If your cat has diarrhea, you need to find out the cause so you can ease your cat’s discomfort. Quickly schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss this issue.

Your veterinarian will need to examine your cat and analyze a sample of the diarrhea. There are many potential causes for diarrhea in cats. So, your veterinarian will ask you about your cat’s history, diet, and the appearance of the stool to help determine the cause of the diarrhea. Your knowledge of your cat’s normal bathroom behaviors are very important.

Changing your cat’s diet to end your cat’s diarrhea or using over-the-counter medications you may cause more problems for your kitty. It is always best to consult with your veterinarian so you can make the best decision for your cat.

Diarrhea in Cats is NOT NORMAL

  • Normally, cats will have 1-2 bowel movements a day. These should be formed (have a stool shape) and appear moist. If this is not normal for your cat, it could be a sign of disease.
  • Diarrhea can be a softened, but formed stool; watery, liquid stool; or somewhere in between.
  • The occasional tummy upset may occur from a food change or dietary indiscretion and this may lead to a one-time soft stool. If there is no obvious simple cause for the diarrhea or if the soft stool occurs more than once, you should speak with your veterinarian.

Know What Is Normal for Your Cat

  • Know or learn your cat’s regular routines. Understand what is normal in his or her day-to-day activities. This is a critical part of making sure your cat stays healthy. It allows you to identify problems before they become advanced.
  • When you scoop your cat’s litter box (one or two times each day), take a moment to be aware of your cat’s normal bathroom behaviors. This allows you to be able to recognize changes early.

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  • Be as detailed as possible about the color, consistency, and odor of the stool. This is helpful information for your veterinarian.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a photo. A picture in this case can really be worth a thousand words.
  • Your cat’s veterinarian will want to know if your cat is having more frequent bowel movements, if the volumes are larger or smaller than normal, if your cat is straining while passing the stool, and whether you have observed fresh (red) blood or mucus.
  • When you call to make your appointment, ask if they want a stool sample and specific directions on how to collect and store the sample for the appointment. Having a stool sample can simplify the diagnostic process and lead to a targeted treatment for your cat’s specific issue.
  • Your veterinarian may want to do blood work, so ask if your cat needs to fast before the appointment.

Possible Causes

  • Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and/or tapeworms can cause diarrhea in cats.  Whether your cat stays indoors or goes outside, intestinal parasites are a real risk. Indoor cats may have intestinal parasites in their system from when they were young or they can get infected by exposure to parasite eggs in contaminated materials.
  • If your cat goes outside, he or she will be exposed to a wide variety of parasites through contact with parasite eggs in the environment or by hunting and consuming wildlife.
  • Kittens can develop infections with roundworms, the most common intestinal parasite, when they  nurse from their mother. Deworming treatments as a kitten may not prevent reinfection, and adult cats can have persistent infections.
  • Indoor cats may be exposed to parasites when they eat contaminated food, by ingesting parasite eggs through grooming, or exposure to infectious feces. Cats can also be at risk when they socialize with other animals, including both cats and dogs.
  • Elimination of intestinal parasites should be done under the direction of your veterinarian, who can prescribe safe and effective treatments. Over-the-counter medications are not recommended.
  • Other health conditions that can cause diarrhea in cats include bacterial infections, viral infections, and infections with protozoal organisms such as Giardia.
  • Dietary sensitivities and dietary imbalances may cause diarrhea.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease and a lack of digestive enzymes can lead to diarrhea in cats.

What Should You Do?

  • Treatment for diarrhea should not be attempted at home. Always talk with your veterinarian to ensure your cat receives proper treatment.
  • Over-the-counter medications and so-called ‘natural’ substances used by humans with diarrhea may be toxic or dangerous for your cat.
  • It might be tempting to try to change your cat’s diet as a way to resolve the diarrhea, but this is not recommended. Even if a food change resolves the current issue, it does not mean the underlying problem has gone away. You could be delaying a diagnosis and proper treatment for your cat.
  • Your veterinarian will need to work through a list of possible causes by examining your cat and pursuing various diagnostic tests. The earlier that this process is started, the better the outcome for your cat.