Constipation isn't comfortable for anyone, including our feline counterparts, who can sometimes experience this condition as well. When a cat becomes constipated, measures should be taken to alleviate the issue, which can include stimulating a bowel movement with a gentle massage. A constipated kitten or cat is easy to treat in most cases, and a veterinarian should be consulted in cases where constipation is a chronic issue.
Why do cats get constipated?
According to VCA Hospitals, there are four things that commonly lead to constipation: hairballs, improper diet, pelvic injuries, and ingesting foreign bodies. Hairballs often occur in longhaired cats, and an unhealthy diet that doesn't offer enough fiber or water can lead to difficulties in passing fecal matter, often resulting in straining and pain. A pelvic injury may also cause the pelvic canal to become too narrow to pass materials through, and foreign substances, like string or toys, can cause blockages when swallowed.
In addition to these common contributing factors, a condition known as megacolon may also be a condition that leads to constipation in cats, explains the Masschusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). Megacolon refers to a weak or dilated colon in which the colon muscles become so weak that they cannot pass fecal matter out. If there is greatly impacted fecal matter in the colon, or if a tumor is detected, enemas, manual fecal extraction, and even surgery may be required.
About cat constipation massage
In order to effectively pass fecal matter through the colon, the waste material must be softened, which some believe can be done by offering an abdominal massage. Because you cannot tell how much material is impacted, however, this may lead to further irritation and discomfort and shouldn't be done at home without the guidance of a medical professional. The more effective way to stimulate a bowel movement is through diet — such as pumpkin puree, canned wet food, and fiber supplements, like Metamucil, are all recommended by the MSPCA for alleviating constipation in cats. Enemas should not be administered at home, especially the FLEET brand, as it may lead to dehydration and further complications, so if initial measures aren't making matters any better, consult your veterinarian, who may prescribe a laxative created for pets.
If you have a constipated kitten on your hands, you may be able to stimulate a bowel movement by using a wet towel, which a mother cat would do for her kittens. Begin by taking a clean towel and wetting it with warm, not hot, water. Then, gently rub the towel around your kitten's genital region to stimulate her bowels. If you have a kitten who is without a mother during her first few weeks of life, be sure to do this after every meal to avoid constipation.
Prevent cat constipation
Often, constipation in cats can be prevented by maintaining basic healthy habits, like keeping a clean litter box for your feline to use. Diet is an important factor in keeping regular, so making sure that your cat is getting enough fiber in his meals will go a long way in terms of digestive health. Additionally, providing plenty of fresh, clean water for your cat can prevent dehydration, and is a big part of maintaining regular bowel movements. Finally, encouraging regular exercise will keep your cat and his body healthy — outdoor cats will naturally find ways to exercise while roaming, and indoor cats should be provided with toys and structures to climb in order to stay active.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.