How can I help my constipated cat?

Constipation is defined as infrequent or difficult bowel movements, and is a common problem faced by a large number of cats. Fortunately, most cases of cat constipation are mild and the bloating it causes can usually be treated at home.

Signs you need to be keeping an eye out for include your cat passing small, hard stools, straining or crying out in pain while trying to eliminate, and multiple but unproductive visits to the litter tray. A lack of appetite and weight loss can also be attributed to constipation.

If constipation goes untreated it can lead to more serious health issues. Not only will your cat suffer from severe discomfort, the colon may become stretched to its limit, leading to permanent damage. Sometimes there may be an underlying medical condition causing the constipation, so it’s important that if the problem persists you book an appointment with the vet.


What causes constipation in cats?

There are a number of different reasons that could cause constipation in a cat. These include:

  • Not enough fiber in their diet
  • Environmental issues – The litter tray could be in a noisy, unwelcoming place, or it may be dirty. Maybe there’s unhealthy competition with another cat for use of the tray.
  • Dehydration can result in dry, hard faeces that are difficult to eliminate.
  • Colon blockage
  • Hair ingestion – Overgrooming can lead to excess hair in the digestive tract.
    Megacolon – A disease of the colon which results in chronic constipation.
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Kidney problem
  • Stress


How you can help your constipated cat

Increase the amount of fiber in their diet

Fiber helps our cats maintain a healthy gut by keeping their digestive system in optimal condition. It promotes healthy bowel movements, cleans the colon, and can relieve constipation. Try adding a bit to their mealtimes each day and see if that helps to regulate their bowel movements.

Too much fiber in a cat’s diet can lead to an upset stomach, so it’s important we get the quantity right. Start off with a small amount and gradually increase the volume until you notice an improvement.

Are they drinking enough water?

Dehydration is one of the big causes of constipation in cats, even more so when they’re older. As cats age, their kidneys can become less effective at retaining water in the body, leading to dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass. Water helps to soften stools and stimulate bowel movements.

You should always ensure your cat has access to fresh water. If you’re struggling to get them to drink from their bowl, wet food is a great way of increasing consumption.

Calm your cat down

Cats can sometimes become constipated due to stress or anxiety. This could be down to a sudden change in their daily routine. Is there a new pet in the house? Maybe they’re suffering from a medical condition.

If you think your cat is struggling with stress, spend a bit more one-on-one time with them to see if you can identify the problem. Common signs of stress include hiding or running away, loss of appetite and overgrooming. Keeping our cats stress-free is crucial for their physical and mental well-being.


Introducing more exercise into your cat’s daily routine should also help keep their bowels moving, hopefully preventing constipation. Try increasing the amount of playtime you have with them, use cat toys to encourage movement, and leave treats around the house for them to hunt.

Exercise should be fun, but make sure you keep sessions short, no longer than 15 minutes. Regular activity will also provide mental enrichment while ensuring they stay in the best shape possible. If their constipation is severe, your feline may be struggling to move so take things slow or look for an alternative solution.

Add more litter trays

If your cat is struggling “to go” it may be because they’re not happy using the litter tray you have set up for them. Are you cleaning it out regularly? It could be that they don’t like the particular litter that is being used. It may be because the tray is located in one of the busier rooms, and they find it too stressful to use.

It could even be because other cats are using it and they feel intimidated. The best way to resolve litter tray avoidance is to place extra ones around the house. This allows them to pick and choose the one they feel most comfortable with.

Brush regularly

Hairballs and constipation pose a combined common problem for cats. When felines overgroom they can end up with excess hair stuck in their digestive tract. Hairballs can then form, leading to intestinal blockages, constipation, and one uncomfortable cat. Signs of overgrooming include hair loss and skin irritation in certain areas. Brushing your cat regularly should prevent the problem as the more fur you remove from your cat, the less ends up in their stomach. Brushing your cat daily is also a great way for the pair of you to bond.

Cat laxatives

Laxatives can help soften stools and increase regular bowel movements. You should consult with a vet before you start using any over-the-counter laxatives to ensure it is the best option for your feline. There are several different types of laxatives. Most work by drawing water into the faeces to make them softer and easier to pass, however this can sometimes cause unwanted side effects such as dehydration. High-fiber foods like pumpkin are classed as natural laxatives and may be a better option for your cat.

Take a trip to the vet

While most cases of constipation can be remedied through a bit of TLC, sometimes a trip to the vet may be necessary. A cat should defecate, on average, at least once a day. If they have been struggling to pass for more than a few days, and you have tried numerous home treatments, it’s time to contact the vet. Severe constipation should be treated as soon as possible to avoid any permanent damage.

Your vet may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms, and can also help identify any underlying conditions that may be causing the constipation.


Is diet the primary cause of constipation?

A wide variety of factors can cause cat constipation, but eating a poor diet is certainly one of the main drivers. Specifically, a diet lacking in fiber.

Fiber helps food move along the digestive tract, increasing the size of the stools while making them softer and easier to pass through.

Pumpkin, cooked carrots, green beans and peeled apples fed in small quantities are a good way of introducing a little fiber into your feline’s diet. Other nutrients should not be neglected though.

Cats thrive on well-balanced diets that combine wet and dry foods containing high-quality ingredients and body-boosting nutrients.
A cat eating a diet filled with proteins, vitamins and minerals is far less likely to encounter health issues than one who isn’t.

Keeping hydration levels up is also helpful when managing constipation in cats. Feeding them complementary wet foods like Reveal’s Chicken With Pumpkin In Broth Can or our Tuna Fillet With Salmon In Gravy Can will ensure they’re taking on extra fluids. And if you’re looking for even more ways to increase consumption, take a read of our “How To Boost Your Cat Hydration” article. 

Feline obesity is also a common constipation cause so making sure your cat maintains a healthy weight will go a long way to preventing any future litter tray trouble. 

Our “What Is The Best Diet Food For Cat” blog is a fantastic starting point for putting your cat on the perfect diet, and if you’re looking for some cat exercise inspiration to help keep those pounds off, spend a few minutes reading “How To Encourage A Lazy Cat To Play & Be Active“.

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