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Digestive problems, like vomiting and diarrhoea, in cats are relatively common and many pet parents think they are normal. But if your cat keeps being sick or has soft or watery poop, then there is something going on under the surface. It might be time to change their food or environment, and it's definitely time to talk to your veterinarian. Here are some tips for solving the most common cat digestive problems.
- Acute gastroenteritis. This is the most common cause of an ‘upset stomach’ in cats. It usually consists of vomiting and diarrhoea that begins suddenly. It can be caused by lots of things like eating something unsavoury (or as many cats love to do, eating half a mouse and leaving the rest for us to find!), parasites, viruses and hairballs, to name but a few.
- Chronic enteropathy or Inflammatory bowel disease. Unlike the sudden onset upset we just mentioned, chronic enteropathies are slower to appear and tend to last a long time. Diarrhoea and weight loss are common signs. Again, it can be caused by many different things such as adverse food reactions, immune reactions and genetics.
- Colitis. The colon is part of the large bowel and when this gets inflamed it’s called colitis. It’s usually very characteristic and most cats show the same signs - looking like they urgently need to have a poo, they might strain to have a poo but not much comes out, and one of the classic signs of colitis is fresh blood and/or slimy mucus in the stools.
- Constipation. The same as in humans, when cats are constipated, they find pooing difficult and they might go to the toilet much less frequently. Constipation can be caused by lots of things. Eating bones, feathers and fur can make the stools hard and difficult to pass, the presence of lots of hair, especially in long-haired cats or a sluggish bowel will also mean that the stools are dry and difficult to shift. Some breeds like the Siamese are more prone to a sluggish bowel than others. This can result in a condition called megacolon.
- Food allergies. Cats can react badly to certain foods for a number of reasons and together we call these adverse food reactions. True food allergies are rarer than people think and they tend to be caused by proteins in foods such as chicken, fish and milk. Food allergies can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and also skin issues like itchiness and excessive grooming.
Don't panic if your cat develops a sudden digestive issue. Your veterinarian can help you identify the cause of the problem and come up with a plan to help your cat feel better.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.
Reviewed by Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS