As veterinarians, we’re more commonly presented with cute, little kittens afflicted by diarrhea—but constipation can also be a significant problem.
Most cat parents are more aware of when their kitten is having bouts of diarrhea because of the mess and smell. Constipation and obstipation (a more severe constipation) are not usually as obvious, but these can be equally problematic for kittens.
How Often Should Kittens Poop?
It can be challenging to determine when a kitten is constipated, because kittens vary in how often they go to the bathroom.
Most young cats defecate once a day, but some—depending on individual differences as well as diet and exercise—may poop more or less often. Plus, there does not seem to be any feline breed predilection for constipation.
So, monitoring your kitten’s bathroom activities—though, perhaps, the least enjoyable part of caring for your cat—is important. It allows you to know that they are using the cat litter box regularly.
Constipation or obstipation can lead to serious problems such as illness due to absorbing toxins from the colon and even rectal prolapse if the kitten is straining with too much force to pass stool.
Signs of Constipation in Kittens
- A decrease in or loss of appetite—or complete refusal to eat
- A distended abdomen or an abdomen that appears to be bloated (if kitten is still eating)
- An uncomfortable and restless kitty
- Harder stools, dry stools (when the kitten attempts to poops)
- Increased mucus and possible blood streaks on the cat poop (if the kitten strains to defecate)
- Vomiting and kitten can become weak (if constipation progresses)
Common Causes of Constipation in Kittens
- To stimulate kittens less than 2 weeks of age to pee and especially to poop, the mother cat uses her tongue to gently clean the anogenital region. Without the proper stimulation, very young kittens are often affected by constipation. Luckily after a few weeks of age, kittens are able to properly pee and poo without this stimulation.
- As kittens transition from nursing to eating kitten food, they may become dehydrated or not have enough fiber in their diet. This, too, may contribute to cat constipation.
- As the young cats further develop, lack of exercise and gaining too much weight may contribute to obstipation. Regular exercise and proper diet are important factors in avoiding constipation.
- Many kittens like chewing on anything and everything. Hairballs and materials from cat toys and other items can all contribute to constipation and may even progress to a blockage. So, monitor your kitten’s behavior closely to make sure she does not ingest foreign substances.
- Several medical conditions, including parasites, can play a role in a kitten becoming constipated.
Preventing Kitten Constipation
One of the key factors in avoiding constipation is to maintain proper hydration of your young kitten. Make sure that fresh, clean and, often preferably, cool water is always available.
A cat water fountain can help entice your kitten to drink more water. Because the water is moving, it’s often more stimulating and prompts the cat to drink. Plus, because of the movement, filters can be used to keep the water clean and cool.
Home Remedies for Kitten Constipation
If after consulting your veterinarian it is determined that your kitten is stable, there might be some home remedies to try.
Hydrate Your Kitten
This is a must. Your kitten must be drinking water. If they’re not, your veterinarian must be notified immediately. Do not force your kitten to swallow water using a syringe or squirt bottle.
Along with good hydration, adding some source of fiber to the diet should help keep the kitten on a regular schedule.
Canned, unsweetened pumpkin puree, psyllium husks and bran are excellent natural sources of fiber for your kitten’s fiber diet. The pumpkin puree is sweet and often well received by the kitten. To further help the constipated kitten, add water as well as the bran or psyllium to the puree. Consult your veterinarian about the amounts to use.
Get Your Kitten Moving
Exercise and movement help stimulate the intestinal tract to keep cat food moving through and stimulate a bowel movement. It’s great fun to play with your kitten, and play is also very important for intestinal tract health.
So, play more—especially games involving a lot of running—to maintain your kitten’s cardiovascular as well as intestinal health.
If you believe that the observed signs of constipation have not improved for two to three days after your initial conversation with your veterinarian, then it is definitely time to contact him or her again and have your kitten examined.
Vet Diagnosis and Treatment of Kitten Constipation
When vets are evaluating for constipation, we often focus on the abdomen and via palpation and auscultation (listening to internal body sounds) can hopefully determine how significantly your kitten is affected. At times, we do have to rely on other diagnostic tests, including radiographs (X-rays), especially if we are concerned about the ingestion of foreign material or blockage.
If a kitten is indeed constipated but not blocked, we can prescribe a mixture of mineral oil and lactulose. Lactulose is a synthetic sugar that helps lubricate and lessen constipation. You never want to administer mineral oil straight to any animal because it can be very easily inhaled/aspirated and may result in potentially significant respiratory problems.
If it is determined that the kitten is too significantly constipated for home care alone, then suppositories and enemas can be given at the clinic. In very extreme cases when the fecal material is blocking the kitten from defecating, we have had to sedate the kitten to gently remove the hard feces from the rectum. This is a more invasive procedure, but if the blockage is successfully cleared and measures instituted to prevent a reoccurrence, then hopefully no further problems occur.
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