How Often Should Cats Poop? (Keeping it Regular)


Updated: December 15, 2023

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Many cat owners share a common concern about comprehending their feline companion’s behavior in the litter box, particularly when it comes to the frequency of bowel movements. Although the answer may vary, a general rule of thumb suggests that a healthy adult cat typically has one bowel movement per day.

A normal bowel movement for a cat should exhibit a brown color, firm consistency (without being excessively hard), and should be passed without any signs of struggle or discomfort. Various factors can influence a cat’s bowel habits, such as:

Age of the cat
Composition of the cat’s diet
Frequency of feeding
Activity level of the cat
Any underlying medical conditions affecting gut health and motility
Presence of medications the cat may be taking

If there are persistent changes in the cat’s regular defecation pattern lasting more than a couple of days, it is recommended to seek advice from a veterinarian. This step ensures that any variations are not indicative of underlying health issues.

Read also: How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats

Red Flags in the Litter Box

Certain variations demand prompt veterinary intervention, as they may signal more significant issues within the cat’s bodily systems and could be associated with potentially fatal conditions. Stay vigilant for these indicators while cleaning the litter box or observing the feline during their daily activities.

Blood in the Stool

Detecting blood in the stool can be challenging, depending on its origin. If the blood comes from the large intestine or rectal area, it will appear bright red and be relatively easy to identify. On the other hand, blood originating from higher up in the intestinal tract will likely be brown or black.

Various factors, including diarrhea and constipation, can lead to blood in a cat’s defecation. Other potential causes encompass inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerance following a dietary change, infections such as Giardia or other intestinal parasites, trauma or abscesses, anal gland abscesses, idiopathic feline megacolon, rectal tumors or polyps, exposure to toxins or poisons, and even cancer.

When bloody stool is observed, it is crucial to collect a sample and take both the sample and the affected cat to the veterinarian for thorough testing and evaluation.

Straining to Urinate

If you observe your cat exerting excessive force or straining in the litter box, confirm that the effort is related to a bowel movement rather than urination. A cat experiencing difficulty urinating is facing a critical situation with a limited lifespan. Immediately seek veterinary assistance in such cases.

Prolonged Constipation

Occasional and brief episodes of constipation are generally not a cause for concern. However, persistent constipation requires veterinary attention. Look for signs such as infrequent or complete absence of defecation, straining during attempts to defecate, dry and hard feces, instances of defecating outside the litter box, small quantities of feces, liquid feces with blood or mucus, loss of appetite, and potential vomiting. If any of these symptoms persist, consult a veterinarian.

Helping in the Litter Box

Occasionally, a dedicated cat owner may face the dilemma of whether to assist their feline companion with litter box issues, whether it’s related to constipation or the presence of a string, thread, or other dangling object with the fecal matter. The decision on whether or not to intervene can vary.

Enemas – Do Not Try This at Home

Certain individuals may choose to handle the situation by attempting to administer an enema to their feline companion. This is strongly discouraged. Not only can such attempts result in injuries to your face and arms from the frightened and indignant claws of your cat, but there is also a risk of causing harm that could potentially be fatal.

String in the Stool – Should You Pull?

Cats are naturally attracted to stringy objects like yarn, string, dental floss, Christmas tree tinsel, ribbon, and similar items. When such an object has passed through the cat’s digestive system and is visible during a bowel movement, the question arises whether a responsible cat owner should assist by pulling.

It is acceptable to attempt a very gentle pull. If the object comes free easily, the problem is likely resolved. However, if there is resistance or if the object doesn’t come out, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian.

The risk of pulling too much or too forcefully is that the stringy object may be entangled around part of the digestive system or embedded in the lining of the cat’s intestines. Persisting with pulling when there is resistance can lead to intestinal tears or damage to the rectum, potentially causing infection, pain, or leakage of intestinal content into the abdominal cavity. In such cases, professional veterinary intervention is essential.

Health Conditions

Various health conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, kidney disorders, and obstructions, can contribute to an increase or decrease in the frequency of bowel movements in cats.

These digestive factors share a commonality: they influence the balance of your cat’s gut microbiome. According to Matejka, “A cat’s microbiome consists of numerous microorganisms that assist in digestion, combat harmful pathogens, and maintain continuous communication with the brain.” She emphasizes that a healthy gut microbiome not only plays a role in regulating normal bowel movements but also contributes to overall health and disease prevention.

Basic Reasons the Stool Timing May Vary

Not every cat adheres to the average pattern of passing a bowel movement once a day. Various factors contribute to these variations, and if one or more of these potential reasons apply, there’s no immediate need for concern or a rush to the veterinarian.

Feline Age

The age of the cat significantly influences the frequency of bowel movements. Kittens, for instance, tend to defecate more frequently than adult cats. In fact, kittens often exhibit a bowel movement after each meal.

Activity Levels

The level of activity in cats is another determinant of bowel movement frequency. Highly active cats may pass bowel movements slightly more often than their sedentary counterparts. It’s worth noting that regular exercise can aid in alleviating constipation in cats. Cats that lean towards a more relaxed lifestyle, with an inclination for napping over vigorous activity, may not adhere to the average of one bowel movement per day. However, this is generally not a cause for alarm.

Dietary Factors

The composition of a cat’s diet also influences its frequency of visiting the litter box for a bowel movement. Cats primarily consuming dry food tend to have less frequent bowel movements compared to those on a predominantly wet food diet. Felines with a mixed diet, incorporating both dry and wet food, are more likely to defecate on a daily basis.

Medical Considerations

Various underlying health conditions can affect the frequency of a cat’s bowel movements. These may include the presence of parasites such as intestinal worms, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney disease, or pain stemming from different sources. Numerous other health conditions can contribute to deviations from the average frequency of bowel movements.

Medications

Certain supplements or medications can influence the speed at which food moves through the digestive system. Gut motility is often affected by specific pain medications, among others. It’s important to be aware of how medications may impact a cat’s digestive processes.

What if my cat has diarrhea?

While cat diarrhea is not uncommon, it should not be overlooked. Diarrhea in kittens and senior cats is of particular concern, as they are more susceptible to dehydration. Any instance of diarrhea lasting longer than 48 hours in any cat should prompt a visit to the vet.

Several factors can cause diarrhea in cats, including:

Food intolerances or allergies (cats generally do not tolerate dairy, for instance)
Ingestion of toxic substances (plants, herbs, garlic, onions, etc.)
Inflammatory bowel disease
Gastrointestinal worms
Pancreatitis
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
Colitis
Lymphoma

Understanding the specific cause is crucial for appropriate and timely treatment. If diarrhea persists, seeking professional veterinary advice is essential.

Feline Digestive System

A cat’s digestive system encompasses all the organs involved in the processing and assimilation of food. The sequence starts with the cat’s mouth and extends to include the anus, rectum, intestines, liver, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus, without a specific order. The digestive process initiates as the cat takes food into its mouth and begins the process of chewing.

During chewing, saliva enzymes initiate the chemical breakdown of food. This process continues with the swallowing of the food, followed by further breakdown in the cat’s stomach, nutritional absorption in the intestines, and ultimately the elimination of waste through defecation. Digestion is not only crucial for providing nutrients but also plays a vital role in maintaining the optimal balance of electrolytes, salts, and fluids in the cat’s body.

Proper Appearance of Feline Poop

A healthy cat’s bowel movements share certain characteristics. Firstly, the color should range from tan to deep brown. The consistency is typically firm but not excessively hard, avoiding a mushy or runny texture. While a mild odor is normal, it should not be overwhelmingly foul.

Treating Constipation

If your cat is facing constipation, there are a few home remedies you can try before considering a visit to the veterinarian. First, ensure your cat has ample opportunities for exercise by engaging in playtime and allowing the cat to exert itself. Another solution is to add some fiber to the cat’s diet, and canned pumpkin is a recommended option that a veterinarian might suggest before resorting to more aggressive measures like laxatives.

Treating Diarrhea

In the case of diarrhea, a home remedy involves incorporating fiber into the cat’s diet to address the uncomfortable, messy, and odorous condition. However, in this scenario, the solution is to transition to a low-fiber diet. It is essential not to withhold food from the cat but rather consider changing its food. Always promote the consumption of ample water and electrolytes.

The frequency of a cat’s defecation and the condition of its stool can provide valuable insights into the cat’s health. Regular cleaning of the litter box not only helps monitor changes in the cat’s health but also encourages the cat to use the box consistently. Any significant or persistent changes, especially those lasting several days, should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Why is diarrhea more concerning in kittens and senior cats?

particular concern in these age groups.

When should I seek veterinary attention for cat diarrhea?

Any instance of diarrhea lasting longer than 48 hours in any cat should prompt a visit to the vet.

What are the common causes of cat diarrhea?

Several factors can cause diarrhea, including food intolerances or allergies, ingestion of toxic substances, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal worms, pancreatitis, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), colitis, and lymphoma.

Are there specific food items that can cause diarrhea in cats?

Yes, cats generally do not tolerate dairy, and it can be a cause of diarrhea.

What are examples of toxic substances for cats?

Toxic substances include plants, herbs, garlic, onions, and others.

Conclusion

While cat diarrhea is a relatively common issue, it should not be overlooked, especially in kittens and senior cats who are more vulnerable to dehydration. Any instance of diarrhea persisting beyond 48 hours in any cat warrants a visit to the veterinarian. Various factors, such as food intolerances, ingestion of toxic substances, and underlying medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal worms, can contribute to diarrhea.

Recognizing the specific cause is crucial for effective and timely treatment. Monitoring the cat’s diet, avoiding potential toxic substances, and seeking professional veterinary advice when needed are essential steps in ensuring the health and well-being of our feline companions. If diarrhea persists, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian to identify and address the root cause of the issue.


Michael R

Michael R

I'm a publisher and editor at Cat Guide 101. I imagine that since you’re here, you likely own a cat — or two! — so helping you better understand them is my aim. I'd like to invite you to check out our about page to learn more about the Cat Guide 101 story.

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