The Scoop on Cat Poop

From diarrhea to constipation, get the facts about common cat digestive problems.

Whether you've just adopted your first kitten or you've shared your home with cats for years, your cat's litter box habits might be a mystery to you. But if you know what to look for, your cat's poop can contain lots of clues about her health.

Cat Poop: What's Normal?

Although cats' bowel habits can and do vary, there are certain characteristics of “normal” cat poop that indicate digestive health.

Most cats will have bowel movements at least once a day. These poops should be deep brown in color and well formed -- not too hard, not too soft or mushy. Normal cat poop should not smell too foul (some odor is normal, of course).

Cat Poop Problem: Diarrhea

Diarrhea is not uncommon among cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might develop frequent loose, runny bowel movements. Sometimes, cat diarrhea develops quickly and the condition resolves as quickly as it arose. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or recur on a regular basis.

Although diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours is not likely to cause a problem, episodes of watery stools that continue may cause dehydration.

Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:

  • Dietary changes and/or food allergies or intolerances
  • Hairballs
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Worms (intestinal parasites)
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, be sure to see your veterinarian to determine the cause of the problem. You should also consult your vet immediately if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it is accompanied by fever, vomiting, lethargy, or a loss of appetite.

When you first notice your cat has diarrhea, it may be helpful to hold off on feeding her for 12 to 24 hours, making sure that she has ample amounts of fresh water available to drink.

Depending on the cause of your cat's diarrhea, your veterinarian may suggest you try a variety of different remedies. Some cats will benefit from the use of prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisone, which are used to control the inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Low-fat, high-fiber, hypoallergenic diets may also benefit animals suffering from IBD or colitis.

You can help prevent diarrhea by refraining from giving your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt, because many cats are unable to digest them properly. Also, when switching the brand or type of food you feed your cat, be sure to introduce any new food over time by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until your cat has transitioned to eating only the new food.