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Diarrhea in Cats: How to Help Your Cat Feel Better

January 9th, 2018 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

A man cuddles with his cat, Sam, who's been struggling with cat diarrhea.

So, your cat has the runs…

And unfortunately, we don’t mean the frisky, race-around-the-room kind.

Your cat is having runny stools or diarrhea — something that isn’t common in cats. Our veterinarians have shared the key things pet parents want to know about diarrhea in cats, so you can help your kitty feel better quickly.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for cat diarrhea. It’s important to find out what the cause is, so you can take the right steps for your cat.

Why do cats get diarrhea?

If your cat is having diarrhea or loose stools, there’s an irritant somewhere in his or her gastrointestinal tract. Some of the most common reasons cats get diarrhea are:

  • Overeating
  • Sudden changes in diet / cat food
  • Intestinal parasites (particularly if your kitty spends time outdoors and has eaten something like a field mouse)

Sometimes our veterinarians are asked whether stress can cause diarrhea in cats. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s more likely your cats will show stress and anxiety in other ways. (Cats tend to show anxiety through bladder-related issues.)

If your cat keeps getting diarrhea, there may be other causes to consider, such as:

  • Food allergies
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Gastrointestinal lymphoma

Chronic diarrhea in cats can lead to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration and other serious problems, so be sure to get your cat checked.

Jade, the cat, relaxes and gazes off camera. She's starting to feel better after a few days of having the runs.

What should you do if your cat has diarrhea?

The important thing is to figure out what’s causing it, so you know what to do next.

Our veterinarians recommend you bring in a sample of your cat’s stool for testing. (You can bring it in at any time — there’s no appointment needed.)

We’ll run a fecal test to determine the cause of the diarrhea, and we’ll let you know:

  • The prescription that may be needed (if any)
  • Whether you need to bring your cat in for an appointment
  • The steps you need to take for your cat

Tips to help you collect a stool sample from your cat

We know that gathering stool samples from the litter box isn’t fun, but here are a few tips to help you get what you need:

  • Make sure you collect enough stool. Ideally, you want a sample that’s roughly the size of a grape or a tablespoon. (You’re welcome to stop by our clinic to get a complimentary fecal cup and scoop to make the collection process easier.)
  • Make sure the fecal sample is as fresh as possible — ideally, no more than 5 to 8 hours old. We realize you may not know exactly when your cat is using the litter box. We suggest cleaning the litterbox and then checking it on a regular time frame, so you have an idea of how fresh the sample is.
  • Keep the sample in a cool area or the refrigerator if you can’t get into our clinic that fast. Important tip: Do not freeze the stool or allow it to dry out.
 Help your cat feel better today

Call our Castle Rock veterinarians at 303-688-3757 or:

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Is there anything else you should be doing for your cat?

Make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water.

You also may want to feed your cat a bland diet, so his or her gastrointestinal tract has a chance to heal. (One option is a 2:1 mix of cooked white rice and boiled or steamed chicken. Portion size varies by cat, but in general, you want to keep the portions small.)

If your cat has chronic diarrhea and you aren’t able to cook up a bland diet, we also have prescription diets. They contain the needed nutrients, and they’re gentle on your cat’s sensitive gastrointestinal tract.

For the day or two after the diarrhea clears up, your cat may not have to poop. This is normal.

What does it mean when your cat has diarrhea outside the litter box?

If your cat has an urgent need to go, your cat may pass a loose stool outside the litter box. But this behavior also could mean your cat is in some pain. He or she may not use the litter box to let you know there’s an issue.

In either case, we recommend speaking with a vet.

Live in Castle Rock or the south Denver area?
Our cat veterinarians welcome your call: 303-688-3757.

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Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance for diarrhea in cats. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2018, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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