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Diarrhea in Cats: Common Causes & When It's Serious

Learning that your cat is experiencing diarrhea can be a distressing revelation. In this post, our Voorhees vets list common causes of diarrhea and how to know if this condition becomes serious. 


If your cat has diarrhea, you're likely searching for any potential causes and looking for guidance on how to help them recover from this concerning symptom as quickly as possible. Here, we'll cover some of the most common reasons your cat may have diarrhea and when it's time to schedule a visit with your vet. 

Diarrhea in Cats

It's not uncommon for our four-legged feline companions to suffer from mild bouts of diarrhea. This may be attributed to kitty either eating food that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or from switching to. a brand new of flavor of food. 

That said, some serious health conditions can also contribute to your cat suffering from diarrhea. 

What causes diarrhea in cats?

Concerned kitty owners often ask us, "Why does my cat have diarrhea?". There are many potential causes for gastrointestinal upset in cats, including:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Colitis
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons 
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as fabric or toys
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Medications such as antibiotics
  • Pancreatitis
  • Viral infection 

However, how can you be sure whether or not your cat's diarrhea will require a visit to your veterinarian? When is it serious enough to warrant medical attention? 

When should I contact my vet about my cat's diarrhea? 

If your pet has a single episode of diarrhea but is otherwise acting normally, it's likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your pet's bowel movements to see if things clear up. If your cat experiences more than two episodes in short succession, this may indicate an issue. Therefore, it's generally a good idea to contact your veterinarian if your cat has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your pet appears to be straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, he or she could be experiencing a painful blockage from ingesting a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and requires emergency veterinary care. Contact your vet right away to see if they can fit you in for an emergency appointment.

Recurring diarrhea over a short period of time is likely a cause for concern, and may even be a sign of a much more serious underlying health issue, such as disease in the intestines, gastrointestinal system, or another part of the body.

This is particularly true if your pet is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. A number of these infections can be quite serious, contagious, or even life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your pet is experiencing repeated bouts of diarrhea. 

Diagnosing Chronic Diarrhea in Cats

Chronic diarrhea re-occurs frequently over time. This stool is consistently softer than normal and continues for several weeks or longer. 

Your veterinarian may run a battery of tests to diagnose diarrhea, including a:

  • Complete blood count and chemistry test to analyze red and white blood cell counts, internal organ function, and electrolytes
  • Fecal test to check for intestinal parasites and infectious organisms
  • Infectious disease test to look for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus
  • Thyroid test to check your four-legged friend's thyroid hormone levels (the thyroid helps regulate metabolism)
  • Urinalysis test to check for bacteria, glucose, or protein in the urine 

Additional testing such as X-rays, biopsies, an abdominal ultrasound and others may be needed depending on your cat's symptoms and results of previous testing. 

Cat Diarrhea & Co-Occurring Symptoms

Cats that are showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your pet has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your cat is showing symptoms that are causing you concern, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will let you know whether or not your cat's symptoms indicate that examination and treatment are necessary.

How to Treat Cat Diarrhea

How your veterinarian will treat your cat's diarrhea will depend largely on its cause, and whether diarrhea has developed recently or has become a chronic condition. Changes to diet and medications, may be necessary. Your vet may also recommend fiber supplements or probiotics.

When researching how to stop cat diarrhea and trying different remedies, continued monitoring, communication with your vet about your cat's individual circumstances, and careful management of symptoms and treatment, are key to resolving the issue. 

How to Stop Chronic Diarrhea in Cats

After your vet diagnoses the underlying cause of your kitty's gastrointestinal upset, specific treatments for nonintestinal-related diseases such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism will be recommended, in addition to those that are intestinal-related. 

Your cat may require medication or supplements such as vitamin B12 or probiotics to support their digestive system. Depending on your cat's health condition, your vet may recommend a prescription diet. Novel or hydrolyzed proteins are often recommended in these cases. (A novel protein diet is a diet containing exclusively proteins that your pet has never eaten.)

Trial diets typically last three to eight weeks. Your cat should only eat the recommended food during that time. Many blood tests for food allergies in cats are not as reliable as a diet trial.

If your cat continues to eat well, stay at a healthy weight, and have normal energy levels, your vet may recommend home remedies such as:

  • Diet trial using an over-the-counter food made for sensitive stomachs 
  • Canned pumpkin or fiber supplement
  • Feline-specific probiotics. 

If these options do not help your pet's stool return to normal within a few days, or if more symptoms develop, make an appointment with your primary care veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Never give your cat over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications for humans, such as Imodium or Pepto Bismol, without first talking to your veterinarian, as these can have severe side effects in pets.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your cat have diarrhea? Contact our Voorhees vets today to schedule an appointment for your feline companion. We are here for you and your cat when your pet is experiencing this uncomfortable condition.

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Voorhees Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of New Jersey's companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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