Cat Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Of all the unexpected minor problems that could pop up and derail your day, cat diarrhea is probably one of the most unpleasant. It stinks, it stains, and it makes both you and your cat miserable. Thankfully, it's most often a temporary issue that will resolve with proper home care, allowing you and your furry friend to get back to business.
However, some cases may require professional veterinary care. The only way to differentiate is to try to determine the cause of the diarrhea and keep a close eye on your cat's symptoms.
Causes of Cat Diarrhea
The most common causes of diarrhea include parasites (e.g., worms or Isospora), infections (like rotavirus), or eating an item that is difficult to digest or inedible.
There are countless health issues that include diarrhea as a symptom, and because of that, it's probably best to start with "What happened?" rather than "What if?" For example, if you recently gave your cat a new food or medication, diarrhea may simply be a reaction to the adjustment - one that should go away on its own within a day or two. Maybe your cat got her paws on some dairy or scraps from the garbage can. Maybe your neighbors have been feeding your cat, thinking she's a stray or just wanting to give her extra treats. Diarrhea is a pretty normal reaction for a cat that's eaten something that diverges from her typical diet.
It's also not uncommon for pets to have diarrhea when they've returned from a boarding facility where mealtimes may have been a little off, or where stress may have gotten the best of them. Cats can also experience stress when a new family member is added to the household, so if you've recently brought in a new dog or cat or pet sat for a friend in your home, your cat may just be a little nervous.
If your cat's diarrhea can't be explained by any of these - and especially if she's a young, vulnerable kitten - it may be in everyone's best interest to schedule an appointment with a holistic veterinarian. Parasites and infections are often easily treatable with the appropriate medication, and there's no reason to let your cat suffer if you suspect the issue may not resolve on its own.
Symptoms of Cat Diarrhea
The symptoms of cat diarrhea are pretty straightforward, but we'll talk about which ones should warrant prompt veterinarian care versus home remedies.
Typical symptoms include:
- Loose, frequent stools
- Increased amount of stools
- Mucus in stool
Sustained or severe cases of diarrhea will often cause or be accompanied by:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Bloody or black stools
If your cat's symptoms persist beyond one or two days, or if diarrhea is a frequent problem, consult a holistic veterinarian who can look at your cat's health as a whole picture, run tests, and discuss solutions with you.
If you have multiple cats and you're not sure which cat has diarrhea, check for staining and soiling of the fur in long-haired breeds, and keep a close eye on other symptoms that may occur.
All-Natural Remedies and Tips for Resolving Cat Diarrhea
But again, many cases of diarrhea will clear up without vet treatment. Here are some ways you can speed up the healing process and help your cat feel better:
Provide fresh water
Diarrhea causes water to pass through your cat's system instead of being absorbed, which is why her stools are loose and wet. This leads to excess fluid loss, which can dehydrate your cat. Make sure she has access to clean, fresh water at all hours of the day. This should be true every day, but you may need to be more vigilant about refills in order to prevent dehydration when your cat has had diarrhea.
Don't stop feeding your cat unless there's vomiting
You definitely want to give your cat's stomach a chance to settle, but withholding food can prevent the gut from going through its normal processes and healing itself. That being said, if you believe a certain type of food is the source of your cat's diarrhea (say, you recently switched to a new brand of treats), go back to what you were serving before the symptoms began.
If your cat has vomited, skip her next meal and then prepare her something bland and easily digestible for the meal after that. Most vets recommend boiled chicken and rice for upset stomach. But no matter what, keep providing her with fresh water.
Give your cat a digestive support supplement
If your cat is keeping food down, consider offering her a digestive supplement such as neem bark powder. It's a natural and organic supplement for cats that supports healthy digestion and immune system function. It contains NO artificial colors, preservatives, yeast, wheat, soy, dairy, and gluten.
Never give your cat human diarrhea medicine without consulting a vet
Some over-the-counter medicines you might use to cure your upset stomach could be extremely dangerous for your cat. Never give your cat human medication unless your vet tells you to, and only give your cat the specific recommended amount. Don't replace a consultation with a veterinarian with advice you find online.
Extra pet parent tip: Use Eco-88 stain remover
Many cats continue to do their business in the litter box, but sometimes the urgency factor can force them to defecate in other places. Either way, you may need to clean a few stinky stains from various surfaces. Eco-88 Stain Remover removes stains and odors associated with diarrhea and vomit, even on carpets and upholstery. It's environmentally-friendly and contains no bleaches or masking fragrances. It's non-staining and non-toxic so you don't have to worry about its effects on furnishings, your family, or your cat.
Be sure to wash your hands after handling your cat and wear gloves while cleaning her mess. Just in case a parasite or infection is present, be sure to wash her bedding materials, toys, litter box, etc.
Rethinking Your Cat's Diet on the Whole
A short-term case of diarrhea may not be cause to rethink your cat's entire diet. But if your cat frequently has soft stools, gas, and/or irritated skin, she may have a food intolerance or a food allergy. If you're feeding your cat food or treats from the pet store shelf without closely reading the label, you may not know that many packaged cat foods contain additives, chemicals, and preservatives that just don't sit well with the typical feline digestive system.
Cats are carnivores by nature, so they should be eating protein-based diets with some fat and a very minimal amount of carbohydrates. However, many packaged foods contain wheat and soy filler that your cat doesn't need. Check the nutrition label and make sure that some source of meat protein is the top ingredient listed. If you're not sure whether the food you're feeding your cat is the best option, you can either consult a holistic veterinarian to talk about a meal plan, begin serving your cat homemade meals that are largely protein-based, or try out an organic food that matches your cat's nutrition requirements.
When you switch your cat's food, make sure to transition to the new food slowly, or your cat may have digestive symptoms like diarrhea or upset stomach. Unless the old food is causing severe digestive symptoms, mix a little of the new food into the old food for a week, increasing the amount of new food each day.
If you plan to change up your cat's diet, remember that it's not just what you put in her bowl that matters, but the treats you give her for fun or the snacks she may find while she's prowling outside. If necessary, keep your cat inside so she's not munching on the neighbor's dog food or finding bits of garbage. Try natural, all-meat jerky treats as a reward. Make sure your garbage is sealed away from your cat, and don't leave food or used plates on the counter.
Consulting a Holistic Vet about Your Cat's Diarrhea or Diet Changes
If your cat's symptoms persist, or you're not sure of the next step in remedying diarrhea, it never hurts to get the advice of a professional - especially if you suspect that underlying health issues are present. A vet can perform exams that help you determine the source of the problems, such as testing the stool for the presence of parasites or taking blood samples. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) is another potential cause of cat diarrhea, and if this is the case you'll need to discuss a special diet with your veterinarian.
The key reason why it's important to seek a specialist in holistic veterinary care is that caring for your cat's health means more than throwing medications at her symptoms. Holistic vets use a combination of traditional and alternative therapies. They tailor the solution depending on your cat's specific needs. Because medications and procedures do not take precedence over potential natural solutions like a healthy diet and supplements, you can save money visiting a holistic veterinarian, and learn how to keep your cat healthy for life instead of just helping her through her current health crisis.
Tests your veterinarian may perform while investigating the cause of your cat's diarrhea include:
- Blood workups to check for infection or inflammation
- Urinalysis to check kidney function
- Fecal examination tests to determine whether parasites or bacteria are present
- X-rays in case of suspected blockage (usually more common in cases of constipation)
- Thyroid tests
A holistic vet will seek the most effective, least invasive, and most affordable solution to your pet's health issue.