Dealing with Diarrhea in Cats

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Guest Post by Lorie Huston, DVM

Diarrhea is not an uncommon complaint for our feline friends. Symptoms can range from mild and self-limiting to extreme and life-threatening, depending on the cause and the severity of the diarrhea.

Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

Diarrhea can have many different causes. Intestinal upset from dietary indiscretion is not unusual. Parasites are a common cause as well. Chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, and others are not unknown, particularly in mature or senior cats. Diarrhea can also be secondary to diseases in organ systems other than the gastrointestinal tract. Diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and many others can result in diarrhea as part of the clinical presentation.

Treating Feline Diarrhea

What should you do if your cat has diarrhea? Keep in mind that diarrhea, particularly if severe and/or long lasting, can result in dehydration for your cat. If your cat is experiencing explosive diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or is acting abnormal in other ways (vomiting, not eating, depressed), consult with your veterinarian. Diarrhea can be especially dangerous for young kittens.

If the diarrhea is mild and your cat seems normal otherwise, you can try treating your cat at home. Try starting your cat on a bland diet. Lean hamburger (with the fat drained) mixed with rice can be tried. Use a mixture of one part hamburger to two parts rice and offer small amounts every few hours. Chicken (broiled with the skin removed and shredded) can be substituted for the hamburger if you prefer. This diet is not a balanced diet for your cat and should not be fed on a long-term basis. However, it may be successful in controlling diarrhea in the short-term.

Once your cat is moving his bowels normally again, a gradual transition back to his normal diet is in order. Plan to transition your cat back to his regular diet over the span of at least a week to avoid a recurrence of diarrhea as a result of the change in diet.

Probiotics are also useful in controlling diarrhea in cats. Probiotics work by enhancing the “good” bacteria in the intestinal tract, allowing these bacteria to outcompete any pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. Probiotics specifically formulated for cats are preferable as the flora in the feline intestinal tract differs from that found in other species. Fortiflora is a probiotic that I’ve used with good success in cats. There are other probiotics brands available as well. These products are usually added to your cat’s food or given by mouth. Keep feeding the probiotic until your cat’s bowels are normal again and he is eating his regular diet normally.

Check Your Cat for Parasites

Consider having your veterinarian check your cat’s feces for parasites. Even indoor cats can acquire some types of parasites and you won’t always know these parasites are present without a fecal examination.

Consult Your Veterinarian If…

If your cat’s diarrhea persists for more than a day or two, a visit with your veterinarian is in order. However, if your cat’s diarrhea is severe, it may be best not to wait. Also, if your cat is not eating, is vomiting, is acting lethargic, or other symptoms of the disease are present, you should consult your veterinarian at once. In addition, your cat will need to be examined by your veterinarian if the diarrhea is recurrent.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. cats, being obligate carnivores, should not be fed rice. When I have kitties at my house who have diarrhea – after they have been checked out to make sure there isn’t something going on like parasites – I will give them raw meat. I have had more than one kitty who had diarrhea so bad it was leaking out of them clear up in a day simply because they were fed a species appropriate diet.

    This “bland diet” mentioned above works very well in dogs, but cats are not small dogs. I am bothered that a vet would recommend an obligate carnivore be fed plant based ingredients.

    1. Agree completely. Cats are carnivores.

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