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Home Care for the Cat with Diarrhea

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Diarrhea is a common problem seen in veterinary clinics. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons people take their cat to the vet.

What Is Diarrhea in cats?

Diarrhea is the act of having abnormally loose or liquid stools. This can also be associated with an increased frequency of bowel movements. Some cats will have a large amount of liquid or abnormally loose stools once and others will have semi-formed stools frequently with straining.

What Causes Diarrhea in cats?

Diarrhea results from excessive water content in the feces and it is an important sign of intestinal disease in cats.

Diarrhea can be a symptom of many different conditions. It can be caused a number of problems including:

  • A change in the cat's food

  • Eating garbage or food that does not agree with their system

  • Eating indigestible objects

  • Infectious agents including bacterial, viral or parasites

  • Systemic problems such as pancreatitis, kidney disease or liver disease

    It can affect your cat by causing extreme fluid loss, which leads to dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, and/or acid-base imbalances.
    For a full list of possible causes – go to Acute Diarrhea in Cats. Pet owners commonly ask, "What can I do at home?"

    Home Treatment of Diarrhea for Your Cat

    Specific treatments of diarrhea are dependent on the cause. Here is the general approach to dealing with a cat with acute diarrhea:

    - If your pet has diarrhea once then has a normal bowel movement without further diarrhea or has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own.

    - If you can identify it, always eliminate any predisposing cause such as exposure to trash, abrupt change in diet and eating plants.

    - recommend that you see your veterinarian – don't attempt home care.

    - If diarrhea occurs several times and you cannot take your cat to your veterinarian (which is recommended), then you may try the following:

  • Administer only prescribed medications by your veterinarian.

  • Stop feeding your cat for the first 12 to 24 hours.

  • If there is no vomiting, provide plenty of fresh clean water.

  • Temporarily change the diet to something bland. Bland diets can be made at home or prescription type diets can be obtained from your veterinarian. A bland digestible diet such as: Hill's prescription diet feline i/d, Iams® Veterinary Formula Intestinal Low Residue, Purina EN®Gastroenteric Feline Formula, Royal Canin Feline Intestinal HE 30, are usually recommended. You can make a homemade diet of boiled chicken. Feed small amounts at a time. Don't over feed as it may induce vomiting. Give small amounts frequently – every 2 or 3 hours for the first day. You can gradually increase the amount and decrease the frequency as your cat tolerates.

  • Feed a bland diet for 2 days.

  • Then gradually return to regular cat food over the next day or two. At first, mix in a little of your cat's food into the bland diet. Feed that for one meal. Then feed a 50/50 mix for one meal. Then feed ¾ cat food and ¼ bland diet for a meal. Then feed your cat's regular food.

  • Leash-walk your pet to allow observation of bowel movements while watching for normal urinations and any vomiting that may occur otherwise without you knowing.

  • Observe your cat's general activity and appetite. Watch closely for the presence of blood in the stool, worsening of signs or the onset of vomiting.

  • Have your pet examined by your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Some veterinarians recommend Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate (for dogs only!) ® The active ingredients are generally subsalicylate and Bismuth. Do NOT give cats Pepto-bismol or Kaopectate! DO NOT USE IN CATS.

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian. Please do not administer to cats without first consulting with a veterinarian to avoid toxicity.

  • This is important! If the diarrhea continues at any time or the onset of other symptoms are noted, call your veterinarian promptly. If your pet is not eating, starts vomiting, acts lethargic, has continued diarrhea or any other physical abnormalities mentioned above, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your pet needs the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your pet is having the clinical signs mentioned above, expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. Recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

    When Is Diarrhea an Emergency in cats?

    If the diarrhea continues after your pet eats or if your pet acts lethargic, doesn't want to eat and/or starts vomiting, then medical attention is warranted. Please see your veterinarian!

    Great Links for More Information on diarrhea in cats

    For more details about diarrhea, go to "Acute Diarrhea in cats", and Chronic Diarrhea in Cats (duration longer than 1 or 2 weeks).

    Related topics – go to Vomiting in Cats, Gastroenteritis in Cats and Dehydration in Cats


    Disclaimer: Advice given in the Home Care series of articles is not meant to replace veterinary care. When your pet has a problem, it is always best to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. But in some cases, it is not always possible to seek veterinary care. You could be traveling, it could be after hours and there are no 24-hour clinics near you, or maybe you simply can't afford it. Whatever the reason, when your pet has a problem, you need answers. Most vets will not give you any information over the phone – they will tell you to bring your pet in for an office visit. So, when these difficult situations arise, many pet owners don't know what to do – and they end up doing the wrong thing because they don't have sound veterinary advice. When your pet has a problem and you can't see your vet, the information in this series of articles can help guide you so that you will not inadvertently cause harm to your pet. However, this information is not a replacement for veterinary care.


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