When Kitty is Constipated

Constipation in cats is most common in middle-aged and older cats. It’s important to determine the cause before treatment can begin.

When Kitty is Constipated

A backed-up kitty can be the result of several causes, including hairballs (especially in long-haired cats), ingested foreign bodies such as sticks, colon cancer, or pelvic or anal injuries that narrow the canal. In some cases no obvious cause is ever identified.

Common Symptoms

Watch your cat for signs of constipation. There may be fewer bowel movements or they may stop having them altogether. Often the cat will be straining while squatting in the litter box and may howl from abdominal pain. This is when it becomes important to determine if the pain is caused by a blockage of the urinary tract, a very serious condition seen especially in male cats. Your cat may become listless or reluctant to eat. A distended or tender abdomen is another symptom and your cat may small amounts of loose or blood-tinged feces.


In most cases, your veterinarian will be able to make a diagnosis of constipation based on the history, signs, and physical examination. However, x-rays may be needed to look for a cause of the problem, as well as to check for megacolon, a serious complication caused by long-term constipation. The chronically distended bowel loses its ability to contract properly, leading to extremely severe and painful constipation.


Initial treatment usually involves enemas to remove the build-up of feces. If the vet needs to the fecal material manually, your cat may need a sedative or anesthesia. Intravenous fluids may also be needed, if your cat had become dehydrated due to a reduce intake of food and water. Any identified underlying cause should also be treated. If the problem is severe or chronic, your cat may need medications that stimulate the colon to contract. Surgery can be required in cases of megacolon.

Preventive Measures

High-fibre diets can be very helpful for preventing a relapse. Long-haired cats should be groomed regularly and may periodically need medications that help hairballs pass through the digestive system. It is also important to ensure that cats always have access to a clean litter box that is located in a quiet, secluded area. Your cat may need repeated or continual therapy with enemas and various types of laxatives such as stool softeners.

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  Reprinted with permission from WebVet, LLC. This article and other great information for pet owners can be found at www.webvet.com.

© WebVet, LLC, 2009. Reprinted with permission

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