. Regular physical activity stimulates their digestive muscles, promoting healthy bowel movements.


Constipation in cats can result from obstructions within the digestive system, presenting a painful and serious issue. Foreign objects like hairballs, string, or ingested items can block the passage of stool. Tumors, hernias, or severe inflammation can also constrict the intestinal pathway. Constipation can develop when an intestinal blockage impedes the normal flow of feces. If left unattended, it can result in complications like fecal impaction or, in severe cases, rupture of the intestines.


Some medications, especially those with constipation as a side effect, can slow down the digestive system, making it harder for a cat to have regular bowel movements.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Cat constipation can sometimes be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, including kidney disease. Health issues like megacolon, where the colon's muscle strength deteriorates and can no longer contract effectively, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which leads to intestinal inflammation, can result in chronic constipation. Tumors, pelvic injuries, or spinal problems may also obstruct normal bowel function. Identifying and addressing these underlying conditions is critical, as long-term constipation in cats can lead to painful complications like fecal impaction or even feline megacolon. If your cat experiences persistent constipation, consult a veterinarian for a thorough evaluation and tailored treatment to address the root cause, which could include chronic kidney disease.


Cats are sensitive creatures, and stress or anxiety can lead to changes in their eating habits and routines. Such disruptions, such as lifestyle and diet changes, can affect the digestive system and predispose cats to dry feces and constipation.


Older cats are more prone to symptoms of constipation due to a natural decline in muscle tone and mobility in their digestive tract. Elderly cats experience constipation more often than younger cats or kittens. This age-related change can slow down the transit of feces through the colon, leading to overly firm stool consistency and prolonged distension of the colon.

Ingested Foreign Material

Cats may be inclined to explore and sometimes ingest non-food items. Objects like string, rubber bands, or even small pieces of plastic can pose a risk, potentially causing constipation if they cannot pass through the digestive system.

How Vets Diagnose Cat Constipation

Veterinarians diagnose cat constipation through a comprehensive approach. Your cat's vet will start with a medical history review, discussing diet, water intake, and constipation frequency. Physical examinations assess abdominal discomfort and may include a digital rectal examination. X-rays reveal obstructions, while blood tests rule out underlying conditions. Fecal exams are conducted to check for infections. In more intricate cases, procedures such as colonoscopy or endoscopy may be required. Once diagnosed, treatment options range from dietary changes and increased hydration to medications, enemas, or, with serious issues, surgery. Regular monitoring and follow-up visits help manage chronic constipation, relieve discomfort, prevent future episodes, and ensure overall feline health.

Treatment for Cat Constipation

The treatment for cat constipation depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Here are common treatment options for your cat's constipation:

Dietary Changes

Adjusting your cat's diet can be an effective way to alleviate constipation. Increasing fiber intake is a common approach. High-fiber cat foods or adding a small amount of canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) to their meals can help promote softer stool. Fiber helps soften the stool and encourage smoother passage through the intestines. Supplementing dry kibble with wet food will add moisture to their diet and help with your cats' constipation.


Adequate hydration is essential to prevent and manage constipation. Ensure that your constipated cat has constant access to fresh water. More water intake can be encouraged through a cat water fountain, an increased number of water bowls, or the addition of wet cat food, which contains higher moisture content than dry kibble.

Laxatives or Stool Softeners

In cases where changes to a new diet are not enough, your veterinarian may prescribe a mild cat-safe laxative or stool softener. These medications can assist in softening the stool and facilitating easier passage through the digestive tract. But be sure to consult your vet first, as the over-the-counter laxatives can worsen symptoms in cats with an underlying disorder or chronic diseases. 

Natural alternatives for cat constipation may include fiber supplements such as psyllium husk or canned pumpkin. These supplements can be added to their regular food to increase fiber intake and promote regular stool deposits into the litter box.


Severe cases of constipation may require medical intervention in the form of enemas, which will provide immediate relief. However, only a veterinarian should administer enemas, as improper administration can be harmful or painful for your constipated cat. An enema can help soften and evacuate impacted feces from the colon.


Your veterinarian may prescribe medications that enhance intestinal motility, such as cisapride or lactulose. These medications can help treat constipation and regulate bowel movements. Again, adhering to your vet's dosing instructions and recommendations is essential.

Manual Extraction

In extreme cases where medical treatment has failed, a veterinarian may need to perform manual deobstipation. This involves manually removing impacted feces from the colon under anesthesia. It's a last-resort option and is typically reserved for severe, chronic cases.

Lifestyle Changes

To prevent future constipation, consider making specific lifestyle adjustments. Encourage physical activity and play to keep your cat active and maintain healthy muscle tone. Provide a clean and quiet litter box area to reduce stress and anxiety, as these factors can contribute to constipation. Additionally, you might need to incorporate more litter boxes. Cats can be quite particular about their litter box preferences.

Recovery and Management of Cat Constipation

Recovery and management of cat constipation require a multifaceted approach. Addressing the immediate issue involves dietary modifications, incorporating fiber-rich foods, and ensuring proper hydration. Veterinarian-prescribed laxatives or stool softeners may be necessary for severe cases. Long-term management often includes hypoallergenic diets, regular exercise to stimulate bowel movement, and medication if an underlying condition is present. Consistency is key to maintaining a healthy digestive system for your cat. Regular vet check-ups can aid in monitoring progress and adjusting treatment as necessary. Most cats can recover from constipation and enjoy a comfortable, regular bowel routine with proper care.

At-Home Remedies for Treating Your Constipated Cat

As pet owners, there are ways for you to help your constipated cat. Here are some home remedies that may assist in alleviating your cat's constipation, ensuring that their litter box deposits remain soft and regular:

  • Reduce and minimize stress and anxiety.
  • Promote Exercise: Encourage regular exercise to aid in weight management or help your cat maintain a healthy weight. Reduce anxiety and promote normal movement of the intestines.
  • Dietary Adjustments: Experiment with different diets, such as lamb, chicken, limited ingredients, or hypoallergenic options, to reduce inflammation and facilitate normal bowel movements.
  • Incorporate Fiber: Consider including fiber-rich foods or offering a teaspoon of pureed canned pumpkin once or twice daily as a natural remedy. Ginger may also help.
  • Increase Fluid Intake: Give your cat fluids regularly and unrestrictedly.
  • Probiotics: Provide your cat with natural remedies! Provide probiotics to support a healthy gut flora.
  • Medication: Consider over-the-counter laxatives. Always consult your vet, as these remedies may exacerbate symptoms in constipated cats with underlying or chronic diseases.
  • Consistent cleaning of the litter box.

Important Disclaimer: The content presented in this article is intended strictly for informative purposes and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. To accurately diagnose your pet's condition, please schedule a consultation with your veterinarian. It is essential to keep in mind that your veterinarian is the most qualified expert to address your pet's medical issues and offer suitable recommendations.

The Pet Staff is proud & humbled to be reader-supported. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you.

About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.