What is Diarrhoea?
There is nothing worse than THAT sound coming from the litter tray; followed by the pungent waft of toxic smelling gas that soon hits you as you realise “Uh-Oh, Kitty has a poorly tummy!”
Diarrhoea in cats is never fun, particularly if they are indoor pets; so… what causes it?
Diarrhoea is an increase in the frequency, volume or liquid content of your cats’ poo. Consistency can vary from soft to liquid/watery faeces. This can be lighter or darker than normal, and even green, red or yellow.
There are many reasons that your cat may be passing diarrhoea, and most of the time it is temporary and not indicative of any serious underlying condition. It may be down to something simple like diet change, food allergy or eating something rich that they shouldn’t have had.
There are two types of diarrhoea:
- Acute – this means that is comes on suddenly and usually short lived
- Chronic – More than 2-3 weeks in duration
It can be persistent (constant) or intermittent (it comes and goes).
It can be difficult to notice who has diarrhoea if you have a multi-cat household where your pets share a litter tray or if they go outside.
Keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Going outside to toilet more frequently
- Red, sore bottom
- Straining to pass faeces
- Using their litter tray regularly
- Excessive licking of their bottom
- A general foul odour on their fur, especially the back end
Diarrhoea in cats can occur for a wide variety of different reasons, and in chronic cases it is vital for your veterinary surgeon to find out the exact cause in order to determine the best treatment for your cat. Causes include:
- Abrupt change of diet or introduction of a new food without a gradual transition
- Food allergy or intolerance to a certain food ingredient
- Infectious agents (viruses, parasites or bacteria)
- Inflammatory bowel disease – an inflammation of the intestines associated with chronic diarrhoea
- Tumours of the bowel or other organs
- Disease affecting other parts of the body (e.g. thyroid, liver or pancreas) which in turn affect the intestinal tract
When to Contact Your Vet
If your cat appears well, a short period of diarrhoea (lasting less than 24hours) isn’t usually serious. However, if it continues for more that 24hours or is more severe (see below), dehydration can occur very quickly followed on by more serious illness. In cases of diarrhoea, you should always contact your vet.
Severe Diarrhoea symptoms can include:
- Extremely watery diarrhoea
- Diarrhoea that lasts on and off for two weeks or more
- Constant diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Medication induced diarrhoea – especially from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid treatment
- Eating less or not at all
- Drinking less
- Diarrhoea with vomiting
- If the cat is very young kitten) or very old (geriatric)
- Sleeping more than usually/Lethargy/Fatigue
- Painful abdomen
How to Look After Your Cat at Home
A mild case of diarrhoea should last no more than 24 hours.
If your cat has diarrhoea but is otherwise acting like their normal happy self and behaving normally, then you can look after them at home with these simple steps:
- Don’t withhold food from your cat. Cats can develop a serious complication called Hepatic Lipidosis (where the fat in the body is burned up and starts to affect the liver. Offer him/her small meals of fresh food regularly to keep their guts moving. Do not offer fatty foods – keep it plain and simple, like boiled chicken or white fish. Bland diets are also available from your vet. If your cat stops eating at any point, then take them to your vet!
- Gradually re-introduce their normal food once they are feeling better. Once they have passed a solid stool you can start to re-introduce their normal diet slowly mix with the boiled chicken/fish.
- Keep them hydrated at all times! Like us, cats lose water and electrolytes from the body when they pass diarrhoea, so it is extremely important that they have access to plenty of fresh water and you ensure that they drink throughout the day. Some cats prefer running water from a tap or a running fountain. If your cat stops drinking, then it’s time to see the vet!
- Rest! There’s nothing worse than having a poorly tummy, and you may find that your cat will want to sleep more than usual to recover. Let them sleep somewhere quiet and check them regularly. If they appear to be extremely tired, or not themselves, then make an appointment at your veterinary surgery.
- Probiotics are a friendly bacteria that may benefit your cat should they have diarrhoea. They work by topping up the good bacteria and absorb bad bacteria and toxins.