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What are the Most Common Causes of Cat Diarrhea?

Marjorie McAtee
Updated May 21, 2024
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Cat diarrhea is not considered a disease in itself, but is usually the symptom of an underlying condition. Diarrhea typically consists of watery stool that may contain blood or mucus, depending on its cause. There may be several causes of diarrhea in cats, including irritable bowel syndrome; viral, bacterial or fungal infection; or dietary problems. Cat diarrhea and its cause can generally be diagnosed during a veterinary exam. Treatment and prognosis often depend upon the cause of the diarrhea.

Dietary problems can cause diarrhea in cats. Many cats may develop diarrhea after they eat something that disagrees with them, which may occur while the cat is away from its owner's supervision. Cats who frequently overeat are more prone to bouts of diarrhea than cats who do not. Low-quality pet foods can cause diarrhea in cats, as can sudden dietary changes. Cats may develop diarrhea after eating rich, salty, or spicy foods, or they may develop it due to a food intolerance.

Cat diarrhea can sometimes occur when foreign objects are eaten. These objects can become lodged somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Toxic or irritating substances can cause diarrhea in cats when eaten.

Stress is another frequent cause of diarrhea in cats. Cats succumb to stress easily. They can become stressed when large environmental changes occur, such as the addition of new animals or people to their household, or after a move to a new household.

Disease can often cause diarrhea in cats, especially viral, fungal, or bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Often, infections cause additional symptoms in cats, such as fever, lethargy, low appetite, and vomiting. Parasitic infestation, often of intestinal worms, may be responsible for some cases of cat diarrhea. Other diseases responsible for cat diarrhea include feline leukemia, feline AIDS, irritable bowel syndrome, neoplasia, and hyperthyroidism. Problems with a cat's pancreas can also give it diarrhea.

Vets can often diagnose the cause of cat diarrhea during a physical exam. Blood, stool, and urine samples may be used to determine the cause of diarrhea. X-rays, biopsies, barium tests, and even exploratory surgery can help vets identify the cause of cat diarrhea.

Treatment for cat diarrhea can vary, depending on its cause. Often, dietary changes are in order. Medications can treat many of the diseases responsible for diarrhea in cats. Surgery may be necessary in the case of intestinal blockage. The prognosis for feline diarrhea can vary, depending on its cause. If the cause is minor, such as an infection or dietary problem, treatment can usually begin to improve symptoms within two to four days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What dietary issues commonly lead to diarrhea in cats?

Dietary indiscretion, such as eating spoiled food or non-food items, often leads to diarrhea in cats. Sudden changes in diet can also disrupt their digestive system. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, lactose intolerance is another dietary cause, as many cats cannot properly digest dairy products after weaning.

Can parasites cause diarrhea in cats?

Yes, parasites are a common cause of diarrhea in cats. Intestinal worms like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, as well as protozoan parasites like Giardia and Coccidia, can all lead to gastrointestinal upset. The Companion Animal Parasite Council reports that regular deworming and fecal exams are crucial for prevention and treatment.

Are infections a significant cause of diarrhea in cats?

Infections from bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause diarrhea in cats. For instance, feline panleukopenia virus is known for severe diarrhea. Bacterial infections like Salmonella or E. coli, often from contaminated food, are also culprits. The American Veterinary Medical Association emphasizes the importance of vaccinations and proper hygiene to reduce the risk of infections.

How do underlying health conditions contribute to cat diarrhea?

Chronic health conditions such as hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain cancers can lead to persistent diarrhea in cats. The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine notes that these conditions may affect nutrient absorption and gastrointestinal function, necessitating comprehensive veterinary care and often long-term management strategies.

Can stress trigger diarrhea in cats?

Stress is a well-documented trigger for diarrhea in cats due to its impact on gut motility and function. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) highlights that environmental changes, such as moving to a new home or the introduction of a new pet, can induce stress-related diarrhea.

Is medication a possible cause of diarrhea in cats?

Medications, including antibiotics, can disrupt the normal balance of gut flora in cats, leading to diarrhea. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) advises that while antibiotics are essential for treating infections, they can sometimes result in gastrointestinal upset, and probiotics may be recommended to help maintain intestinal health during treatment.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee , Former Writer
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Feb 01, 2014

Animandel - When you use the pumpkin as a cat diarrhea remedy, you can freeze it in serving sizes so that the majority of the can does not go bad before you can use it. Simply divide serving amounts and put as many serving as will fit and not mix together in a freezer bag.

By Animandel — On Jan 31, 2014

Sporkasia - Thanks for the cat diarrhea home remedy. I will definitely try it out and suggest to my friend that she tries it. I have also found that cats are more sensitive to bacteria and viruses, so in general, I think cat owners should be quicker to visit the vet than dog owners.

By Sporkasia — On Jan 31, 2014

Animandel. Like people, some cats are more sensitive to changes in diet than others. Some felines can eat dry food, wet food, people food and whatever they capture in the yard and never miss a beat. Other cats can develop loose stools when they sniff a new food. (I'm exaggerating there, I think.)

A good home remedy for your cat's diarrhea is a dab of pumpkin. Give the cat a couple serving a day and if the cause of the diarrhea is something not serious then the pumpkin should clear it right up. I have seen it work many times.

If your cat has chronic diarrhea, consider making the pumpkin a staple in her diet. Of course, you might want to consult a vet to be sure the cat doesn't have an infection or something lodged in her intestines.

By Animandel — On Jan 30, 2014

Having been around dogs more than cats, I knew changes in food could cause diarrhea and other digestive problems in dogs. I was not aware cats had the same issues. Now I've been spending more time around cats and I think they are even more sensitive to changes in diet than dogs are.

Marjorie McAtee

Marjorie McAtee

Former Writer

Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
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