What is feline constipation?
Constipation in cats happens when feces in the cat gets "clogged up" and dries out. It becomes very difficult for the cat to have a bowel movement, as the feces is not liquid enough to pass easily, and often only small dribbles of feces can be excreted by the cat. It is not a complete stoppage, but it makes it very difficult to pass the stool.
What causes it?
There are a number of causes. Dietary issues and hair stoppages are a big one. Nerve damage and other neurological problems can cause it as well, especially in older cats. Another cause is a physical injury - this can result in nerve damage or damage the internal organs such as the bowels. Finally, it can be a result of another disease such as cancerous tumors or anal disease.
What are the symptoms?
Your cat will obviously have difficulty passing stool. What does come out will be dry and hard immediately. It is usually painful to the cat, so it may be meowing as it is in the litter box. It is also sometimes confused with feline diarrhea - if the cat gets especially constipated, all that will pass is runny, liquid stool - whatever gets around the hardened feces in the bowels. Your veterinarian will be able to tell the signs fairly easily, and can see from an x-ray that there is stoppage.
What is the treatment?
The treatment basically involves eliminating whatever is causing it, and using enemas and laxatives to alleviate the symptoms. In severe cases the cat may have to be hospitalized for a few days as the vets gradually clear out the bowels. Your vet will need to do an examination of the cat to find out what is the exact cause. A lot of people want to try home remedies, but this isn't going to work in the long run. You might clear up the problem temporarily, but it is likely to recur. The other problem is that with something like this, you need to make sure the cat doesn't have something serious such as a tumor.
There are some steps you can take to stop it from happening again, however:
1) Make sure you are regularly cleaning the litter box, and use odor eliminating products to reduce the smell. Sometimes it happens because they don't like the smell of the litter box and are reluctant to go - holding it in like this can cause stoppage to recur.
2) Look into grooming your cat more regularly. By getting rid of excess hair, you will prevent the cat from licking it up and thus passing it into its bowels.
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