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

How to Make an Elderly Cat Poop When Constipated: Solving Feline Bowel Issues 

A cat can stop going to the toilet for a variety of reasons, so learning how to make an elderly cat poop when constipated is crucial. Many senior cats have a weakened immune system and can become dehydrated as a result. This can be potentially life-threatening for more vulnerable older pets.

In this guide, you’ll learn why cats become constipated and the signs to look for that can indicate that constipation is an issue. Of course, you’ll also find out how long a cat can go without pooping, how to safely treat constipation in cats, and when you should seek expert advice from a vet.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Constipation 

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

One of the main indicators that your cat is struggling with constipation is when they’re trying to do their business in the litter box. Often, a cat that’s constipated will strain when trying to defecate. 

In serious cases, a cat may sit in their litter box for a long 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 and symptoms of constipation can 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 or from a common 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 commonly than younger cats. Older cats can become easily constipated because they can no longer digest their regular cat food because the protein content is too high.

Aside from constipation, 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 suffering from constipation can also have a poor appetite, may seem lethargic, and may even begin losing weight. You may also notice an unnatural, hunched posture when they’re sitting or walking. This is due to bowel discomfort. 

On average, a cat will defecate once a day, however, bowel habits can vary from cat to cat. 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 usually defecate two to three times daily and will have feces that’s well-formed, not runny, and deep brown in color. 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 before you stress them further and make a trip to the vet’s office. 

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 BM, the odds are they will need a little 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 a trip to the vet. 

Manual Stimulation 

Manually stimulating the rectum is an option in certain cases in which the cat has not had a BM in three days. To do, take a warm washcloth and 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, this can often do the trick. Of course, make sure your cat is sitting in their litter box when doing so. If this doesn’t encourage defecation, your vet may recommend an enema. 

Food that Will Stimulate the Bowels

Another option is to 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 a 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 suffer from ongoing constipation.  

Treatment for Mild Cases of Constipation

Purchase a few cans of wet cat food, and fiber supplements wheat bran and psyllium. Buy a couple of small cans of canned pumpkin, but make sure it doesn’t have pie seasoning added. Purchase a bag of cat food with a hairball treatment formula. 

Place two tablespoons of wet cat food in their dish and mix with one tablespoon of canned pumpkin. Offer it to your cat. 

Three to four hours later, take the wet cat food and add half a teaspoon of psyllium and stir well.

Make sure you keep their water dish full and encourage them to drink as frequently as possible. 

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 well. 

Repeat this cycle every day, offering a total of three meals with a fiber replacement, until your cat is back to acting normal. 

What to Do If Your Cat is Still 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. 

Keeping Your Elderly Cat Regular 

To avoid constipation in the future, you’ll need to make some critical dietary changes to help your cat eliminate on a regular basis. 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. Generally, 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 can boost bowel regularity. 

Common Causes of Feline Constipation 

Causes of Feline Constipation

Constipation in cats is usually a sign and result of dehydration. The feline body consists of seventy-five percent 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 tends to take specific steps to correct this type of 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
  • Dehydration 
  • Stress
  • A foreign body lodged in the digestive tract

Other Medical Conditions and Injuries 

Specific health problems such as neurological issues, anal abscesses, cancer, and arthritis can also prevent your cat from defecating. However, the causes are often much more straightforward and not alarming. As an example, a stressful environment or overdoing it running around outdoors during a hot day can trigger constipation. 

Aside from dehydration, 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. 

Litter Box Woes 

A constipated 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 people believe that cats will defecate outside of the box when they’re constipated because they simply 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 defecate where they’re the most comfortable. 

In order to help keep your bed clean, we recommend keeping several litter boxes around the home. If possible, 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. Basically, a litter box should be made as inviting as possible. 

If this is an ongoing issue, we urge you to speak with your vet regarding your cat’s overall health. 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 it’s a good bet that 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 will go for it. Over-the-counter fiber supplements work well. 

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? 

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

If your senior cat has constipation for more than one day, they should be taken to their vet as soon as possible. As they age, cats become very 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 pooping but acting normal?

Many pet owners are surprised at their cat’s behavior, especially when cats act normally, even when they’re obviously sick or even near death. Cats can be odd creatures who are experts are masking their pain and discomfort. Because of this, it’s up to us as loving and responsible pet owners to pay attention to our cat’s behaviors in order to determine if they’re having a hard time. 

To learn more about unusual cat behavior, you can read our article: why is my elderly cat yowling at night? 

If you’ve noticed your cat hasn’t defecated in a day or two at the most, contact your vet. This only applies to older cats. With younger cats, you can usually wait two to three days, unless the constipation is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, or a usually hyper cat has become lethargic. 

With older cats, it can be even more difficult to pinpoint what, if anything, is going on with them. 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. 

In an elderly cat, even a small change in bowel frequency can indicate a serious health condition, so don’t take any chances and report any unusual changes to your vet. They can often recommend a visit or determine if the change is anything to worry about. 

Like elderly humans, older felines will need more attention and care. It’s just part of getting older. 

Cat Stool Softener 

Despite the fact that cats are very different from humans, they can still experience serious digestive orders just like a person. As we’ve discussed, constipation is one of these common issues. 

But with the right cat stool softener, treating constipation can actually be very manageable, once you’ve ruled out a serious underlying 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, without another visit to the vet. 

With cat stool softeners, you’ll have a few options, commercially available softeners, stool softener solutions, or homemade remedies such as adding pumpkin.

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 like some over the counter products can be. 

Even though there are several ways to improve a feline’s digestion, every cat is different and can require a more tailored approach. Here are some of the top alternatives to over the counter or prescribed stool softeners for cats. 

Olive oil

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

Pumpkin 

Did canned pumpkin seem unappealing to your pet? Then try pumpkin juice instead. Pumpkin juice can do wonders for a cat’s digestion, and it’s faster acting compared to a pureed pumpkin. 

Milk 

Most vets will tell you to steer clear of milk or any type of dairy product because it usually causes diarrhea or loose stool in cats, however, if your cat has not had a BM 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.

Cat Constipation Superfoods 

Superfoods that help with cat constipation

Things 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

If these home remedies don’t help your cat, then your next step is over the counter stool softeners, or in some cases, laxatives. Some pet owners swear by products made for humans, such as Miralax. 

There’s a major 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 suffer from some other type of serious health problem. Certain ingredients can be dangerous for cats who suffer from allergies. 

Virbac’s Vestasyl

Marketed as a fiber supplement, this product is actually a very 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 a total of 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 safe for both cat and dog use and is 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.

How to make 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.

But as you can see, there are many options available that can treat cat constipation, ranging from all-natural remedies such as olive oil or pumpkin juice to important dietary changes that will work better for your aging pet and their sensitive stomach.

Remember, 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 very important to your pet’s future health.