Constipation can be very painful and frustrating to felines.
Constipation in felines is fairly common when there has been a change of diet or a period of excessive shedding, resulting in excess hair buildup in the stomach and intestines after grooming. Another common cause is a change in the cat’s environment, such as a new pet being introduced into the household, moving or the loss of a family member. The use of certain medications, the presence of parasites or a blockage of undigested food remnants in the case of outdoor cats may also cause constipation.
Bowel movements should be monitored closely as constipation can become a very serious illness if not treated promptly. Symptoms that cats demonstrate when suffering from constipation often involve straining and difficulty when using the litter box. Cats tend to vocalize pain and will produce very loud and obviously agonizing wails of pain while attempting to eliminate feces when constipated. Stools will have a hard dry appearance and may be smaller than they usually are. Other signs of constipation to look for are loss of appetite, lethargy and defecating in inappropriate areas.
Problems resulting from untreated constipation may include potentially fatal fecal impactions or a condition known as megacolon, which involves severe damage of the colon resulting in a permanent inability to pass feces. With megacolon, the colon becomes stretched and will not contract properly. At this point, you will require the services of a licensed veterinarian to sedate the cat and give an enema. Chemical drugs and surgery will also be necessary in most cases if your cat is suffering from this condition.
In order to fully treat your cat, certain goals should be met for complete recovery and future protection from recurrence. Soothing and healing the colon and intestines as well as reducing inflammation are both important to focus on. Promoting the reestablishment of normal digestive flora is also extremely crucial. This is accomplished by adding fiber and helpful bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (found in most unsweetened yogurts) to your cat’s daily diet, according to Dr. Kidd in his book entitled “Herbal Cat Care”. He also recommends that cat owners concentrate on reducing internal yeasts by giving Oregon grape root and to boost the immune system and digestive functions of the body with echinacea and turmeric.
Some basic natural remedies for feline constipation include canned unsweetened pumpkin, slippery elm, oats, and flax or chia seeds. Many vets also recommend changing the food you give your cat to a low-residue diet to promote easy digestion, brushing your cat regularly, keeping your cat active and maintaining a clean litter box. Some owners may also find it helpful to purchase an automated self-cleaning litter box for this purpose.
When giving your cat canned pumpkin to increase dietary fiber, the proper dosage is 1 tbsp. added to the cat food daily until symptoms resolve. Cats tend to enjoy eating pumpkin as a treat so this is usually a very popular method used by cat owners to boost fiber. Dr. Kidd strongly advises cat owners to use slippery elm to treat constipation. He suggests ½ tsp. powdered herb mixed with ½ tsp. water per every 10 lbs. of body weight be given orally with a dropper five times a day. Oatmeal should be given in 1 tsp. increments per every 10 lbs. of body weight. The Oregon grape root and echinacea are best given in the form of tea, added to dry food or water bowls. Turmeric may be sprinkled on top of food using one small pinch per feeding, this is also the same method for administering the chia or flax seeds.