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Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, but it is a sign of cat digestive issues. If a cat has isolated diarrhea episodes once or twice, it's not a major concern. But something serious may be wrong if a cat has diarrhea that lasts days, weeks, or months. It's also concerning if a cat has diarrhea frequently, even if it's not consistent. The good news is that there are many options for treating and preventing diarrhea in cats.
Some pet owners are tempted to cut back on food when their cat has diarrhea. However, diarrhea in cats is not a sign to withhold food. A healthy diet helps a cat's intestinal tract heal, preventing future episodes of diarrhea. Pet parents can stop offering treats or special canned food until the diarrhea episodes are gone.
Keep in mind that a cat's dry food can cause diarrhea. Some cats have reactions to food, which can develop at any time in their life. Even if they’re offered the same cat food for months or years, a reaction is still possible. If the cat's food is the suspected blame for diarrhea, switch to a new type of dry food. Pet parents should change a cat’s diet gradually and talk to a veterinarian for a recommendation that fits their cat's unique needs.
Some cat breeds need a diet that is easier to digest. Cats with sensitive stomachs may do better with a low-fiber diet. Cat food that is low in fiber will have labels that say something like:
Low in fiber
Pet parents should read the ingredient label carefully. Ideally, they’ll want cat food with 3% fiber content for a low-fiber diet.
Conversely, other cats may experience constipation and need more fiber. Talk with a veterinarian about fiber supplements like Metamucil or canned pumpkin to help with cat digestion. Canned pumpkin can actually help with both constipation and diarrhea.
Diarrhea can quickly snowball into a larger health problem for a cat. If a cat has diarrhea, offer water more frequently. Water may not come to mind initially, but hydration is very important. Encourage hydration by:
Refreshing the cat's water bowl often
Running some tap water from the sink
Add a little chicken or beef broth to the cat's water bowl
Moisten the cat's dry food to soften it
Diarrhea is a sign that a cat doesn't have a healthy intestinal tract. Good and bad bacteria may be out of balance. Cats need a strong foundation of healthy bacteria for normal digestion. Stress, illness, and antibiotics can all trigger diarrhea. If a cat doesn't have enough good bacteria, their body may not be able to bounce back. Probiotics provide the good bacteria that cats need to stay in balance. Shop around for a probiotic specifically labeled for cats. There are different probiotic strains for cats, and pet parents want to be sure that they choose the right one. Talk to a veterinarian for questions about cat probiotic brands.
In some cases, pet parents may need an anti-diarrheal prescription for their cat and will have to go through a veterinarian. Kaolin-pectin is well-known for being a safe cat option. Read the label carefully and talk with a veterinarian about dosage and how often to administer.
Home treatment is likely effective if your cat's diarrhea goes away within a few days. If your cat still has diarrhea after three days, talk to a veterinarian. Pet parents can chat online with a Fuzzy Veterinarian team member for questions about feline health, including diarrhea in cats. A cat may need an exam, testing, or additional treatment. A treatment plan will be customized to the cat's individual needs based on:
The cause of diarrhea
Other related symptoms
Home remedies that haven't been successful
The cat's medical history
Home treatment is great when it works. However, a cat's condition can worsen rapidly, so it's important to know when a veterinary visit is necessary. Mild diarrhea isn't a huge concern, but if a cat stops eating or drinking or has changes in behavior, seek immediate medical attention.