Cat Constipation: The Ultimate Pain In The Butt

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / October 26, 2018
cat constipation

Constipation… an unpleasant and downright uncomfortable reality that so many of us deal from time to time. Unfortunately for our feline friends, they too are not immune to the painful gastrointestinal upset. As doting pet owners, we must recognize that cat constipation is not something to be overlooked. In fact, the condition can lead to a slew of issues if not handled appropriately and in a timely manner.

By recognizing the signs and understanding the causes of cat constipation, pet owners can work to effectively alleviate any present distress as well as prevent it from developing in the future. Let’s begin!

cat constipation

So… What Exactly is Constipation?

Bowel movements are a necessary part of life. They are a key part of the detoxification process and imperative in maintaining overall wellness. Typically, a healthy cat will have one bowel movement a day. However, when constipation occurs, the bowel movements become difficult and infrequent. Your cat may go days without defecating and when they do so, the experience can be an extremely painful one. Additionally, going days without defecating can lead to the development of several serious issues for your feline and must be rectified.

Severe Constipation (AKA Obstipation): Why it Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

If your cat’s constipation is not remedied on its own (which often is the case), constipation can lead to obstipation. If your veterinarian refers to your constipated cat as having obstipation, they are medically saying that your cat is experiencing severe, intractable constipation. In other words, the accumulation of dry, hard feces in the colon is impossible for the cat to pass on their own. Without medical intervention, obstipation can lead to the entire large intestine becoming blocked with feces which can ultimately result in the complete loss of the colon’s motility.

Impacted Bowel

Severe constipation can also result in Feline Impacted Bowel Syndrome. The condition occurs when hardened feces becomes stuck in the cat’s rectum. The impaction is a severe issue which can become deadly if it goes untreated.

Constipation Symptoms: Know the Signs!

As with all ailments, understanding the associated clinical signs is paramount in being able to recognize that your cat is suffering. Only then will cat owners be able to get their feline the help that they need. Therefore, knowing the symptoms of constipation is imperative.

cat constipation

Difficulty Defecating

The first and most prominent symptom of constipation is observing your cat having a difficult time while trying to defecate. If and when the cat is finally also to get any fecal matter out, it is typically in tiny, hard amounts. When it comes to people and our cats, pooping shouldn’t be a challenge. If it ever is, chances are, constipation is involved.

Vocalizing While Straining

Constipation in cats can also be heard. Cat owners may hear their cat crying out in pain while straining to defecate. It should be noted that cats and dogs are both notorious for hiding pain. Therefore, if your cat is vocalizing their pain, it’s likely quite severe.

Physical Characteristics of the Feces

Next, cat owners should make sure to observe any changes in the physical characteristics of their cat’s feces, particularly if you also notice either of the aforementioned constipation symptoms. Constipated cats will often have blood in the fecal matter as passing any amount of poop proves to be a challenge. The feces will also tend to be in tiny, hardened amounts. Sometimes, the feces may be covered in mucus. Again, it is important for pet owners to look for anything out of the ordinary.

Frequently Going to the Litter Box (Without Successfully Using It)

Additionally, pet owners will often observe their cat frequently going to the litter box, not unable to actually use it once they get there. It is important for cat owners to investigate further and determine if their cat is experiencing a bout of constipation.

Lack of Appetite

Due to the fact that very little is coming out, cats often experience loss of appetite when suffering from constipation. Constipation can also cause quite a bit of stomach pain, making the cat want to forego meal time.

cat constipationWeight Loss

Because your feline will often eat significantly less when they are constipated, weight loss will typically follow. It is important for cat owners to make sure that their kitty also has plenty of fresh water available to prevent potential dehydration. Dehydration is a fast way to make constipation even worse (more on that in a moment) and pet owners must take the necessary steps in order to avoid it.


We mentioned that defecating is a necessary part of the detoxification process. If defecating isn’t happening, the body must get rid of the toxins in a different way, often resulting in vomiting. The vomiting can range from mild to severe. Again, pet owners must do all they can to prevent dehydration during this time.


Constipated cats will also be much more lethargic than usual. This is a symptom resulting from all of the aforementioned signs of constipation. Constantly struggling to defecate = lethargy. Appetite loss = lethargy. Vomiting = lethargy… You get it. Constipation can be exhausting.

Lack of Cleaning

A constipated cat will also groom themselves much less than usual. Cats are known to keep themselves in tip-top shape. If this ever changes, you can be sure that they aren’t feeling their best.

Symptoms of Constipation… What Else They Could Mean

It is important for cat owners to recognize that many of the symptoms of constipation are those that are considered to be “non-specific symptoms.” In other words, while they are certainly symptoms of cat constipation and obstipation, they are also symptoms of a slew of other conditions. For example, blood and mucus in the stool can also be a sign that your cat may have contracted intestinal parasites. Be sure to never assume that your cat is “simply” constipated and seek out a proper veterinary diagnosis whenever necessary.

What Causes Constipation

After cat parents receive a proper diagnosis that their cat is, in fact, suffering from constipation, it is important to figure out why. If symptoms of constipation are resolved but the cause is undetermined, then what is to stop it from happening again?

Dehydration = A Recipe for Constipation

Dehydration can often be a symptom of constipation, resulting from a lack of appetite and vomiting. However, dehydration is also a massive cause of cat constipation. In actuality, inadequate fluid intake is the leading root cause of constipation in people and animals alike.

Low-Fiber Diet

Most cats do well on a diet that solely contains the meat and fish. The meat and fish provide the cat with all of the necessary nutrients they need, including natural fibers. Therefore, in many cases, cats won’t necessarily need a fiber supplement or for their owner to add in fruits or veggies.

However, all cats are different. If your cat suffers from chronic constipation, we encourage you to take a peek at the label on your cat’s food. How many natural fibers does it contain? A cat suffering from chronic, persistent constipation may benefit from a diet that is higher in fiber.

Consuming Things a Feline Shouldn’t

Additionally, cat constipation may occur if your feline ingests a foreign object such as string, cloth, bones from treats, or really anything else that you can think of. The foreign object, depending on what exactly it is, will likely have a difficult time digesting and can, therefore, lead to obstruction of the colon.

Obstruction of the Colon

* It is important to note that the obstruction of the colon may be a result of ingesting a foreign object, but can also result from a hernia, tumor, or primary intestinal obstruction. Due to the severity, it is imperative that cat owners receive an accurate cause of their cat’s constipation in a timely manner. If the obstruction of the colon occurs, treatment will be much more involved than simply making sure your cat has ample water available.

Ingesting Hairballs

Cats are quite the cleaners and will groom and groom themselves to no end in order to keep their fur in optimal condition. However, excessive licking and grooming can lead to an excessive about of hair ingested. Hairballs are known to quickly lead to constipation and obstipation, especially if any other causes are also involved.

Adverse Reaction from Medications

If your cat experiences constipation quickly after starting a new medication, it’s likely that the drug is the culprit of their gastrointestinal distress. Luckily, if you know that your cat is going to be starting a new medication in the near future, there are ways to prevent constipation before the medicine is able to cause it.

Prostate Issues

Constipation in cats may also be a sign of an inflamed prostate or an abscess of the prostate, shown by a pus-filled sac. Both inflamed prostates and abscesses of the prostate are often results of long-term infections that went untreated.

Painful Defecation Due to Orthopedic Conditions

While painful defecation is a symptom of cat constipation, it can also be a reason for its development. For instance, if your cat suffers from a condition like arthritis or hip dysplasia, going to the bathroom can often be a painful experience due to added pressure in the hind legs. For this reason, the cat may avoid defecation which ultimately can result in the development of constipation and obstipation.


Obesity in cats can cause a slew of problems to develop, including constipation and obstipation.

fat cat

Feline Megacolon

Last but certainly not least, feline megacolon. Feline megacolon is an extremely serious condition that nearly always results in severe constipation. The condition develops when the cat’s colon becomes inflamed and enlarged. The muscles are no longer able to squeeze and contract, therefore resulting in the build-up of hard, dry stool. Feline megacolon often leads to severe obstipation.

Constipation Remedy | Home Remedies for Constipation

Once you recognize that your poor four-legged friend is suffering from constipation, you’ll want to do whatever you can to resolve the issue and put them out of their misery as soon as possible. However, before running out to purchase a laxative, there are a few things that pet owners should know.

Water Water Water!

We mentioned that inadaquent water intake is the leading cause of constipation in both people and cats. Luckily, for it being such a huge cause of distress, it is also one that is easily corrected. Cat owners must make sure that their kitty always has a fresh, clean water source available. Additionally, if you still feel like your feline isn’t drinking enough water, you may want to consider switching to canned food which contains a higher water content than dry food.

Stool Softeners and Laxatives

Once you determine that your feline is constipated, your veterinarian may recommend a cat-approved stool softener. You’ll be able to find one at your local pet store, just make sure that you get a list of the brands your vet recommends as well as the appropriate dose for your cat’s individual needs.

Additionally, some cat owners have found that using a laxative such as Miralax helps gets things moving in the right direction when it comes to relieving cat constipation. Pet parents can mix 1/4 tsp of Miralax with their cat’s dry food or wet food. As with all medications (particularly those formulated for human consumption), we also advise our readers to chat with their veterinarian regarding an appropriate dosage.


Metamucil can also be mixed into your cat’s food in order to help relieve constipation. Experts recommend adding 1-4 teaspoons into their food every 12-24 hours.

Pumpkin for Catscat constipation

One of our favorite ways to naturally relieve cat constipation is by adding a bit of canned pumpkin to your cat’s food. Interestingly enough, canned pumpkin not only relieves cat constipation, but also diarrhea. The soluble and insoluble fibers that pumpkin naturally contains allows it to work in whatever way your cat’s body needs. Cat owners must make sure that they are purchasing canned pumpkin without any fillers or additives (i.e NOT pumpkin pie filling). These additives can prove to have the exact opposite effect of what you were hoping for.

Change in Diet

In some cases, particularly those of chronic, persistent constipation, your vet may recommend changing your cat’s diet to a high-fiber veterinarian-prescribed food source.

Physical Activity for a Healthy Digestive Tract

Finally, it may sound like a no-brainer, but many pet owners may not fully realize the benefits that exercise can have for the digestive tract (not to mention the rest of the body). We encourage pet parents to consider purchasing an interactive toy or a piece of cat furniture such as a cat tree. Both of which will provide your cat with the mental and physical stimulation that their body and mind craves.

Warning! How a Constipated Cat Can Lead to Cat Diarrhea

Heads up! Constipation relief such as laxatives and stool softeners may be able to alleviate constipation, only to create another problem such as diarrhea. It is imperative that cat owners follow the recommended dosage in order to prevent additional gastrointestinal issues from developing.

When to Go to the Vet & What To Expect

There are cases where the aforementioned at-home remedies are simply not enough to relieve cat constipation. In these instances, medical intervention will be necessary in order to prevent the development of additional problems.

Constipation Medicine

In order to increase the strength of the large intestine, your veterinarian may prescribe a conventional constipation medication. This will help allow the cat’s body to rid itself of the accumulated fecal matter causing constipation.

Manual Evacuation of the Bowels

In some cases, even conventional medication won’t be enough to help the bowel muscles contact and a manual evacuation of the bowels will be necessary.


Your veterinarian may also have to administer an enema to relieve your cat’s intestinal blockage. * It is imperative that cat owners do not purchase a store-bought enema for their cat. Leave this procedure up to the professionals. Many store-bought enemas for human use contain ingredients that can be very harmful to your feline. Not to mention, it can get pretty messy… to put it politely.


In severe cases, your vet may have to perform surgery in order to relieve substantial amounts of intestinal blockage or to remove an obstruction in the bowels. For this reason (among many others) it is imperative that cat owners to not leave their cat’s gastrointestinal distress untreated. Surgery can be avoided, but not if you wait until the last minute to get your cat the necessary relief.

Cats at Risk for Constipation

Many cat owners wonder whether or not their cat may be more prone to constipation. Research shows that older cats are more prone to constipation due to the fact that they are often more lethargic as they age. The lack of physical movement is often related to difficult or infrequent bowel movements. If you have an older cat it is important to do your best to make sure that they still participate in exercise when possible as well as have plenty of fresh water at all times. With that said, any cat at any age may suffer from bouts of constipation at one time or another.

Constipation as a Symptom

Again, we want to reiterate the importance of getting to the bottom of why your cat is constipated. Cat constipation may be a simple sign that your feline needs to drink more water. However, other times, it can be a symptom of a much more severe issue.

Preventing Cat Constipation

In order to prevent cat constipation, it is important to have a full understanding of what causes the condition to develop in the first place.

In many cases, providing your cat has ample amounts of fresh, clean water is a great, effective way to prevent cat constipation.

Additionally, cats with long hair will often benefit from help in the grooming department from time to time. Brushing your cat will help prevent your feline from ingesting hairballs and therefore, help prevent colon blockage.

Finally, ensuring that your cat is being fed a high-quality diet is an important way to prevent feline constipation. It is also important for pet owners to recognize when their cat may benefit from an extra nutritional supplement.

CBD for Cats

As a doting pet owner, you make sure to stay up to date on the latest advancements in holistic and conventional medications. Therefore, you’ve likely heard of CBD…but for those who haven’t, we’ll give a brief recap.cbd for cats

Derived from the hemp plant, CBD is changing the game in the ways that pet owners can choose to manage, treat, and prevent their pet’s ailments. Remarkably, CBD isn’t a new concept, it is simply new when it comes to the readily available information that we have at our fingertips. Experts have been researching the effects of CBD on animals for well over three decades. Yet, only recently can we purchase the products in no time at all.

(Of course, always make sure you are purchasing from a reputable company! We’ll give our favorite in a minute.)

CBD for Gastrointestinal Health

In terms of managing, easing, and preventing cat constipation, CBD proves to be incredibly effective. For less than $2 a day, cat owners can implement our favorite CBD oil into their feline’s diet. The CBD oil comes with an easy-to-use dropper that allows pet parents to control how much product their cat receives. Furthermore, CBD oil not only relieves gastrointestinal upset, but as an all natural anti-inflammatory, CBD works to prevent it from developing in the future.

Cat Constipation: A Final Thought

When all is said and done, constipation is a real pain in the butt and, unfortunately, we all have to deal with it at one point or another. The most important thing for pet owners to realize is that while sometimes constipation will clear on its own, in other cases it proves to be a situation that must be handled by a medical professional. Constipation shouldn’t be overlooked or a condition that pet owners should hope pass. If left untreated, constipation can lead to a slew of issues for your feline.

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for