Anyone who shares a home with a cat knows these amazing creatures sometimes appear to be indestructible.
However, this isn’t the case, and occasionally, one of your feline roommates might suffer from diarrhea. When this happens, you’ll want to know the best course of action.
What causes a cat to have diarrhea?
According to the WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA, there is a number of factors leading to a cat having diarrhea.
They range from diet to actual medical conditions. Some of the more common causes include:
Change in diet
Some cats have extremely sensitive stomachs and do not easily tolerate sudden shifts in diet.
If you must change the diet, it’s best to do it over a period of a couple of weeks, mixing the old diet with the new diet, gradually adjusting the mixture until it is all the new food.
Some cats develop diarrhea when encountering foods their internal systems can’t tolerate.
This can happen quite suddenly, with a cat coming down with diarrhea after ingesting food that previously caused no issues.
This is sometimes seen in older cats. As cats age, their gastrointestinal tract often becomes more sensitive to different substances.
What a cat once tolerated at a young age, it might no longer be able to tolerate at a more advanced age.
Your cat might have come down with either a bacterial or a viral infection. When this happens, the cat’s immune system attempts to purge the body of the invading infection, resulting in diarrhea.
The Pet Health Network states that one of the most common infections in felines is upper respiratory infections – also known as “cat colds.”
Your cat might have been infected with a parasite, including Giardia. This is a microscopic parasite that resides in the intestines, causing gastric upset and diarrhea.
While humans can also get Giardia, the kind of parasite found in cats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not the same as the one found in humans, and therefore, “the risk of humans acquiring Giardia infection from dogs or cats is small.”
This video from Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM discusses some of the common causes of diarrhea in cats.
How can I actually treat diarrhea in a cat?
One of the first things to do before actually treating the cat for diarrhea is to allow the animal to fast for twelve to twenty-four hours.
The diarrhea is causing issues in the gastrointestinal tract and when food is introduced, it can cause further irritation. Allowing the system to relax and “clear itself out” is considered beneficial.
Fluids and Electrolytes
Giving your cat plenty of fluids during its bout with diarrhea is important. Electrolytes can also be given, although some cats do not like the taste of the flavored electrolyte substances. It is best to get the unflavored solution.
According to PetMD, there are various options available. Since a change in diet might have caused the onset of diarrhea, switching back to the previous food might eliminate the problem. Other treatment options include:
In many cats, being on a diet with a high fiber content can cause problems with the gastrointestinal tract.
By putting the cat on a reduced fiber diet, this sometimes results in stopping diarrhea.
On the other hand, some cats respond favorably to a high-fiber diet, and when a fiber supplement (such as Metamucil) is given, diarrhea clears up.
If you are looking for a more natural method of getting fiber into your cat, you might try canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin contains a great deal of fiber. Rather than getting canned pumpkin pie filling, however, make sure there is nothing added to the pumpkin (such as sugar or other ingredients).
Your cat has a bacterial population living in its intestinal tract, helping to regulate various areas of health, including making sure it doesn’t have diarrhea.
However, every so often, the bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract get unaligned, leading to various issues.
Adding a probiotic supplement to your cat’s diet might be just the thing needed in order to clear up the problem.
Another method of getting good bacteria into a cat’s system is by offering some fat-free, plain yogurt.
Some pet owners give their cats a couple of tablespoons a day. Of course, this method should only be used if your cat is not yogurt-intolerant.
Since many anti-diarrheal medications are not safe for cats, it’s important to always check with your veterinary professional before using any medication on your pet.
However, kaolin-pectin compounds are safe for cats, with a dosage of around 1 teaspoon for every 5 pounds of body weight, repeated every 4 to 6 hours.
Make sure, however, that the medication only contains kaolin-pectin and no other ingredients.
In the United States, the brand known as “Kao-Pectate” actually has more ingredients added to it, rather than just kaolin-pectin.
When should I see a veterinarian about my cat’s diarrhea?
Dr. Ernest Ward, DVM, recommends consulting your veterinarian “if frequent liquid or semi-liquid stools persist for more than two days.”
This is because one of the issues, when a cat has diarrhea is dehydration. Since so much of the stool is liquid, your cat might be releasing more fluid through diarrhea than it is taking in. This leads to dehydration, which can be a serious issue.
You should also see your veterinarian if diarrhea does not clear up in a twenty-four-hour period.
If the condition is being caused by an infection, the longer you wait before getting antibiotics into the system, the longer it will take to actually overcome the infection.
Another reason to see your veterinarian if diarrhea persists is to rule out any organ-related issues.
Liver disease and kidney disease both have persistent diarrhea as one of the early warning signs.
Your veterinarian can run a blood test to check on the overall health of your cat, ruling out any disease-related causes for the condition.