Why Does My Cat Have Diarrhea All of a Sudden? Causes and Management Options

Cat diarrhea

You walk into your home after a long day of running errands and work to the foul smell of cat poop. On closer examination, you spot that your 5-year-old cat has defecated outside the litter box and it looks soft, jelly-like cat diarrhea with or without some bloodstains in it.

Cat diarrhea of any kind, form, or shape is unpleasant and I wouldn’t wish that for your cat. However, when it happens, this is an indication that your kitty needs help.

If you notice that your cat is having trouble going to the bathroom or if you’ve noticed your cat’s diarrhea outside her litter box, then this blog post will come in handy with 7 solutions for fixing the problem!

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is the rapid movement of ingested food through the gut, resulting into:

  • Watery stool that’s usually unformed or simply loose.
  • Increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Increased amounts of stool

A cat will normally have 1-2 bowel movements in a day and the stool is well-formed and appear moist.

Types of Diarrhea:

There are two types of cat diarrhea:

1.      Acute diarrhea (ends quickly). Cat diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem unless you have an old cat or a kitten.

The most frequently seen causes of acute diarrhea in cats include dietary intolerance, viral infections, and intestinal parasites. If your kitty has diarrhea, an abrupt diet food change can easily give her the runs.

So can dairy products because, contrary to popular opinion, many cats are lactose intolerant. Because a cat’s emotions can easily translate into physical problems, a stressful event such as a change in your schedule or a move to a new home can trigger cat diarrhea.

Checking the cat’s diet should be the first step in identifying possible causes of diarrhea.

2.      Chronic diarrhea (lasts for days, weeks). Cat diarrhea is not a disease in itself but usually a symptom of an underlying condition. A single episode of cat diarrhea is nothing to worry about, but if your kitty keeps on having recurrent episodes, take action to avoid your kitty from getting it, which can be dangerous. This can cause life-threatening weight loss.

Chronic diarrhea in cats can be associated with certain parasites, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatic disorders, and systemic conditions such as hyperthyroidism.

A condition like inflammatory bowel disease in cats requires the intervention of a veterinarian immediately.

Cat Diarrhea signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Watery feces
  • Abdominal pain
  • Straining to defecate
  • Increased fecal amount
  • Blood or mucus in feces

Monitor your kitty for these signs and write down any irregularities and inform your vet.

Accurate information will help the vet diagnose and treat your cat faster.

Causes for Diarrhea:

Your kitty will have diarrhea outside the litter box due to:

1.              Colitis:

A cat with colitis will present with increased frequency in the bowels, straining and mucus, and sometimes blood on the stools. Mucus is produced in the colon to ease the passage of poop.

When inflamed, excess mucus is produced and seen on the stool. Colitis can be a result of stress, food poisoning, diet change, and parasites, bacterial or viral infections.

2.              Dietary Changes:

Can switching cat food cause diarrhea? A more common reason for when the cat has diarrhea after changing food but no other symptoms is a change in diet.

An introduction of a new food may cause cat diarrhea stress.

How long will cat have diarrhea after changing food? Your cat should adapt with time and the diarrhea should resolve after a few days.

3.              Low-Quality Food:

Cat food can contain ingredients that don’t enter the human food chain such as hooves, beaks, bird feathers, and heads. These are rich protein sources that are then processed to eliminate harmful bacteria before being incorporated into cat food.

These, however, may end up upsetting your cat’s stomach.

To curb this, you can invest in human-grade cat food which is recommended for cats that have digestive issues or a sensitive gut. Of importance, check the AAFCO label that verifies that the food meets minimal nutritional requirements for cats.

In addition, consult with your vet to ensure that you are feeding your kitty the best food you can that meets its nutritional needs.

4.              Food Intolerances and Allergies:

Just like human beings, cats can develop food allergies that can trigger diarrhea. This usually is the cause of chronic diarrhea and can develop when the cat is fed the same type of food every day for a long time. This may result in gut inflammation and food allergies as a result.

Ps: Your cat may be lactose intolerant and feeding her with cow’s milk and other dairy products will lead to gut issues like diarrhea.

5.              Eating Spoiled Food:

If your cat jumps into the trash bin and feasts on spoilt food, acute diarrhea may occur. This type of diarrhea however resolves fairly quickly and is easily preventable by keeping the spoiled foods out of the cat’s reach.

6.              Bacterial or Viral Infection:

Bacterial and viral infections of the gut can cause your kitty to experience severe diarrhea and vomiting, both of which can lead to extreme weight loss and dehydration.

If the cat has diarrhea and it doesn’t resolve quickly, talk to your vet who may recommend cat diarrhea medicine.

7.              Internal Parasites:

Diarrhea in cats can be a symptom of intestinal parasites, which enter a cat’s body and intestinal tract through infected feces and contaminated water and food sources.

Cats who spend lots of time outside have a higher risk of getting infected with intestinal parasites.

A veterinarian diagnoses an intestinal parasite infection by looking for the parasites in a fecal sample.

If your kitty has intestinal parasites, proper medical attention is needed to clear the infection.

Ps: Some intestinal parasites, like Toxoplasma, can be passed from a cat to its owner.

Internal parasites include:

  • Giardia
  • Coccidia
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Whipworms
  • Toxoplasma
  • Roundworms

8.              Diseases:

Diseases and conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Addison’s disease, kidney or liver disease can cause your feline friend to have chronic diarrhea.

The liver and kidneys are detoxifying organs and when there’s something wrong with them, diarrhea may be one of the first symptoms to develop.

Contact your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment in case of any bowel disease.

9.              Antibiotics:

A conventional dose of antibiotics can have many potential side effects and diarrhea is a common one.

This however clears as soon as the treatment is over.

10.         Chemicals, Toxins, and Poisoning:

Ingesting chemicals or toxins can cause diarrhea in cats. This diarrhea can be either chronic or acute, depending on what type of poisoning the cat is experiencing.

Acute Diarrhea will often occur when the cat ingests something poisonous, like a toxic houseplant.

Cats can be very curious creatures. If you have a cat, you must know which plants are poisonous and avoid bringing them into the house.

Even plants that aren’t specifically known to be poisonous can still do a substantial amount of damage to your cat’s stomach.

If your cats enjoy getting into your plants, consider purchasing wheatgrass (cat grass), which is not only safe but also very nutritious.

Cat food

Management and Treatment Options:

Cat Diarrhea Home remedies

It’s recommended that you withhold food for at least 12-24 hours and provide small amounts of water frequently.

What can you give a cat for diarrhea?

1.     Dietary Fiber:

Introducing a low fiber diet can prove beneficial in some cat diarrhea conditions.

Adding fiber to the cat’s diet e.g. A simple effective way is to give unsweetened cooked unflavored, non-pie filling pumpkin two teaspoons twice daily. If canned pumpkin is not easily found, try fresh, cooked sweet potato.

 If diarrhea does not resolve in the first two to three days on this bland diet, consult your veterinarian if you haven’t already.

Pro-tip: Look out for brands that are labeled as ideal for cats with sensitive stomachs.

2.     Water and Electrolytes:

Encourage your feline friend to drink water. Place a large bowl of water at her feeding spot. Cats avoid having their whiskers touching the edge of the drink. This explains why they like the toilet bowl.

Experiment with different types of water, from tap water, bottled water, etc.

A kitten with diarrhea needs more water by whatever means possible. Diarrhea causes the kitten to lose fluids, and the electrolytes in those fluids are essential to help control important physiologic functions.

Dehydration usually occurs as a result of diarrhea and hydration is necessary to curb that. Ensure that your feline friend has unlimited access to freshwater. Dehydration if unmanaged can be fatal.

3.     Probiotics:

These are highly effective in maintaining a healthy amount of bacteria in a cat’s gut vital for normal digestion and healthy poop. Give a teaspoon of active culture yogurt without artificial sweeteners, twice daily.

4. Dietary changes:

The way out of this is by going slow when transitioning to a new food. Gradually replace small portions of the existing food with the new food.

If your feline friend doesn’t respond to the home treatment methods suggested after 24 hours, take your feline friend to the vet.

5.     Minimize stress:

Consider having a Feliway diffuser that helps lower your cat’s stress. It mimics your cat’s pheromones that relax her making her calm and happy. It’s however not a drug and safe for your cat.

Tip: It’s odorless to human beings.

How to stop chronic diarrhea in cats:

1. Slippery elm:

This is a neutral fiber source that may work well to ease episodes of diarrhea.

 It acts as a natural anti-diarrheal by reducing GI inflammation. It can also act as a non-irritating source of fiber to bulk the stool and slow its transit through the GI tract.

 Consult your veterinarian for dosage recommendations on how to treat your cat’s diarrhea.

2. Peppermint or Chamomile :

Many pet owners have success using other herbal remedies such as peppermint or chamomile.

These may be especially helpful for the cramps and other unpleasant GI symptoms that come with diarrhea.

3. Homeopathic podophyllum:

This is also a good remedy to keep on hand to help reduce some of the side effects associated with intermittent diarrhea. Consult your veterinarian for dosage recommendations.

4. Metamucil:

It can also be used to help resolve diarrhea. Adding half a teaspoon of Metamucil into your kitten’s food, especially if he has soft poop, often firms up the stool.

5. Pedialyte:

It is an over-the-counter electrolyte beverage designed for infants and children and can be added to your kitten’s water.

 NB: Do not continue struggling to give home remedies to your cat if chronic diarrhea doesn’t resolve. Contact your vet immediately for professional help.

Reasons why your cat will avoid using the litter box:

Your cat will diarrhea outside the litter box due to various reasons.

1.      She experiences pain when using the box. Your cat may associate the pain when trying to poop in the box and they end up blaming the litter box.

This results in them trying out a different location. While this doesn’t make sense to you, strangely, it does to cats.

2.      When there’s one litter box for multiple cats.

3.      The litter box is placed in an inaccessible congested place.

4.      A dirty litter box that’s not been cleaned out and is full of poop.

5.      Frequent changing of the litter box location.

6.      Changing the type of cat litter just when you have introduced a new cat into your home.

7.      Use of heavily scented litters and litter deodorizer to mask poop smell.

8.      Changing the type of litter box the cat was used to.

These are some of the key reasons why your cat is suddenly pooping on the floor.

How to Stop Your Cat From Having Diarrhea Outside Their Litter Box

What do you do if your cat poops outside the litter box? Here’s how:

1.   Multiple litter boxes:

As a rule of thumb, have a litter box for each cat plus one more. This will ensure that in a multicat family, your timid cat will easily relieve herself in a different litter box without fear of being attacked.

2.   Permanent litter box locations:

Ensure that you do not constantly change the litter box locations to avoid confusing your cats. They may end up pooping on the exact spots where the litter box was located since they associated that spot with relieving themselves.

3.   Clean the cat litter box:

A dirty smelly litter box will repel your cat and she will look for alternative places to relieve herself. To avoid this, clean the litter box thoroughly using mild soap, warm water, and sun-drying the box frequently.

4.   Use enzymatic-based cleaners:

Once your cat has had a bout of diarrhea in any location in the house that poop smell will attract her to defecate on the same spot the next time.

For this reason, you need to clean the spot thoroughly leaving no scent or smell. Cats have enhanced smell senses and what may be odorless to you can still attract your cat.

To avoid this, use an enzymatic-based cleaner that gets rid of the scent completely by digesting the fecal compounds into basic compounds.

5.   Use of a pheromone diffuser:

If your cat is stressed and having bouts of diarrhea all over a new house, introduce Feliway, a pheromone diffuser.

It releases pheromones that have a calming effect on your cat and lowers her stress levels.

6.   Barricade the New Poop Spots:

Place barriers to prevent your cat from accessing the new favorite poop spots outside her litter box. This will prevent her from relieving herself on the same spot and forming an unbreakable habit.

7.   Consult a Vet:

In case your cat has an infection that is causing chronic diarrhea in your cat, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian officer immediately.

Vet performing surgery on a cat

When to contact your Veterinarian officer

There are a few things that pet owners should consider when deciding if it’s time for a vet visit:

  • What’s the general condition of your cat’s health?
  • Is your cat very young or old? An old cat
  • Do they have any preexisting health conditions that will make them more susceptible to dehydration or other illnesses?
  • Is your cat experiencing any other worrisome symptoms, such as vomiting, lethargy, depression, or pain?
  • How often are the bouts of diarrhea?
  • Is diarrhea extremely watery?
  • What does your cat’s diarrhea look like? Blood in diarrhea? Is it the color of normal, healthy feces or is it black and tarry? Black and tarry feces often points to internal bleeding, which is life-threatening and must be treated immediately.
  • The cat hasn’t received all his vaccinations.
  • If your cat is looking unwell overall and their feces look abnormal, take your cat to be examined by your veterinarian.

It’s okay if you don’t have the answer to all of these questions.

As a rule, we recommend that cat owners take their cats to the vet at least once a year for a check-up, and if the cat is a senior (over 7 years old cat) or has known health issues, your vet may recommend more frequent visits.

Once you inform your vet about your sickly cat, they’ll want to examine your cat as well as assess a sample of diarrhea.

A good way to monitor any poop changes in your cat is by establishing a cat poop chart that helps you learn your cat’s regular routines and understand what is normal in their day-to-day activities. This will help you arrest any problems before they become advanced.

When cleaning the cat’s litter once or twice a day, you will also get a chance to identify any abnormalities early.

 What your Veterinarian may ask for?

1.      Details about the color, consistency, and odor of the stool. A photo of the poop will go a thousand miles in helping your vet give a proper diagnosis and food and treatment plan.

2.      The frequency of the bowel movements, the volume of the stool, if your cat is straining while passing the stool, and whether the stool has any fresh red blood or mucus.

3.      When booking your appointment with the vet, ask if they would like a stool sample and request specific directions on how they would like this collection, the quantity, and stored in advance of the appointment. Some vets may require to do some blood work to help determine the problem. This will simplify the diagnostic process and lead to a targeted treatment for your cat’s diarrhea.

4.      While at it, ask if your cat needs to fast in advance of the appointment since the vet may need to do some blood work.

5.      When was the onset and how long has the diarrhea been going on? If the stool is bloody, contact your veterinarian immediately.

6.      How many times per day does your cat have diarrhea?

7.      Do you notice an increased urgency, stool accidents outside the litterbox, or straining to poop?

8.      Have you seen blood or mucus in the feces? Examine the litterbox to identify these problems.

9.      What is your cat’s dietary history, including recent food changes and treats?

10.  What treatments, if any, has the cat been given, and how did they work?

11.  Are there any other signs of illness, including vomiting, lethargy, or appetite loss?

12.  Does your cat go outside?

13.  Has there been any exposure to other animals that may have been sick?

14.  Has your cat experienced any recent stressful events?

15.  What is the current and past vaccination status of your cat?

What causes explosive diarrhea in cats?

The cat may have parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, or food sensitivities.

 If your cat has been having explosive diarrhea and not acting like herself, you should get her to the vet for an exam immediately.

Your veterinarian will take a stool sample and do blood work to diagnose what’s going on with your cat.

Conclusion:

When your cat is having diarrhea outside the litter box, it can be a frustrating and difficult problem to solve.

With some patience and time, however, you will likely find that there are things you can do to help stop this behavior from happening again in the future.

We have provided 7 tips for preventing or stopping diarrhea outside of their litter box–but don’t forget that prevention is always better than cure!

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