How to get a senior cat to go to the toilet
Cat Health and Wellness

How to Make an Elderly Cat Poop When Constipated

A senior feline can stop going to the toilet for various reasons, so learning how to make an elderly cat poop when constipated is important. Many senior cats have a weak or compromised immune system and can become dehydrated as a result. Dehydration makes it far more difficult to pass a stool. Constipation is very serious as it can be a life-threatening health problem for older cats.

How do I get my elderly cat to poop? You can make it easier for a senior cat to go to the toilet by modifying their diet. High fiber cat foods will make defecation less challenging, as will adding a spoon of pumpkin mix or fiber powder to your cat’s meal. You also need to make sure that your cat’s bowl has a regular supply of fresh water. Manually stimulating your cat’s rectum can also result in a bowel movement.

In this guide, we’ll look closely at why older cats become constipated, and the signs to look out for that indicate that constipation is an issue. You’ll also discover how long a cat can go without pooping, how to treat constipation in cats, and when you should turn to a vet for a treatment plan.

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Constipation?

With elderly cats, it can be more difficult to determine whether they’re feeling well since so many sleep the day away and aren’t nearly as active as they used to be when they were younger.

One of the easiest ways to tell that your cat has constipation is when they’re trying to go to the toilet in the litter box. Often, a cat that’s constipated will strain when trying to defecate.

In severe cases, a cat may sit in their litter box for an extended period of time, straining to go. Their efforts may not lead to defecation, or the stool they do pass is small or hard.

When straining for this length of time, it’s also possible for the feces to be streaked with blood. Other signs of constipation in cats include:

Stool that is extremely dry and doesn’t stick to the litter

  • Signs of pain when defecating
  • Firm or swollen abdomen
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Hiding

Whether your feline has an unknown cause of constipation due to a hairball buildup, its behavior will change. Your cat may seem depressed, refuse to eat, or become less active.

Fortunately, there are many safe ways to treat cat constipation at home successfully. Constipation tends to affect elderly felines more than younger cats. Older cats can become easily constipated because they can no longer digest regular cat food because the protein content is too high.

A cat can also experience vomiting and diarrhea as the result of a diet that’s too high in protein. Defecating outside the litter box is another symptom of both constipation and GI upset. Elderly cats with constipation can have a poor appetite, seem lethargic, and begin losing weight.

You may notice an unnatural, hunched posture when they’re sitting or walking due to bowel discomfort. On average, a cat will defecate once a day. However, bowel habits vary between cats.

This can depend on the type of food they eat, whether it’s wet or dry, and how much they eat. An elderly feline that’s been ill for some time may have a bowel movement a few times a week but often will not go more than forty-eight hours without defecating.

A healthy cat will defecate two to three times daily and will have feces that’s well-formed, not runny, and deep brown. If you notice a change in the color, consistency, and frequency of your cat’s bowel habits, especially if they’re older than seven years of age, you should consult your vet.

How to Stimulate Defecation in Cats

Defecation in Cats

Your vet may recommend trying a natural constipation remedy for a cat. Making dietary changes is often the first step toward correcting bowel irregularity. But these dietary changes can take a few days before they can have a positive effect on your cat’s defecating habits.

While some home remedies and medications can help your pet defecate faster, once they do attempt to have another bowel movement, they will need help to push this hard stool out.

The situation will be painful for both of you, but it’s crucial that you help your pet during this stressful time before the situation escalates and requires veterinary assistance.

Manual Stimulation of a Cat’s Rectum

Manually stimulating the rectum of a cat is an option where the cat has not had a bowel movement in three days. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

  • Take a warm washcloth
  • Rub the rectum in a circular motion for thirty to sixty seconds.
  • This should cause the cat’s rectum to spasm, encouraging defecation.

For mild cases of constipation in cats, this can work. Make sure your cat is sitting in their litter box when doing so. If this doesn’t encourage defecation, your vet may use an enema.

Food that Will Stimulate the Bowels of Cats

Use food remedies to encourage defecation instantly. Your first option is to add more fiber to your feline’s diet, via a tablespoon of pumpkin mixed with wet cat food, or natural bran cereal.

You can also try fiber powders if you cannot get your cat to try the other two options. There are also special high-fiber pet foods available for cats who struggle with ongoing constipation.

Treatment for Mild Constipation in Cats

Purchase several cans of wet cat food with a hairball treatment formula, and fiber supplements (wheat bran and psyllium.) You’ll need two small cans of canned pumpkin, but make sure it doesn’t have pie seasoning added as this can be toxic for cats.

  • Mix two tablespoons of wet cat food with one tablespoon of canned pumpkin.
  • Add half a teaspoon of psyllium to the wet cat food and stir well.
  • Offer the meal to your cat.

Make sure you keep their water dish full and encourage them to drink frequently. Also, keep a small dish of hairball formula next to their water dish.

Four hours later, take two tablespoons of wet pet food and add half a teaspoon of wheat bran, mixing it thoroughly. Repeat this cycle every day, offering a total of three meals with a fiber replacement, until your cat’s bowel movements are back to normal.

Cat is Constipated After Three Days

If your cat has not had any success after being on this diet for three days, or if he or she becomes chronically constipated, it’s time to seek veterinary intervention.

A vet will recommend tests such as a thyroid test, chemistry panel, complete blood count, X-rays, or a urinalysis, to rule out serious health problems.

If these tests fail to determine the underlying cause of chronic constipation, your vet may recommend a colonoscopy or barium series.

How to Keep an Elderly Cat Regular

To avoid constipation in cats in the future, you’ll need to make some dietary changes to help your feline eliminate regularly.

If you have a long-haired cat, or a cat that’s prone to hairballs, brushing them daily can remove the fur that gets caught in the digestive tract.

A vet can also recommend a type of oral hairball medication or a hairball formula cat food. Cats should also undergo routine parasite treatment.

The litter box must always be kept clean, so your cat won’t avoid using a litter box just because it’s dirty. If you have more than one cat, then you’ll need to use more than one litter box.

The rule is two litter boxes per cat. Providing several sources of fresh water and adding fiber to the diet can also make a big difference. Elderly cats especially will need encouragement when it comes to getting enough exercise. Moving around more often can boost bowel regularity.

Causes of Feline Constipation

What Are the Causes of Feline Constipation?

Constipation in senior cats is usually the result of dehydration. The feline body consists of 75% water. However, this can depend on the cat’s body fat percentage and age.

Homeostasis attempts to maintain a consistent extracellular and cellular environment. When the cells in the body do not get enough water, the body takes steps to correct this fluid deficit.

Here are some of the most common factors that contribute to constipation in felines:

  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Bone injuries, including pelvic injuries
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Dehydration Stress
  • A foreign body lodged in the digestive tract

Specific health problems such as neurological issues, anal abscesses, cancer, and arthritis can also prevent your cat from defecating. However, the causes are less alarming. As an example, a stressful environment or overdoing it running around outdoors during a hot day can trigger constipation.

A poor diet is one of the most common factors that can trigger constipation. While cats tend to thrive on a diet that’s high in protein, many cats still need a healthy serving of fiber. A lack of fiber in the diet can lead to constipation.

If your cat eats mainly dry pet food and isn’t drinking enough water, they can easily become constipated.  Over time, this type of diet can lead to other health problems.

My Cat Won’t Use the Litterbox

A constipated elderly cat will commonly defecate outside of the litter box. Some cat owners believe that this behavior is due to the cat’s thought process, linking the sudden onset of pain when using the litter box.

Other experts believe that cats will defecate outside of the box when they’re constipated because they become exhausted from the continuous, repeated effort and become less enthusiastic about making the trip over to the litter box.

Since your bed is probably much more comfortable than a litter box, some cats prefer to poop and pee where they’re the most comfortable. In order to help keep your bed clean, we recommend keeping several litter boxes around the home.

Try using several different sizes of litter boxes with different types of cat litter. Each of the boxes must be kept clean and should be placed in an area that provides your cat with a little privacy.

There are some medical problems that can cause chronic dehydration in felines, such as diabetes and kidney disease. If the vet is unable to find an underlying health issue, then you need to add more fiber to your cat’s diet.

Canned pumpkin is our top choice since it’s a natural source of fiber, but not all cats enjoy it. Over-the-counter fiber supplements are effective. Hairball remedies that contain lubricants that work by lubricating the pipes will help the hairballs to pass easily.

How Long Can a Cat go Without Pooping?

Pet owners should be concerned if their young, healthy cat doesn’t poop for more than two days. With elderly cats, you should be worried after about one day.

If your senior cat has constipation for more than one day, they should be taken to their vet. As they age, cats bodies and digestive systems become incredibly fragile. A senior cat can decline rapidly if issues such as constipation or diarrhea are not quickly addressed.

Cat Not Pooping but Acting Normal

Have you have gotten ready to clean out the litter box, only to find it empty? Is your cat not going to the toilet but acting normal? Many pet owners are surprised at their cat’s behavior, especially when cats act normally, even when they’re sick or near death.

Cats can be odd creatures who are experts are masking their pain and discomfort. Because of this, it’s up to you to pay attention to our cat’s behaviors to determine if they’re having a hard time. If you’ve noticed your cat hasn’t defecated in a day or two at the most, contact your vet.

Many older cats will experience a decline in appetite, sleep more, and groom less. This is especially true for cats over the age of twelve. This is when you need to become a pet detective and pay attention to how much they’re eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating.

Pay attention to what their feces looks like, although this can be difficult since the cat litter often entirely covers the feces. However, if you notice mucous in their poop, blood, or a change in color or consistency, it’s important to speak with your vet.

Stool Softeners for Constipated Cats

Cats can still experience digestive disorders, just like a person. But with the right cat stool softener, treating constipation can be manageable, once you’ve ruled out a serious health condition.

Whether your feline’s stool is too hard or your cat is not able to defecate at all, you can treat this issue at home. Your options include commercially available softeners, stool softener solutions, or homemade remedies such as adding pumpkin.

Home Remedy Stool Softeners for Cats

Many vets recommend trying some home remedies before you reach for a commercially available stool softener because they tend to be a safer, milder option and won’t be hard on the cat’s digestive system.

1) Olive oil

A natural lubricant, olive oil can get your pet’s bowels moving. Use a couple of teaspoons and mix it in your cat’s dry food. Add this to their food one to two times daily.

2) Pumpkin

Did canned pumpkin seem unappealing to your pet? Then try pumpkin juice instead. Pumpkin juice can help your cat’s digestion, and it’s faster-acting than a pureed pumpkin.

Superfoods that help with cat constipation

3) Milk

Most vets will tell you not to give your cat milk or dairy products because it causes diarrhea or loose stool in cats.

However, if your cat has not had a bowel movement in two days and you believe they’re impacted, then a couple of tablespoons of milk can get their bowels moving quickly.

But, remember that cats are intolerant to lactose.

4) Feline Superfoods

Foods like spinach, broccoli, cranberries, kale, or other types of leafy greens are high in fiber and can get your constipated feline’s bowels moving.

Best Stool Softeners for Cats

There’s a significant difference between a stool softener and a laxative.

Laxatives have a more forceful, direct approach towards the digestive system, and they’re much stronger than a stool softener. Stool softeners act as lubricants and are much milder.

They’re not nearly as invasive as laxatives, and they don’t contain as many chemicals. If the reason behind your cat’s constipation is hairballs, dehydration, or improper diet, stool softeners are a much better choice.

Additionally, a laxative can worsen a cat’s condition if they’re already dehydrated. Laxatives can also be a bad choice if your cat is diabetic or they have another serious health problem. Certain ingredients can be dangerous for cats with allergies.

Virbac’s Vestasyl

Marketed as a fiber supplement, this product is an efficient stool softener and one of the most effective that’s available over-the-counter.

It doesn’t contain harmful chemicals and is suitable for both kittens and elderly cats. It’s an affordable option and comes with one hundred doses.

Pet Wellbeing Smooth BM Gold for Cats

This is available in liquid form, which makes it easy to add to their food. It’s designed to promote bowel regularity, enabling normal elimination.

It’s also safe to use for the long-term, which makes it a great buy if your elderly cat often struggles with constipation more than once a month.

Making an elderly cat poop when constipated can be difficult if your pet is refusing to eat or hides as a way to cope with discomfort.

If this behavior is fairly new for your cat and has increased in frequency, speaking with your vet to rule out any underlying health condition will be crucial to your pet’s long-term health.