Kittens & Constipation

  • By:

    Dr. Linda Simon

    Dr. Linda Simon is a veterinary surgeon working with seven years of experience. She is a fellow of the British Veterinary Association and specializing in animal medicine. Also, she has been the Woman magazine resident vet for the past two years and writes a regular column for them, focusing on pets and their health.

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  • Updated on: 17/04/2020

constipation in kittens@domepitipat / Freepik

What causes constipation?

Constipation in young kittens is relatively uncommon, especially if their mother is healthy and they are nursing well. Naturally, a mother cat will lick their little one’s hind end to encourage them to pass both faeces and urine. If raising orphan kittens, it is very important to mimic this behaviour with some warm, wet cotton wool to prevent constipation from occurring. This must be done after every feed until they reach roughly three weeks of age.

Older kittens may develop constipation when weaned onto solid food or when their diet is changed. Constipation can also occur if dehydrated or if taking certain medicines.

How do I know if my kitten is constipated?

Signs of constipation are difficult to miss and include straining non-productively, vocalising when passing stool, passing small amounts of very firm stool or a failure to produce stool at all. In young kittens who don’t have a lot of body fat, you may even notice that their abdomen is bloated and tense. If you gently press the abdomen, you might be able to feel a lot of solid material and the kitten will act uncomfortable when being pressed.

In some instances, you may see some blood or mucus (stringy, slimy stuff) in the poo that is passed and the anus may appear red and swollen. Some kittens will lick their hind end due to the discomfort caused.

Those with more severe constipation may seem very under the weather, hideaway and go off their food.

What is a natural laxative for cats?

The safest ‘laxative’ is water. For many kitties, if we improve their hydration levels, they will pass softer stool and their constipation will ease. This may mean adding warm water to their food or even gently syringing some water into their mouth. Once weaned, it’s best not to give milk as this can actually cause stomach upset.

kittens constipation symptoms@congerdesign / Pixabay

Tinned pumpkin is a good natural laxative as it is high in fibre, just be sure to buy the variety that does not have added sugar or cinnamon. Most cats enjoy the taste and are quite happy to eat it alongside their normal food.

Wheat bran and other high fibre cereals may also be used, though opt for those options that are low in sugar. This cereal can be sprinkled over food for a few days.

Can I give my kitten olive oil for constipation?

Oils such as mineral oil or olive oil are not recommended for constipation, regardless of what some online sources may tell you. This is because, when syringed or spoon-fed, there is a risk of them being inhaled and leading to aspiration pneumonia. On top of this, they are so high in fat that they often cause digestive upset.

Can massage help a constipated cat?

Absolutely, as well as increasing general activity and exercise levels, giving your kitty a little belly massage (if they allow it!) can prove useful. It’s important to be very gentle and never force your cat to accept the message if they are too uncomfortable. Most will only tolerate a minute or two of gentle rubbing of their lower abdomen before getting up and leaving!

What can a vet do?

If the constipation is not resolving quickly or the kitten seems in pain or unwell in any way, a trip to the vet is in order. They can check the kitty from nose to tail to determine if there are any underlying issues and they can assess for dehydration as well as determining the degree of constipation.

kittens constipation@ Zeke Tucker

Depending on how bunged up the cat is, it may be necessary to start them on intravenous fluids and to perform an enema. If the constipation is mild, they may simply send them home with an oral laxative.

Those that experience recurrent constipation issues should always be examined by a vet to determine the cause.

Can a cat die from constipation?

In the most severe of cases, prolonged constipation can distend the colon and result in a life-threatening condition called ‘megacolon’. Those with underlying motility disorders, previous pelvic injuries or who become regularly constipated are most at risk of developing this disorder. Rehydrating animals, providing enemas and medical therapy can often prove useful, however, some patients do require surgical intervention in the long run.

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