Looking for remedies for constipation in cats? You're not alone. Most cat owners will at some point have to deal with this common ailment. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your furry friend get relief. In this post, we'll discuss some of the causes of constipation in cats, as well as some of the best ways to remedy the problem. So please keep reading for helpful tips and advice!

What are the common causes of constipation in cats?

There are numerous reasons why a cat might become constipated. Anything that hinders the movement of feces through the colon can cause constipation. The most common causes of constipation in cats include:

  • Megacolon - This is a condition in which the colon becomes excessively large and/or flaccid. Idiopathic megacolon is the most common form.
  • Dehydration - A lack of water in the body can make it difficult for stool to move through the digestive tract.
  • Obesity - Excess weight can make it harder for cats to defecate properly.
  • Improper diet - Interestingly, increased levels of water-insoluble fiber can cause constipation in some cats.
  • Lack of exercise - Lack of physical activity can make it more difficult for the bowels to function correctly.
  • Painful conditions such as arthritis - If a cat is in pain, it may be less likely to defecate.
  • Endocrinopathies such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism - These conditions can affect the functions of the colon and contribute to dry feces which makes it more difficult to defecate.
  • Chronic renal disease - This condition can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to constipation. Also, cats with this condition frequently have low potassium levels (hypokalemia) which can cause muscle weakness, including in the colon.
  • Excessive grooming and therefore ingestion of hair - Cats who groom themselves frequently can ingest a lot of hair, which can form clumps in the intestine and cause constipation.

Why is constipation a problem for cats?

Constipation can cause a lot of discomfort for cats. When stool becomes backed up in the colon, it can stretch the colon and rectum, causing pain. Furthermore, if the fecal matter is not passed, it becomes extremely dry and desiccated. This drying makes passage even more difficult and increases the likelihood of obstruction of the colon and rectum. Hardened fecal matter can damage the colonic mucosa, with subsequent secretion of fluid from the colon.

Constipation in cats can lead to the absorption of toxic intestinal products and these products, if not detoxified adequately by the liver or excreted, can result in anorexia, weakness, vomiting, and systemic signs of toxicity. While peristaltic contractions may increase during constipation they eventually decrease because of smooth muscle degeneration from overdistension.

What are the remedies for constipation in cats?

If your cat is constipated, the severity will dictate what kind of treatment they need. If possible, your veterinarian should try to identify and treat the underlying cause. Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend rehydration if dehydration has contributed to constipation. In severe cases, where there are metabolic abnormalities, hospitalization may be required so that these can be corrected and impacted feces removed in order to reduce stress on the bowel wall.

Enema treatments for constipation in cats

Enemas are one of the remedies for constipation in cats and are when a liquid is inserted into the rectum in order to expel feces. Enemas should be performed slowly to avoid vomiting and colonic perforation and to give the fecal mass more time to soften.

The most common enema used by veterinarians is warm water mixed with a water-based lubricating gel. The water will help to soften the stool and make it easier for your cat to defecate. The lubricating gel will help to decrease the irritation caused by the enema.

Laxative remedies for constipation in cats

Laxatives should only be given to cats that are well-hydrated, as they can cause dehydration by inhibiting water absorption in the colon.

  1. Lubricant laxatives: They work by encouraging the passage of feces. Examples include white petrolatum, mineral oil, and liquid paraffin. These laxatives may be helpful for mild constipation as a short-term treatment option. However, they interfere with the absorption of nutrients when used long-term because they coat the intestine and prevent nutrient absorption. Additionally, because there is a risk of aspiration with mineral oil and liquid paraffin, their use is limited to rectal administration only.
  2. Emollient laxatives: These laxatives work by promoting the retention of water within the feces. An example of an emollient laxative is docusate sodium (DSS).
  3. Osmotic laxatives: Osmotic laxatives are a type of laxative that works by drawing water into the colon, which helps to soften the stool and make it easier to pass. Osmotic laxatives are generally considered safe for long-term use. Lactulose and Miralax® (polyethylene glycol 3350) are two examples of osmotic laxatives that are commonly used in cats.
  4. Stimulant laxatives: Stimulant laxatives work by increasing the contractions of the colonic muscles, which helps to move stool through the colon and out of the body. Stimulant laxatives are typically only used for severe constipation that doesn't respond to other treatments.

Supportive remedies for constipation in cats

Dietary fiber supplements can help reduce the frequency of constipation episodes. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are beneficial; soluble fiber is metabolized by colonic bacteria and provides nutrients for gastrointestinal cells, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to feces and encourages movement through the intestines. Some common options for dietary supplementation include psyllium husks (Metamucil®) or wheat bran, both of which should be taken 1-2 times per day and mixed with food. Canned pumpkin can also be used but isn't as effective as either wheat bran or psyllium husks. For cats specifically, there is a dry diet available from Royal Canin (Fiber Response™) that is enriched with psyllium and has been shown to manage constipation effectively.

Prokinetic drugs can be used to help with chronic constipation, though they should not be used in cats who have gastrointestinal obstruction. Some prokinetic agents that work by affecting colonic motility include cisapride and ranitidine. In one study, mosapride citrate was found to effectively prevent recurrent constipation when used as a single treatment.

While probiotics and prebiotics can be helpful for chronic constipation, synbiotics may be even more effective. One study showed that the use of a multi-strain probiotic resulted in clinical improvement in cats with chronic constipation and megacolon.

In conclusion, there are many remedies for constipation in cats, and the best course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of constipation. Dietary fibre supplements, prokinetic drugs, and probiotics/prebiotics are all options that may be helpful in managing chronic constipation. Additionally, promoting water consumption by feeding canned diets or utilizing a running water fountain may help to reduce the incidence of constipation. For acute episodes of constipation, enemas or laxatives may be necessary. It is important to work with your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment for your cat.