What should you do if your cat has diarrhea?

What should you do if your cat has diarrhea?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – my cat has diarrhea – just started this morning but I noticed he had a very runny (and stinky) bowel movement in the litter box and now he is having another one. When should I worry? What should I do?

Lexi M. Nashville, KY


Hi – thanks for your email Lexi. Diarrhea is a relatively common symptom in cats and a common question we get is what do you do if your cat has diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined as frequent loose or runny bowel movements (stools). They can vary from watery to pudding like in consistency. Their color can also vary from light brown, yellow, dark brown, black or bloody tinged. The frequency can vary from just more than normally to constant straining. Some indoor cats may have such urgency, they can’t make it to the litterbox in time and have an “accident’ outside of the box.

Some cats may have one or two loose stools and it may not be a problem. If a cat has one or two loose stools but is still eating, drinking and seems playful – then I am not very worried. Watch for any additional signs.

These are the situations in a cat with diarrhea that may be a sign of something more serious: A cat that in addition to the diarrhea also,

  • Won’t eat
  • Vomits
  • Acts weak
  • Diarrhea continues for more than 12 hours
  • Blood in the bowel movement or the bowel movement looks very black (tarry)
  • Acts lethargic
  • Looks pale (when you look at his gum color)If you see any of these signs, I would worry that there is an underlying condition that may be significant and need evaluated by your veterinarian.

    What else can you do?

    Keep your cat inside (if he goes out) so that you can observe for any abnormalities. If your cat is not feeling well, he may not be able to defend himself if a problem arises while out.

    Think about what he has eaten recently and determine if there has been a diet change. Sudden diet changes can cause diarrhea in some cats. If you are not sure if your cat is eating, offer some fresh food. Make sure he eats. Pay careful attention to his litter box habits. Make sure he is urinating and defecating normally. If you notice abnormalities, then call your veterinarian.

    An article that might be helpful to you is Acute Diarrhea in Cats.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Debra

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