Gastrointestinal issues are some of the most common ailments among our feline friends, with diarrhea being near the top of that list. Our La Mesa vets talk about what causes diarrhea in cats, how you can stop it, and when it might be considered an emergency.

Why does my cat have diarrhea?

Diarrhea is an extremely uncomfortable symptom for cats to experience, not to mention potentially quite messy for you. Sorting out the cause and getting your furry friend feeling better should be the priority.

It's not uncommon for cats to experience mild diarrhea due to various reasons such as consuming table scraps or switching to a different brand of food. However, it's important to note that several severe health conditions might be causing your cat discomfort. Here are some common reasons why cats develop diarrhea, and when it is necessary to seek veterinary attention.

What causes diarrhea in cats?

Some of the most common causes of diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues in cats are:

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

So, now you know the possible causes, how will you know when you should bring them to the vet?

When should you call your vet?

If your cat is suddenly experiencing diarrhea then you will want to watch for other symptoms and strange behaviors. You will also want to continue to monitor them to see if the issue resolves itself. If your cat has more than two episodes of diarrhea in a short period, it could be an indication of an issue, so it's generally a good idea to contact your veterinarian if this happens.

If your pet appears to be struggling to pass stool and is only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, it could be a sign of a painful blockage caused by the ingestion of a foreign object, such as a toy. This is a serious concern and requires urgent veterinary attention. You should contact your vet immediately or go to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.

If your cat is experiencing excessive diarrhea, you will want to bring them in for a checkup as this could indicate a serious concern. This is especially true if your pet is very young, very old, or has a compromised immune system. Some of these infections can be quite severe, contagious, or even life-threatening. You will need to contact your vet and schedule an appointment to determine the cause and develop a plan for how to stop chronic diarrhea in cats.

Cats showing other symptoms in addition to diarrhea should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your pet has any of the following symptoms, you should contact your vet right away to schedule 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 displays any of the symptoms above please contact your vet right away. Your vet will let you know whether or not your cat's symptoms indicate that examination and treatment are necessary.

How to Stop Cat Diarrhea in Cats

While you may be desperate to stop your cat's diarrhea, you should never, ever give them human medications. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to cats.

When it comes to your kitty's health it is always best to err on the side of caution. By taking your feline friend to the vet for an examination you allow your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of your cat's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

That said, your vet's primary focus will be on addressing the underlying cause of your kitty's diarrhea. With a diagnosis, you will be able to begin treating the condition causing the diarrhea rather than managing the symptoms alone.

Of course, your priority is likely to be stopping the mess. To address your cat's diarrhea your vet may prescribe a kaolin-pectin anti-diarrheal medication or another suitable drug as well as recommend one or more of the strategies below.

Other Ways You Can Help Manage Diarrhea in Cats:

  • Changing Your Cat's Diet: Changing your cat's food may help to rectify the issue. If you have recently changed your cat's food go back to serving the food you gave them previously. If you haven't changed your cat's food recently try switching to a gentle GI food for a couple of days or switching your kitty over to a hypoallergenic or low-antigen diet.
  • Supplement Your Cat's Diet With Probiotics: Probiotics may be recommended as a dietary supplement for your cat, to address the balance of microbiome and reduce GI upset.
  • Increase the Amount of Fiber in Your Cat's Diet: Increase the fiber intake of your feline friend by trying them on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that includes foods such as potatoes or rice mixed with chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, or yogurt.

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.

If your cat is experiencing diarrhea that won't stop or other serious symptoms, please reach out to our veterinarians in La Mesa right away.