Causes of Cat Diarrhea
Just as when it appears in humans, diarrhea in cats can be an alarming and deserves immediate attention. Below are a few causes of cat diarrhea, steps you should take when your cat has diarrhea, as well as some treatments and prevention strategies.
Causes of Cat Diarrhea
There several possible reasons for cat diarrhea, some more serious than others:
- Diet – changes in diet, dairy or food intolerance, spoiled food, or allergies to food
- Parasites – roundworms, Giardia, coccidia, etc.
- Infection – viral or bacterial
- Disease – i.e. kidney, liver, inflammatory bowel, hyperthyroidism
- Some medications – i.e. antibiotics combined with probiotics can cause a reaction
- Cancer or tumors
These are some of the more serious causes of diarrhea that might require medication, but diarrhea could also be caused by small household dangers that you might be overlooking, for example:
- Plants – many plants with bulbs are dangerous to cats
- Flea treatment or flea collar
- Household chemicals – laundry detergent, cleaners, soaps
- Air fresheners
- New water bowls, food bowls or toys
- Algae buildup in water bowls
- Changes in cat litter
Determining the cause of your cat’s diarrhea is half the battle treating it. Always consult a vet first when dealing with cat diarrhea, but be ready to do some detective work of your own in case the cause is in your home.
What to Do When Your Cat Has Diarrhea
Call the Vet
If the diarrhea lasts for more than a day, the very first thing you should do is call your veterinarian, and be ready to give a detailed description of symptoms and timeline. Here are some questions your vet might ask you to help determine the cause of the diarrhea:
- When did the diarrhea start and how many bowel movements has your cat had?
- Does your cat appear to be in pain?
- Are the stools bloody, black or tarry?
- Is your cat exhibiting other symptoms like fever, vomiting, lethargy or dehydration?
- Is it possible that your cat ingested something poisonous?
- Are your cat’s gums yellow or pale?
- Are your cat’s vaccinations up to date?
If your cat is experiencing diarrhea, be ready to provide the vet with these answers when you call.
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Go to the Vet
The next step after calling your vet might be to make an appointment for further tests – note that if there is blood in your cat’s stool or they are exhibiting other serious symptoms, you should take them in to the vet immediately. The vet will take a number of steps to determine the cause and the best treatment for your kitty, including:
- asking you for details about your cat’s symptoms and medical history
- a physical exam
- a stool test
If this first round still doesn’t lead to a diagnosis, vets will use other testing methods, including:
- testing for parasites or bacterial infections
- blood tests
When you take your cat to the vet, be prepared to provide them with as much information as possible about symptoms, medical history and any possible sources of poisoning around your house. Do not give your pet any human medicines, unless specifically instructed by the vet.
Look for the Cause at Home
If your vet rules out serious diseases or infections, but the diarrhea persists, it’s time to start looking around your home for the culprit. Consider the list of household substances above that could cause diarrhea, and try rid your home of toxic chemicals that your cat might be exposed to – plug-in air fresheners, pesticides, harmful plants and other things that are close to the ground or within their reach.
Changes in your cat’s food and environment might also be the cause. Some cats experience diarrhea after a change in food brand, a move to a new city where food or water quality might be different or dairy in their diet. A change in litter can also be problematic if your cat is licking the residue off their paws and ingesting the litter. Other changes that could introduce something toxic include new food or water bowls or new toys.
One possible course of action is to “quarantine” your cat in a room with their food, water and litter box for a few days, sticking to basic food only. If the diarrhea stops, you know that it was caused by something your cat was getting into, and you can slowly reintroduce treats, toys and areas of the house to try and determine the cause by process of elimination.
Treatments & Prevention
Once you have determined the cause, your vet can recommend a course of treatment. Some common treatments include the following:
- temporarily withholding food
- diet change – temporary or permanent
- IV fluids for dehydration
- other medications
Some pet owners also recommend the home remedy of mixing a little pumpkin into wet food.
To prevent diarrhea, do a safety check of your house to make sure your pet isn’t coming into contact with dangerous plants, chemicals or other toxic household substances. In order to help prevent food-related diarrhea when switching foods, veterinarians recommend slowly mixing the new food in with the old to avoid shocking your cat’s digestive system.
Cat diarrhea can occur for any number of reasons, and your vet should be your go-to source of information if it appears, but remember that you can protect your pets from many possible causes of diarrhea by making sure that your household is free of toxic substances that could mess with a cat’s digestive system.
What are the reasons your cat has experienced diarrhea? What course of treatment worked? What toxic household substances or items do you avoid? Let us know!
In my home, if I know I haven’t added anything crazy new or different and if I know the cats haven’t been exposed to something else, I usually try feline probiotics on them to see if that will get rid of the diarrhea. They work 99% of the time.