Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (2023)

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (1)

One of the most common reasons cats are seen for DVM is diarrhea and loose stools. Diarrhea can occur suddenly or it can involve chronic abnormal bowel movements. There are many causes of diarrhea and consequently many ways to treat it.

Diarrhea can be painful and could indicate underlying problems such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal parasites, or problems with your cat's diet. Fortunately, most cases of cat diarrhea can be resolved with the help of your local vet.

Quick Summary: Diarrhea in Cats

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (2)Urgency: Moderate to high.

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (3)You need a visit to the vet.: Sim

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (4)seen in cats: Frequently

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (5)may be linked to: Infection, inflammation, intestinal parasites, dietary indiscretion, intolerance to foods/novel foods, stress, inflammatory bowel disease, secondary to metabolic or endocrine disease, cancer.

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (6)Requires ongoing medication: Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but may include dewormers, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, fiber supplements, probiotics, prescribed diets. Other concurrent illnesses that contribute to diarrhea may also need treatment.

(Video) Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

What causes diarrhea in cats?

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (7)

Diarrhea is caused by an osmotic problem, a gastrointestinal motility problem, a permeability problem, or a secretory problem. Osmotic diarrhea occurs when something causes the intestinal tract to absorb too much water in the stool. Diarrhea associated with motility problems occurs when the intestines contract too much or too little.

Gastrointestinal ulcers or leaky gut syndrome can cause intestinal permeability problems that lead to diarrhea. Secretory diarrhea occurs when the gastrointestinal tract is exposed to toxins from bacterial infections. Sometimes a cat has more than one cause of diarrhea at the same time.

Common causes of diarrhea, of all types, can include:

  • Alimentary indiscretion (the cat ate something that caused diarrhea, such as garbage or rotten food)
  • Feed your cat a new food
  • Ingredient sensitivities (the most common ingredient sensitivities in cats include chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, and soy)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Stress
  • Gastrointestinal cancer such as lymphoma
  • Metabolic and hormonal disorders such as Addison's disease, hyperthyroidism in older cats, liver disease, kidney disease, and pancreatic disease
  • Obstruction of the intestinal tract by food or a foreign body
  • viral infections
  • bacterial infections
  • Intestinal parasites such as coccidia, giardia or roundworms
  • Fungal infections, caused by eating stale food contaminated with fungal spores
  • drugs or toxins

Diarrhea in cats can be acute (oh my gosh, it happened suddenly!), chronic (it's been going on for a while), or intermittent (it starts and stops). Diarrhea is further classified into large bowel diarrhea or small bowel diarrhea.

Large bowel diarrhea seen in cats with colitis involves straining and small amounts of diarrhea that may contain mucus or blood. Small bowel diarrhea involves large amounts of stool, is effortless, can be tarry, and can cause the cat to lose weight. Both small bowel and large bowel diarrhea can cause loss of appetite.

How does diarrhea affect a cat's health?

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (8)

Diarrhea can make a cat feel sick and can also cause serious problems in the body.

In addition to making a cat miserable and disgusting, diarrhea causes many problems in many systems of the body besides the digestive system. Severe diarrhea causes dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that can negatively affect the cat's cardiovascular system, endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, and overall metabolism.

(Video) Cat Health: Diarrhea

Additionally, cats with chronic diarrhea may experience severe weight loss and litter box issues, such as defecating outside the litter box. This puts cats at risk of losing their homes or even their lives to euthanasia in severe cases.

How is the cause of diarrhea diagnosed?

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (9)

Cats with bloody or unresolved diarrhea require a complete physical examination, owner oral history, and laboratory analysis of a fecal sample to determine the cause of the diarrhea.

The type of test ordered depends on the cause of the diarrhea the vet suspects and may include a fecal float, other fecal tests, and blood and urine tests. Other tests may include x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, tests for pancreatitis, fecal cultures, and intestinal biopsy if inflammatory bowel disease or cancer is suspected.

How is diarrhea treated?

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (10)

Once you've identified that your cat has diarrhea, proper treatment can help stop the diarrhea and its underlying cause.

Most cats with acute diarrhea usually have only one episode of diarrhea, do well afterward, and require no treatment. If your cat does number 2 outside, he may not even realize he's had diarrhea!

Otherwise, the treatment of diarrhea depends on several factors, including the cause of the diarrhea and the severity of the diarrhea. Cats with mild diarrhea can be fed only an easily digestible, fat-restricted food, either home-cooked chicken and rice or a therapeutic diet until normal stools are observed.

If that doesn't solve the problem in a day, your vet can prescribe probiotics that can be mixed with your cat's food and anti-diarrheal medications.

Otherwise, the diarrhea is controlled by stopping the diarrhea and addressing the underlying cause. If your vet suspects that your cat's diarrhea is due to intestinal parasites, he will prescribe a dewormer. If your cat has diarrhea due to IBD, your vet will discuss steroids and diet management.

(Video) Diarrhea in Cats Causes, Symptoms, & 3 Effective ways to treat it

If your cat has a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. If your vet suspects that the diarrhea is due to a food intolerance or allergy, he or she will likely ask you to switch your cat to a hypoallergenic diet or a new protein diet for a food trial, and so on.

If your cat is severely dehydrated, has bloody diarrhea, or is very ill, she may need to be hospitalized to treat the diarrhea. If this occurs, your cat will likely have an intravenous catheter placed, be given IV fluids and medications, and will be monitored continuously by hospital staff.

How can I prevent diarrhea in my cat?

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Cats.com (11)

The best way to ensure that your cat does not develop diarrhea is to limit your cat's access to litter or foods other than its normal diet and to try not to change your cat's food. Instead, try to be consistent and feed your cat a high-quality brand of pet food.

Deworm and properly vaccinate your kitty, and take your adult cats and fresh stool samples to the vet annually to check for general condition and intestinal parasites.

Most cases of diarrhea in cats resolve on their own without treatment, however, if your cat has intestinal problems, don't hesitate to contact your local vet, they are there to help.

frequent questions

What can you give a cat for diarrhea?

Most cats with acute diarrhea usually have only one episode of diarrhea, do well afterward, and require no treatment. Cats with mild diarrhea can be fed only easy-to-digest, fat-restricted foods, either home-cooked chicken and rice or a therapeutic diet until normal stools are observed.

(Video) How to stop your cat's diarrhea || cat diarrhea treatment

If that doesn't solve the problem in a day, your vet can prescribe probiotics that can be mixed with the cat's food and anti-diarrheal medications.

Why does my domestic cat have diarrhea?

The most common reasons pet cats have diarrhea include dietary indiscretion, i.e. the cat ate something that caused the diarrhea, such as garbage or spoiled food, feeding your cat a new food, sensitivity to ingredients such as chicken, beef, eggs, dairy or soy, inflammatory bowel disease, stress, metabolic or hormonal conditions, obstruction of the intestinal tract with foreign matter, drugs or toxins, or cancer of the intestinal tract.

What home remedy can I give my cat for diarrhea?

Most cats with acute diarrhea usually have only one episode of diarrhea, do well afterward, and require no treatment. Cats with mild diarrhea can only be fed easy-to-digest, fat-restricted foods, such as homemade chicken and rice. You can also give your canned probiotics that can be bought over the counter. If that doesn't work or if your cat is sick, contact your local vet.

When should I worry about my cat's diarrhea?

Most cats with acute diarrhea usually have only one episode of diarrhea, do well afterward, and require no treatment. Reasons for concern include chronic diarrhea that does not go away with treatment, bloody diarrhea, worms in the feces, weight loss, loss of appetite for more than a day, or if your cat is lethargic or appears dehydrated (sunken eyes, mouth dryness, increased heart rate, decreased skin elasticity).


What is the most common cause of diarrhea in cats? ›

Infectious agents, such as bacteria, viruses, coccidia, and intestinal worms (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms), or non-infectious irritants, such as chemical toxins or poisonous plants, are some of the more common causes of diarrhea.

What do vets do for cats with diarrhea? ›

Basic treatments often include intravenous fluids, medications to help stop the diarrhea (anti-diarrheal medications meant for cats), dewormers, medications to treat nausea, and possibly pain medications. There are also times basic treatments involve dietary changes.

What can cause sudden diarrhea in cats? ›

Acute Diarrhea in Cats

Infectious (parasitic, protozoal, bacterial, fungal, or viral) Inflammatory (such as food allergies) Metabolic or endocrine (such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism) Cancerous.

How long is too long for a cat to have diarrhea? ›

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.

What food gives cats diarrhea? ›

Rich or fatty foods can cause digestive stress for your cat. For example, turkey, ham or other meats rich in fat will result in diarrhea. Excessive fat intake can also cause a life-threatening inflammatory disease called pancreatitis.

How much pumpkin should I give my cat for diarrhea? ›

Add 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin to your cat's food twice a day. Be sure to use real canned pumpkin and not spiced pumpkin pie mix.

How to get rid of diarrhea fast? ›

A diet known as BRAT may also quickly relieve diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This diet is effective due to the bland nature of these foods, and the fact that they're starchy, low-fiber foods. These foods have a binding effect in the digestive tract to make stools bulkier.

How do vets stop diarrhea? ›

Basic treatments often include intravenous fluids, medications to help stop the diarrhea (anti-diarrheal medications meant for dogs), dewormers, medications to treat nausea, and possibly pain medications. There are also times basic treatments involve dietary changes.

Can cats take Pepto Bismol for diarrhea? ›

Similar to Tylenol, both aspirin and Pepto Bismol are highly toxic when used in treating cats. Both medicines contain salicylates which can cause respiratory failure and hyperglycemia.

Will cat diarrhea go away on its own? ›

Though most cases of cat diarrhea resolve in a matter of hours or days without intervention, cats who have it for more than a few days, or that show more severe signs (such as vomiting, appetite loss, bloody stools, watery stools or tiredness), should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Why does my indoor cat keep getting diarrhea? ›

Other health conditions that can cause diarrhea in cats include bacterial infections, viral infections, and infections with protozoal organisms such as Giardia. Dietary sensitivities and dietary imbalances may cause diarrhea. Inflammatory bowel disease and a lack of digestive enzymes can lead to diarrhea in cats.

Does pumpkin help cats with diarrhea? ›

The fiber in pumpkin can both reduce excess moisture in your pet's digestive tract and add bulk to stools, helping to remedy diarrhea. The water in pumpkin also helps to alleviate constipation.

What kind of infection causes diarrhea in cats? ›

Rotavirus Infections in Cats. The rotavirus is a double-stranded, wheel-shaped RNA virus which causes inflammation of the intestines and in severe cases, dysfunction in the intestinal walls. This virus is the leading cause of diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset in cats.

Can cats live with diarrhea? ›

Many cases of diarrhoea are mild, short-lived (last for only a few days), and spontaneously resolve. In many of these cases a specific underlying disease is never diagnosed and cats may get better by themselves or respond to symptomatic and supportive treatment (see later).

What do you feed a senior cat with diarrhea? ›

Some options are a fat-free prepared/canned cat food, cooked, ground turkey and canned 100 percent pumpkin. If canned pumpkin is not easily found, try fresh, cooked sweet potato. Pets with diarrhea usually tolerate and digest pumpkin or sweet potato.

What does liquid poop mean? ›

A liquid bowel movement, or diarrhea, is usually caused by short-term illnesses like food poisoning or a virus. However, it can result from a different underlying medical condition. Diarrhea can happen to everyone from time to time. It occurs when you pass liquid instead of formed stool.

Is wet or dry food better for cats with diarrhea? ›

If wet food is too rich for your kitty, then switching over to dry food can absolutely help to alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea. However, wet food has a much higher moisture content than dry food, which helps to keep your cat hydrated.

How fast does pumpkin work for diarrhea? ›

How Long Does Pumpkin Take to Work? Most cases of simple diarrhea will resolve with pumpkin and a bland diet in one to three days.

What can I feed my cat to harden his stool? ›

Adding half a teaspoon of unflavored Metamucil into your cat's food once or twice a day for 5-7 days may help firm things up. Canned plain pumpkin may do the same thing. Both Metamucil and canned pumpkin are high in fiber.

How quickly does pumpkin work on cats? ›

If you decide to help treat your cat's constipation or diarrhea by adding pumpkin to his diet, you should see improvements within a few hours to 1-2 days. Most cats will enjoy a bit of pumpkin mixed in with their wet food, or all by itself.

What are the 4 types of diarrhea? ›

Diarrhea can be classified into four types:
  • Osmotic diarrhea. Water absorption in the intestines depends on the proper absorption of solutes, which is hindered if there are too many solutes in the intestinal lumen, which leads to diarrhea. ...
  • Secretory diarrhea. ...
  • Inflammatory or infectious diarrhea. ...
  • Motility-related diarrhea.
Nov 30, 2022

What medication can stop diarrhea? ›

Over-the-counter options include Imodium (loperamide) and Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate (bismuth subsalicylate).

What causes sudden diarrhea? ›

The most common causes of acute and persistent diarrhea are infections, travelers' diarrhea, and side effects of medicines. Viral infections. Many viruses cause diarrhea, including norovirus link and rotavirus link. Viral gastroenteritis is a common cause of acute diarrhea.

How long should I wait to go to the vet with diarrhea? ›

Take your diarrhea dog to the vet immediately if…

Your dog is otherwise happy and tail wagging, but diarrhea continues more than 48 hours.

What causes liquid diarrhea? ›

Watery diarrhea is commonly caused by a viral infection or food poisoning from eating undercooked meat or rotten foods. It can be serious if it causes dehydration. Keep an eye out for blood in the stool, and be sure to drink water and fluids with electrolytes. Ezekiel Richardson, MD.

What is the best cat litter for diarrhea? ›

Users of non-clumping litter may find themselves disposing the entire or more than half of the litter tray when their cats are down with diarrhoea. In the cases mentioned above, we highly recommend cat owners to try using clumping clay litter, Canada Litter, to better manage the after process of tidying up.

Can you give cats human anti diarrhea medicine? ›

In the case of diarrhea, you should never use human medications like Pepto-Bismol, as these can be extremely harmful to your cat.

What human medicine is safe for cats? ›

Pets metabolise medications very differently from people. Even seemingly benign over-the-counter or herbal medications may cause serious poisoning in pets. Never give your a cat human medication. Even in tiny doses it can be extremely harmful.

Why is my cat's poop runny and smelly? ›

Serious medical conditions, bacteria not good for feline's health present in the colon and food consumed are some reasons your kitty's poop can smell so bad. Moreover, excess gas and diarrhea also tend to cause it to stink. Many kitty disorders often result in stool with a stinking smell and diarrhea.

How long does stress diarrhea last in cats? ›

In some cases, diarrhea can last up to several weeks or months. In many cases, however, milder diarrhea may resolve in a day or two. The longer diarrhea lasts, the more important it is that you get your cat professionally seen by a veterinarian.

What causes foul smelling diarrhea in cats? ›

Smelly faeces is usually a sign of an issue in the stomach or intestines – caused by a digestive disorder or parasites to bacteria and poor diet. 'There's also a distinctive metallic smell that results from digested blood,' says Brian. 'A bad smell alone isn't anything to be too concerned about.

Does yogurt help cats with diarrhea? ›

They can help boost your pet's immune system and reduce diarrhea, among other benefits, too. It's also a good idea to sign your pet up for Fetch by The Dodo pet insurance in case they ever have a negative reaction to new foods, like yogurt.

Do probiotics stop diarrhea in cats? ›

Probiotics are also a safe way to provide your kitty with digestive relief if she's prone to diarrhea or other gastrointestinal ailments, like inflammatory bowel disease.

Is rice good for cats with diarrhea? ›

As mentioned earlier, rice works wonders when it comes to treating diarrhea in cats. Both brown and white can be offered for this purpose as long as they're cooked properly and served unseasoned. A small addition of cooked rice into your kitty's usual food can improve digestion by hardening the stool.

What are the symptoms of intestinal bacterial infection in cats? ›

Common symptoms include loose stools, rapid weight loss, diarrhea, occasional vomiting and intestinal tract sounds (gurgling caused by gas).

What are the signs of intestinal infection in cats? ›

Typical signs include mucus-laden, watery, or bile-streaked diarrhea (with or without blood) that lasts 5 to 15 days; reduced appetite; abdominal pain; and occasional vomiting. Fever may also be present. Intermittent diarrhea may persist for more than 2 weeks; in some, it may last for months.

What is a natural probiotic for cats? ›

Fortiflora from Purina is one of the most widely recommended pet probiotics by veterinarians. You can use this liver-flavored powder on both kittens and adult cats who suffer from diarrhea and other digestive issues.

What could cause diarrhea with no other symptoms? ›

  • Viruses. Viruses that can cause diarrhea include Norwalk virus (also known as norovirus), enteric adenoviruses, astrovirus, cytomegalovirus and viral hepatitis. ...
  • Bacteria and parasites. ...
  • Medications. ...
  • Lactose intolerance. ...
  • Fructose. ...
  • Artificial sweeteners. ...
  • Surgery. ...
  • Other digestive disorders.
Aug 18, 2021

How do you harden loose stools? ›

Immediate treatments to stop loose stools include:
  1. taking anti-diarrheal medications.
  2. consuming more fiber.
  3. staying hydrated.
  4. adding honey to your diet.
  5. avoiding food and drinks that are triggers.

What does yellow liquid diarrhea mean? ›

What does yellow, liquid diarrhea mean? Yellow diarrhea can mean several things. It could be caused by a problem with one of your digestive organs, including your liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. It could also be caused by a germ, like a bacteria or virus, or a parasite.

Why won't my cats diarrhea go away? ›

Find Out What's Causing Your Cat's Diarrhea

Viruses. Bacteria. Parasites in the intestines, like Coccidia and intestinal worms. Conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, pancreatic disease, cancer or hypothyroidism.

What bacterial infections cause diarrhea in cats? ›

The primary bacteria associated with gastrointestinal tract disease in cats include Salmonella spp. (S,M,L), Campylobacter jejuni (M,L), Clostridium perfringens (L,rare), Helicobacter spp.

How do I know if my cat has parasites? ›

These parasites can be wormlike or one-celled protozoan organisms. They usually cause fairly nonspecific symptoms, such as a dull coat, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, mucousy or bloody feces, loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes, or a potbellied appearance.


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