page title icon Diarrhea in Cats

by Linda Mathews Last Updated January 5, 2023
Reviewed by Helga George, PHD

Medical Disclaimer:
This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If a pet has any health problems, do not treat your cat yourself. Instead, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Diarrhea is a problem that most cat owners don’t like to discuss. However, such a sensitive issue can have more severe consequences for cats than for humans. So, when you’re cleaning your feline’s litter box and suddenly notice that your cat has loose stool, of course, there’s no reason to panic, but there’s a serious reason to keep a close eye on your favorite.

Well, even if your cat has diarrhea but seems fine, the first thing you need to do is to figure out what’s causing this unpleasant experience.

Why Does My Cat Have Diarrhea? The Main Reasons for Diarrhea

If your cat has runny, loose or liquid poop, there could be a number of reasons for this. And before starting cat diarrhea treatment, it’s necessary to find its cause. In most cases, acute diarrhea (that starts suddenly and lasts less than two-three weeks, it can go away even within 24  hours) and chronic diarrhea (that lasts more than two-three weeks) may have similar causes, but require different treatment.

What  Causes Diarrhea in Cats:

Infections: Coronavirus, Rotavirus and panleukopenia are the most common viruses which cause acute diarrhea in felines. More serious viral infections like feline immunodeficiency virus, leukemia virus and infectious peritonitis can all cause chronic diarrhea. But in the case of any viral infection, you may notice additional symptoms, such as fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, vomiting, and low activity. However, don’t forget about bacterial infections that can also cause cat vomiting, runny poop or even bloody diarrhea.

Parasites: When it comes to cats with diarrhea, parasites cannot be ignored as one of the main possible causes. This is often the case with kittens who feed off their mother’s milk. So when your kitten has diarrhea but acts normal, check him for parasites.

Changing food habits: If you try to introduce the new food in your cat’s diet too quickly, it may lead to diarrhea. Moreover, this fast new food introduction may not only cause cat soft stool but also may have additional signs like vomiting and loss of appetite.

Food allergy: One more cause of cat diarrhea is a food allergy. Most vets insist that irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are food allergies and both these problems have liquid poop or watery diarrhea as a side effect.

Dairy Diet: Your furry friend may love milk products, but his stomach probably doesn’t! Keep in mind, most cats are lactose intolerant. So, milk, cheese, ice-cream or cream may lead to diarrhea.

Swallowing of hairballs, foreign object or poisonous substance: When your cat swallows hairballs and some foreign material, it may block his intestinal system and the body can respond with diarrhea. By the way, zinc and ibuprofen are very poisonous for cats and commonly cause runny poop in cats.

Spoiled food: Some owners may fail to appreciate how important it is to feed your feline with fresh and only high-quality food. Dry food, as well as a homemade diet, may also become spoiled and lead to diarrhea and throwing up.

Metabolic disorders: Liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism may also cause diarrhea. In this case, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary.

Stress: Any kind of change in a cat’s environmental can be considered as a stressful situation and may cause diarrhea with no other symptoms.

When should you worry and visit the vet?

Feline diarrhea is a defense mechanism that helps the body get rid quickly of any harmful matter which irritates or inflames the lining of the intestines. Well, before visiting the vet, focus on the symptoms of your feline’s problem because this can help choose the right cat diarrhea treatment.

The symptoms of diarrhea may differ depending on the cause and whether the small or large intestines are involved.

It is normal to defecate 2-3 times without mucus or blood for cats with small intestine diarrhea. The volume may be increased! The frequency shouldn`t be more than 5 times! Cats with constant diarrhea can lose weight as their body doesn’t absorb nutrients.

When it comes to large intestine diarrhea, the volume is normal to decreased. Bloody poop with mucus is quite common. The normal frequency can be more than 5 times.

Additional diarrhea symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss and anorexia
  • Mucus, bloody or fatty poops
  • Flatulence
  • Dehydration
  • Apathy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased defecation
  • Defecation outside the litter box

Of course, it isn’t so pleasant to notice that your feline has diarrhea and the first your thought in this situation is to visit the vet.

However, the mild cases of cat diarrhea that can last 24 hours or less don’t require the vet’s appointment because you can treat your favorite carefully at home. But you have to visit the vet immediately if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Apathy
  • Pale gums
  • Constant bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Uncommon behavior of your cat

If your kitten is under 12 months of age or you have a senior cat, you should also consult the veterinarian.

In the case when your furry friend has diarrhea but seems fine, he is playful, funny and eats as normal, you can just watch what happens over time.

Of course, cat diarrhea isn’t normal, but common and it often solves quickly and doesn’t require intervention when the cause has passed through your feline’s system. However, when you notice such symptoms as apathy and weakness, you should start worrying and go to the veterinarian.

Diet: What Food Can I Give My Cat for Diarrhea?

What to feed cats with diarrhea is one of the core issues while your feline’s suffering from diarrhea. First of all, you should opt for foods with higher fiber and feed your favorite more often than usual with smaller amounts of easily digestible food.

If your cat or kitten has diarrhea but acts normal, you need to choose the right diet as a part of the home remedy plan in order to stop and prevent diarrhea. The best way is to put your feline on a bland diet.

The bland diet for cats with diarrhea may consist of chicken and rice or turkey and pumpkin. Let’s look at both dietary plans.

Chicken and Rice Diet

Free of skin, fat, bones, well-boiled chicken provides your feline’s body the necessary proteins. And in addition to such a tasty diet chicken, you can give your cat boiled rice. Boiled rice provides your cat energy, absorbs extra water in the digestive tract and improves stool consistency.

Turkey and Pumpkin Diet

You can use also the second diet because it is equally effective as the first. Cooked, ground turkey and pumpkin are considered the most digestible products for cats with diarrhea. Pumpkin is rich in soluble fiber that helps cover and soothe the gastrointestinal tract. Besides, pumpkin creates the effect of increased peristalsis instead of gastric emptying and this great food contains potassium. Potassium is known as a common electrolyte and its level usually reduces during diarrhea.

You can also give your cat yogurt if he has diarrhea. As has been said, dairy products are not recommended for cats, but the case with diarrhea is the exception. A small portion of yogurt will be really beneficial for your feline because it contains a special type of bacteria (Lactobacillus). These bacteria usually live in the intestines and improve and maintain the cat’s digestive health. If your favorite has diarrhea, the natural flora of the gut is often violated and yogurt with its probiotics can help balance the intestinal bacteria.

Besides, slippery elm can be used as the herbal remedy to treat diarrhea at home. Slippery elm provides mucilage. This gelatinous substance improves mucus secretion which helps protect the GI tract and covers and soothes the intestines and stomach.

And don’t forget about proper hydration because it is crucial for recovering the adequate level of electrolytes in your feline’s body. Well, give your furry friend water, more water than you usually do. Make sure that he drinks some water because if he doesn’t want to drink, you have to visit the vet immediately.

Get to know about good chicken free cat food brands

Treat Diarrhea: How to Stop Diarrhea in Cats?

When your cat has diarrhea but seems fine, you may not need to worry too much, but you need to intervene immediately. Providing proper and simple cat diarrhea treatment, you can ease your feline`s diarrhea so this delicate issue goes away faster.

The first and main recommendation is to figure out why your furry friend has this sensitive problem and try to alleviate it. And for that, you need to withhold food for 12 hours but provide your cat a sufficient quantity of water. After 12 hours, you should start the described above bland fat-free diet. It’s important to begin with very small portions. Gradually resume food intake. And, of course, keep your eye on your favorite all the time!

However, if the problem still persists for more than 24 hours, you have to consult or visit the vet. Perhaps diarrhea in your cat is just a symptom of a more serious disease that needs to be treated with medical supplies. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify the real cause of cat diarrhea without additional tests, such as the analysis of fecal samples or blood count.

Remember about the importance of proper hydration! Make sure that your cat with diarrhea drinks enough water and even encourage him to drink. In addition to the bowl with fresh water, you can offer your kitty bone broth. A few tablespoons of bone broth 7-8 times throughout the day provide your furry friend nourish nutrients and energy. But if your cat is suffering from chronic kidney disease, bone broth isn’t good for him because it has too many minerals which can interfere with renal function.


What Tests Will My Vet Do to Find the Cause of My Cat’s Diarrhea?

To screen for infectious or inflammatory illness, your veterinarian may do fecal tests such as fecal flotation, antigen testing, and cytology. Blood tests are used to identify metabolic or systemic causes of diarrhea, as well as the effects of cat diarrhea, such as dehydration or anemia. Besides, abdominal ultrasonography, radiography, and endoscopy can be performed.

What Are the Details to Give Your Veterinarian?

Please be as specific as possible regarding the color, consistency, and odor of the feces because this information will be useful to your veterinarian. Don’t be frightened to snap pictures. Tell a vet about the quantities and if fresh (red) blood or mucus has been noticed.

How Serious Is Diarrhea in Cats?

The severity of diarrhea is determined by how long it has been present and how many additional clinical indications your cat has. If your cat develops severe symptoms, the situation is potentially life-threatening and should be addressed as soon as possible.

What Is the Prognosis?

The intensity of diarrhea, the precise diagnosis, and your cat’s reaction to therapy all influence the prognosis. The majority of cats with uncomplicated diarrhea will recover completely. However, cats with chronic diarrhea may require nutritional management or medication to keep the problem under control.

Why Should I Avoid Over-the-Counter Medications?

Depending on the source of diarrhea, some drugs may be more harmful than beneficial. They should only be administered if your cat’s veterinarian recommends it and at the prescribed dose. Note that these medications can be harmful to your cat, especially if they are administered inappropriately.

How to Stop Chronic Diarrhea in Cats?

If your cat has loose stools all the time, it may require digestive aid drugs or supplements like probiotics or vitamin B12. Your veterinarian may propose a food experiment based on your cat’s condition. Usually, novel or hydrolyzed proteins are the best choice.

Can You Prevent Cat Diarrhea?

Yes, you can. Firstly, control underlying disorders, including pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, or food allergies using prescription drugs and a special diet. To avoid incidents of severe diarrhea, avoid abrupt dietary changes or giving your cat human food.

Can You Give Cats Yogurt for Diarrhea?

You may feed your cat fat-free yogurt. Many cats enjoy the flavor and can be fed one or two teaspoons each day.

A Few Words in Conclusion

Most cats experience diarrhea from time to time. It isn’t normal, but sometimes it is unavoidable because cats are freedom-loving animals and you can’t constantly keep an eye on them.

And Our Expert Says…

Helga George,

It’s not always going to be something that you deliberately feed your pet which will cause them digestive issues. Remember to be careful about what you have around your house that a cat has access too, and to be specific, your houseplants could be a problem.

To us, houseplants are decorative or purifying or a dash of nature in our homes, but to your pets they might just appear to be food. And while some plants won’t cause any damage if your pets make the mistake of eating, some can be toxic and cause irritation or sickness.

In particular, the plants which have calcium oxalate (CaOx) are a problem. This is found in numerous popular houseplants such as the Peace Lily and the Chinese Evergreen. Reconsider these if you have a cat or take measures to ensure they avoid eating them. Besides, moving can be one of the causes of diarrhea.

However, if your cat or kitten has diarrhea but acts normal, this delicate disorder can be usually treated at home. When you can identify the cause, cat diarrhea commonly resolves within 24 hours. If you can’t understand why your favorite has such problem and it lasts more than 24 hours, a visit to the veterinarian is a must.

In the case of preventing diarrhea in the future, you should groom your cat regularly and try to keep your home clean, especially of cat hair. Another great way to avoid diarrhea is to exclude from your cat’s diet all dairy products and serve only high-quality cat food. And don’t forget that if you want to introduce some new food in the feline’s diet, you should introduce it slowly. Try to mix some of the old food with a small amount of the new meal to be sure that such diet change won’t be too drastic.

Be attentive to your furry friend! His health and well-being should be your top priority!

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