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Why Do Cats Get Constipated?

Nikki Moustaki

If you know your cat’s habits, it’s easy to see the changes in his bathroom routine by inspecting the spot where he relieves himself. If you observe fewer stools than normal or hard, dry stools in the litter box, something may not be right with your cat’s digestion.

What causes feline constipation?

Why do Cats Get Constipated?


A cat may be unable to or reluctant to defecate due to illness, injury, a change in food, stress and even age.

“Constipation is typically associated with, but is not limited to, cats who are geriatric; ill from underlying diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease, or cancer; obese or those who have incurred trauma, making feces challenging to pass,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian with California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, Inc.

Mahaney also cites other causes of cat constipation, including:

  • Inadequate fluid intake (dehydration can slow down blood flow, reducing intestinal peristalsis — contraction — causing the colon to be unable to move feces out of the body properly)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Electrolyte imbalance (often associated with dehydration)
  • Nervous-system abnormalities
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Arthritic pain in the lower back, pelvis or knees (which can cause discomfort while a cat is defecating and reduce her desire to pass stool)
  • Anal sac inflammation (which can lead to discomfort when feces moves through the rectum)
  • Hairballs or foreign objects that have been ingested
  • A low-fiber diet

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