How to Treat a Cat with Constipation (Step By Step)


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Constipation is a painful problem that is stressful for a cat.

Signs of constipation include straining in the litter box and a change in poo frequency.

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll guide you through the steps you can take to identify and solve the problem.

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.

How to Treat a Cat with Constipation (step-by-step guide)

How to Treat a Cat with Constipation (Step-By-Step)

How to Treat a Cat with Constipation (step-by-step infographic)

1. Check For Symptoms

Usually it’s obvious if your cat has constipation. Signs include:

  • Straining in the litter box
  • Change in frequency
  • Litter box avoidance
  • Pain when touching the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Check out for any of these symptoms.

2. Check Your Cats History

If you notice any symptoms, think about some recent history. This will help you and your vet find out the cause of the problem.

Here’s some things to ask yourself and write down:

  • Has there been any recent change to environment (e.g. move house)?
  • Change in activity (e.g. less outdoor access)?
  • Conflict with other cats (e.g. new cat in the house)?
  • Change in litter box location or type?
  • Stressful experiences (e.g. recent hospital visit, family dinners)?
  • Recent change in diet
  • Changes in water intake

All this is helpful in giving your vet as much as information as possible to help your cat.

You might find that a few adjustments can solve the problem, but if it persists don’t hesitate to see a vet.

Speaking of which…

3. See a vet

Don’t hesitate to go ahead and call a vet. They’ll ask you questions about your situation.

A vet will usually opt for a physical examination. A blood work analysis will also help with diagnosis.

If they can’t find a cause, it’s called idiopathic constipation. In laments terms, this means ‘We don’t know’. 60-70% of all cat constipation cases are idiopathic.

Your vet might offer some medication, which usually includes laxatives. This can clear things up, at least in the short term.

If those don’t help then here’s what you can try.

4. Boost your cats water intake

Cat’s need at least 1 cup of water per day. Water helps to lubricate the feces, making them easier to pass.

Having a lot of fresh water bowls around the house helps boost intake.

A cat fountain can also help. Research finds some cats prefer this type of water source, although it depends. It’s more of a last resort choice.

But, it might be better to adjust diet.

5. Switch to wet canned food diet

Wet cat food, as you may have guessed, is high in moisture.

If your cat eats dry cat food it’s easy to fall short on water intake. Wet foods help get moisture intake up, without having to buy a ton of extra bowls and fountains.

Cats are desert animals and have low thirst drives. They are also carnivores. Most of their water intake comes from prey.

For overall health, wet cat food best matches what cats eat in the wild. It helps get water intake up for easier poos.

6. Using a low residue wet cat food

Low residue cat foods can help reduce the size of poos, making them easier to pass. A low residue is less than 10% fiber (on a dry matter basis).

There’s two types of fiber: Insoluble and soluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber increases the size of feces and dries them out. This can make it harder to get poos out.

Soluble fiber increases moisture and lubrication. It increases short chain fatty acids through fermentation, which seems to help stimulate the bowels.

A low residue diet aims to get down insoluble fiber as much as possible. Grains are high in insoluble fiber (another reason dry food is the worst choice).

Check out best cat food pick below:

Best Cat Food for Constipation Overall: Nulo Freestyle Duck & Tuna

Range: Nulo Freestyle wet cat food

Who it’s for: Nulo Freestyle is low-residue wet food that helps ease constipation. It contains guar gum, a soluble fiber that helps moisten stools. It’s also a healthy low carb choice.

Learn More: Nulo Cat Food Review

7. Add psyllium to the diet

Psyllium is a soluble fiber that helps loosen up stools. Add 1-4 tsp to wet cat food to help clear things up.

Research find psyllium can help with most constipation cases after 1 month in cats.

Here’s a link to where to buy psyllium powder (US).

8. Try A Limited Ingredient Cat Food to tackle food intolerances

Sometimes food sensitives can interfere with digestion.

Some causes of food intolerance include:

  • Colors
  • Preservatives
  • Gums
  • Histamine
  • Wheat
  • Wheat gluten flour
  • Barley

1-11% of all cats appear to have a food intolerance. Canned diets seem to work best to keep cats in remission (we’ve got that covered right?).

Limiting ingredients limits the possibilities for irritation.

Here’s our top food pick for food intolerances:

Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food for Constipation: Meat Mates Lamb Dinner

Range: Meat Mates wet cat food

Who it’s for: Meat Mates lamb is helpful for food intolerance related digestive issues. There’s no added grains, legumes and fillers. It’s also a kidney friendly product and low residue to help clear up constipation. Our cats enjoyed Meat Mates when given a taste.

Learn More: Meat Mates Cat Food Review

Other great limited ingredient options:

9. Treat underlying Health problems

Some other things can interact with the movement of poo down the tract. Obesity seems to interfere with digestion.

Keeping your cat as healthy as possible cuts down the risk of constipation. Use a body condition score chart to make sure your cat is at a healthy weight.

Learn More:

10. Treat the environment

Constipation is often dietary related, but environment can also cause stress.

Adding opportunities for your cat to do stuff is going to make for a happy and stress free cat. You wouldn’t want to sit in a boring room, and I’m sure your cat doesn’t either…

Here are some things to consider to spice things up:

  • Hiding caves
  • Window access for bird watching
  • Elevated platforms (e.g. trees, benches)
  • Cat enclosures
  • Cat trees
  • Cat tunnels

Cleaning up your house and making it more cat friendly is a great idea.

11. Upgrade the litter box

Of course, cats take poos in their litter box. If the litter box don’t look too flash, this can put off your cat.

Seems logical right?

So start testing some things out:

Cats prefer bigger boxes as it allows them to properly carry out their poo in an orderly manner. A brief toilet visit is a sign of a satisfied customer, as opposed to pawing about.

Try a soft litter as cats tend to prefer this on the paws. Dust free litter helps with comfort.

Also consider where the box is. Avoid musty areas with perfumes and odd smells. Don’t put the box in some kind of dungeon.

Avoid high traffic areas, like walk ways and kitchens. Avoid putting the box near food.

Also avoid scented litter. Unscented is easier and friendly on the senses.

Another idea? Add another box.

The more toilets, the better right?

12. Get a second opinion if nothing else works

If nothing works, consider a second opinion.

It might be that your cat wasn’t diagnosed properly. At the very least you will have exhausted every concievable option on the table in the meantime.

Here’s some possible causes misdiagnosed:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dehydration
  • Continued stress
  • Megacolon
  • Hernia


Constipation is an unpleasant problem that usually happens in older cats. The best thing first step is to get as much history on your cat and talk with a vet.

If there’s no diagnosis, try adjusting your cats diet and environment. Giving your cat a low residue wet cat food and adding psyllium (1-4 tsp per can) can clear things up in many cats.

Learn More:

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