Cat Diarrhea: A Definitive Guide To Treatment

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / November 12, 2018
cat diarrhea

Are you dealing with more feline feces than your litter box knows what to do with? While the mess can be as unpleasant as that imagery suggests, watching your beloved cat suffer is far worse. Fortunately, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will discuss how to spot, treat, and prevent cat diarrhea. Furthermore, we will determine whether your cat’s rear-end issues are simply a fleeting ailment or a symptom of a bigger condition. Fear not! Cat diarrhea is an incredibly common issue, and this article will give you all the right tools to help your cat get back to normal.

cat diarrhea

What is Diarrhea

More than likely, you yourself have dealt with the uncomfortable and often unforeseen effects of diarrhea. Similarly, cats can experience diarrhea just like us humans. That is to say, cat diarrhea is characterized by irregular bowel movements resulting with soft or runny stool.

Episodes commonly arise unexpectedly, and often times only happen intermittently without consequence. In that case, medical attention is likely unnecessary. Short-term episodes as such are referred to as “acute diarrhea”. However, if your cat is experiencing diarrhea symptoms for longer than 48 hours, it is highly encouraged that you seek veterinary guidance. Henceforth, longer bouts of cat diarrhea are known as “chronic diarrhea”.

Cat Diarrhea – A Symptom, Not a Disease

It is important to note, cat diarrhea itself is not considered a disease. Interestingly enough, cat diarrhea is actually more a symptom of another disease or ailment. However, that is not to say if your feline friend is suffering from diarrhea they are in fact sick with some untreatable disease. In fact, more than likely, your cat simply ate something that didn’t agree with their tummy (just like us humans). Nevertheless, it is important to keep an eye on your cat’s condition if they are suffering from an extended episode of cat diarrhea.

What Causes Diarrhea in Cats

As always, it is our goal here at SimpleWag to treat the underlying cause of your pet’s issues. That is to say, we encourage a fully informed approach to pet wellness, so you do not simply put a band-aid on a deep cut, so to speak. With that being said, cat diarrhea is often caused by a fleeting stomach bug or a bout of food poisoning. However, sometimes cat diarrhea can be a symptom of a bigger issue. Let’s dive into a comprehensive list of possible causes of cat diarrhea, shall we?

Changes in Diet

As cat owners, we all know how picky our furry friends can be. In that case, we often seek out new foods to keep our cat’s diet up to their high standards. However, sometimes new foods do not agree with our cat’s delicate stomachs. When switching foods, it is important to introduce the new brand into your cat’s diet slowly. You can easily do this by mixing small portions of the new food in with some of the old food, and slowly working out any of the old food.

Furthermore, changing your cat’s protein source regularly is actually incredibly healthy for your cat. When done correctly (i.e. slowly), introducing new foods can help prevent inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, preventing vomiting, cat diarrhea, and various other undesirable tummy issues.

Poor Food Selection

A healthy cat starts from the inside out. So naturally, an organic, all-natural diet is paramount. Unfortunately, many store-bought cat foods are considered not safe for human consumption. In other words, these cat foods are legally allowed to have traces of animal skin, hooves, eyes, and bird feathers and beaks. Companies pass this off as being “protein” and call it a day. However, these unsavory ingredients can actually cause immense trauma to your cat’s delicate stomach. Any food considered unsafe for humans should most certainly not be safe for cats.

For this reason, it is recommended that you incorporate only all-natural, organic foods into your cat’s diet. Be sure to thoroughly read the ingredients, and know what is in the products you are feeding your feline friend. Furthermore, if you wish to embody a truly holistic approach to feline wellness, we advise a raw foods diet. Fortunately, with the rise of holistic health, there are dozens of reputable brands selling healthy, raw cat food. Moreover, you can go above an beyond and make your own raw cat food at home!

Getting into Spoiled Food

Cats are natural born hunters, so it is not unusual to find them scavenging in the trash can. However, if they manage to get their paws on days-old discarded food, it is very likely it will disagree with their delicate stomachs. Un-refrigerated food often spoils quickly and is host to many unsavory bacterias. Therefore, it is vital you keep your trash can covered or locked away in a cabinet to prevent unwanted cat scavenging.

Feline Allergies

Cats, like humans as well as canines, can develop a slew of allergies. Often times, in the case of diarrhea as a symptom, food allergies or intolerances are the likely culprits. As previously mentioned, changes in your cat’s protein source regularly can help regulate gut health. Correspondingly, too much of the same protein source can actually cause your cat to develop a food allergy to that over-consumed protein.

Feline allergies can be a problem in their own right, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms. When assessing whether or not allergies are an issue for your cat, you should look for:

  • Itchy skin/excessive scratching
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy, runny eyes

If you find that allergies are the cause of your cat’s diarrhea, it is important to know the source of the allergies. Note any changes in your cat’s diet and general environment and visit your trusted vet to determine the best path of treatment for your cat’s special needs.

Milk – A Surprising Enemy of Cats

Despite what we see in animated movies and cute internet videos, milk is actually not good for cats. To be specific, cow’s milk is unhealthy for cats. In fact, humans are the only mammals that drink the milk of another species. Milk is an essential element to mammalian development; however, the milk must be from the same species. Consequently, cats do not have the proper stomach enzymes to properly break down the sugars in cow’s milk. Therefore, milk can be detrimental to your cats gut health and cause adverse effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.

milk for cats

Viral and Bacterial Infection

Clearly, we have established that food is a common cause of cat diarrhea. However, that is only one cause of feline stomach issues. More common amongst younger cats, viral and bacterial infections can sometimes be the cause of diarrhea. Bacteria are necessary to regulate digestive health. However, too much bacteria in the small intestine can lead to gastrointestinal distress resulting in vomiting and acute diarrhea. Some bacterial infections can be battled internally and clear up on their own in about a week. Be that as it may, it is important to keep a weathered eye on your cat’s symptoms and seek medical aid if need be.

Viral infections, on the other hand, can be more serious and typically need medicinal aid in order to clear out of your cat’s system. Both bacterial and viral infections can cause rapid weight loss and excessive dehydration. Either way, if you suspect an infection is the root of your cat’s internal issues, it is best to seek the guidance of your veterinarian.


Often a result of contaminated food or water, cats can acquire a host of unwelcomed intestinal parasites. Common internal parasites amongst cats include but are not limited to: roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, toxoplasma, whipworms, and giardia. It is important to note that hosting a parasite weakens the immune system, and often leads to contraction of viral and/or bacterial infection. Furthermore, certain parasites found in cats can actually be passed onto humans. So how do you know if your cat is indeed the carting around an uninvited parasitic guest? Look for the following symptoms:

  • Dull Coat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Mucousy or bloody feces
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Potbellied appearance

If you observe any of the above symptoms on your cat, seek veterinary aid immediately as medicinal measures may be necessary. Likewise, you yourself may want to visit the doctor if parasites are the cause of your cat’s displeasure.

Liver or Kidney Disease

Every organ in your cat’s body has an important purpose. The liver and the kidney are no exception and are arguably two of the most important organs. Both are responsible for filtering toxins and maintaining overall homeostasis in the body. Diarrhea is often one of the first signs that something is wrong with this filtration system. However, diarrhea alone is not enough to assess liver or kidney damage, further medical tests are required to determine any likelihood of disease brewing. Like with any diagnosis, timing is imperative. So, be sure to consult your vet if your cat is experiencing an extended battle with diarrhea.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD, also known as “Inflammatory Bowel Disease”, is actually an umbrella term for a host of gastrointestinal ailments. Diseases such as pancreatitis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, and enteritis are all IBD’s. The consistent symptom amongst inflammatory bowel diseases is right there in the name, “inflammation”. Consequently, chronic inflammation can lead to more severe intestinal conditions such as lymphoma and various GI cancers.

Lest we remind you, cats with diarrhea are not all fated to be cancer patients. In fact, more than likely, it is an unpleasant phase that will pass. However, if your cat is experiencing a long battle with diarrhea (i.e. over 48 hours), it is of the utmost importance to seek immediate veterinary guidance.

Possible Poisoning

Notably curious creatures, sometimes cats can get into certain poisonous or toxic items. Typically, one might think household bleaches and cleaners are the more likely toxins affecting cats. When in fact, the most common cause of poisoning amongst felines is actually ingesting toxic plants. All cleaners, pesticides, and poisonous plants should be kept safely away from your kitty, or better yet, out of the house entirely.

It is important to note, there is no one set of symptoms that can prove your cat has been poisoned.

toxicity can cause cat diarrhea

However, here are some symptoms you can look out for if you suspect your cat has come in contact with harmful toxins:

  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or general weakness
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Pale or yellowish gums
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

The smallest about of harmful toxins in your cat’s system can prove deadly, so if you suspect poisoning call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435 right away. Remain calm and focused while the certified technician talks you through how to help your cat pass the poison.

Cat Diarrhea Symptoms 

Admittedly, it is a pretty obvious mess if your cat is suffering from diarrhea. However, there are a number of symptoms typically associated with cat diarrhea you can look out for. Symptoms include:

  • Runny or watery feces
  • Excessive “trips to the litter box”
  • Bathroom accidents
  • Bloody or mucousy feces
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fever
  • Weakness and lethargy

As previously established in this article, there are a number of causes that lead to cat diarrhea. Therefore, it is vital to accurately note your cat’s specific symptoms paired with their frequency and duration. Accordingly, your vet will be able to make the most accurate diagnoses and provide the most effective treatment.

How To Stop Diarrhea in Cats at Home

You know the symptoms, you have cleaned up the many messes, and you and your cat are ready for some relief. So, how do you stop diarrhea in cats? Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can treat diarrhea from the comfort of your own home.

Switch up your Cat’s Diet

As previously determined, oftentimes diarrhea is a result of unagreeable foods in your cat’s diet. Sometimes, this happens suddenly with a food they have eaten for years. In this case, you may want to throw out your current batch and try a new bag or can of that same food. Perhaps that batch was contaminated. Furthermore, like humans, sometimes cats develop new allergies later in life. Conceivably, your feline is now allergic to one or more ingredients in their regular food. On the contrary, it may be a good idea to try something new and switch up your cat’s primary protein source.

Another key point, you must resist the urge to withhold food from your cat. Doing so can actually harm their intestinal tract further, putting your beloved cat at risk of hepatic lipidosis, a fatal brand of liver disease. Instead, focus on simplifying their diet and removing any treats or table scraps from the picture.


Fortunately, many cat foods are made specifically for those cats with sensitive stomachs. Typically, you will see the words “highly digestible” (aka low-fiber) on the packaging. These products are easier for your cat to digest and are less likely to aggravate their sensitive bowels.

On the other side of things, some cats having trouble producing firm stool may benefit from more fiber intake. The most common ways to introduce fiber-rich supplements into your cat’s diet are with psyllium (aka Metamucil) or canned pumpkin. As with any new element to your pet’s diet, it is important to introduce it slowly, especially if and when your cat is suffering from tummy issues. It is recommended you start by mixing one tablespoon into their regular food daily and working your way up to two tablespoons.

Supplement Water and Electrolyte Intake

Diarrhea is in no way an enjoyable experience, for you or your cat. However, did you know that is incredibly taxing on the body? Namely, diarrhea generally leads to excessive dehydration. There are several ways you can proactively combat the unsavory effects of dehydration. First of all, you need to keep their water bowl full of clean, fresh water. You may even want to consider adding a second bowl to encourage more drinking. Furthermore, if your cat eats dry food, you can add a couple of tablespoons of warm water to their food or opt for a canned wet food to encourage easy hydration.

electrolytes and cats


As with humans, cats need healthy bacterias in their intestinal tract to maintain optimal digestion. With perfect health, comes natural homeostasis in the body and organic production of said “good” bacterias. However, diarrhea can rob the gut of the important bacterias needed for ideal functioning. Therefore, sometimes a third party is needed to fill this bacterial void. Enter: probiotics.

As with any product, you need to slowly and thoughtfully introduce probiotics into your cat’s diet. Especially if their body is weakened from any sort of sickness. Once their body has healed, probiotics can be a great addition to your cat’s regular wellness plan. Probiotics promote general gut health, and can even help prevent further issues with diarrhea. However, be warned that not all probiotics are created equal. It is very important to implement probiotics made from a reputable company made specifically for cats. You can find a couple of recommended supplements and learn more about probiotics on Conscious Cat.

Anti-Diarrhea Medication

Finally, if the above measures do not prove effective for you and your feline friend, there are medicines to treat diarrhea. However, we urge you to avoid any medications unless under vet supervision and absolutely necessary. Many anti-diarrhea medications can be fatal to cats or cause more side-effects than benefits. Furthermore, many medications are changing their formulas and adding ingredients that are unsafe for animals. For this reason, we prefer to stick to a natural, holistic approach to pet health.

happy cat

Time To Go To The Vet

Understandably so, you may be a little overwhelmed with the information in this article. However, our intention is in no way to scare you into thinking any little symptom in your cat points to cancer like some internet rabbit holes will lead you to believe. More than likely, your cat’s diarrhea is a blip and will pass quickly. However, in the event their diarrhea is a sign of something more serious, it is important to know when to seek medical aid. Here are some questions to help you decide if a veterinarian is necessary.

  1. Is your cat on the older side?
  2. Does your cat have preexisting health conditions?
  3. Is your cat vomiting, lethargic, or experiencing pain?
  4. Has your cat been experiencing diarrhea for an excess of 48 hours?
  5. Is your cat’s feces black or tarry?

If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, it is time to visit the vet. If you answered “yes” to number five, it is vital that you seek medical aid immediately. Black or tarry feces is a symptom of internal bleeding, which is incredibly dangerous.

Cat Diarrhea: A Final Thought 

We all want what is best for our four-legged friends at the end of the day. In the case of unpleasant tummy issues like diarrhea, it is vital to understand what is causing the issue in order to know how to best treat it. Fortunately, with the help of this article and your endless love, your precious cat is on it’s way to optimal health, both inside and out.


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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

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