There are many signs that may alert you that your cat is constipated, some more obvious than others. The symptoms are as follows:
Straining or visible signs of pain when trying to defectate
Small, dry, hard stools, possible covered in mucous or blood
Frequent, unproductive trips to the litter box
Loss of appetite
Displays of abdominal discomfort
Lack of grooming
Why is my cat constipated?
Once you are certain that your cat is constipated, it is necessary to find out why to avoid it happening again in the future. There are many reasons as to why your cat may have trouble defecating, including the following:
Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
Enlarged prostate gland
Tangled hair on the buttocks
Ingestion of foreign objects such as string, cloth, bones, etc.
Side effect of medication
Tumor or other intestinal obstruction
Abnormal colon shape or motility
How can I treat my cat's constipation?
Luckily, constipation is very treatable. There are several ways to treat it depending on what the cause is. Please don't give your cat medications without discussing it with your veterinarian first.
The following are ways in which your cat's constipation can be treated:
Enema (administered by a professional, not at home). It is important to note that cats do not take kindly to these procedures, and some over-the-counter enemas contain substances that can be toxic to cats. This is a procedure best left to your veterinarian.
Medication to increase the contractile strength of the large intestine
Manual evacuation of the bowels
Surgery to remove obstruction in the bowels
Veterinarian-prescribed, high-fiber diet
Adding fiber to your cat’s diet with canned pumpkin, bran cereal or a product such as Metamucil
Increase in water consumption
Increase in exercise
If your cat's constipation goes untreated then obstipation may occur. This is the inability to empty their colon independently. In this state, the colon is packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing unproductive straining, lethargy, appetite loss and possibly even vomiting. This can result in the swelling of your cat’s colon and loss of the colon’s motility.
How can I prevent my cat from become constipated?
Make sure you feed your cat a high quality diet with minimal treats. It is also important to assure your cat has easy access to the outside so they can exercise and fresh water so they stay hydrated. Brushing your cat once or twice weekly will minimise the chances of hairballs forming, which often lead to constipation.
It is also worth noting that some cats are more susceptible to constipation. Elderly pets often suffer from infrequent or difficult bowel movements but this doesn't mean that younger cats are immune to suffering from it. Any cat that doesn't eat enough fibre, drink enough water or do enough exercise is prone to constipation.