If you’re an avid television viewer, chances are you’ve seen at least one commercial for abdominal pain, usually after a person has indulged in a delicious meal. One recent survey even revealed that 74 percent of Americans live with digestive problems. Our feline friends are no different. Just like humans, cats are also susceptible to stomach and digestive issues.
Gastrointestinal and Digestive Disorders: What Are They?
Gastrointestinal (GI) and digestive disorders prevent food from passing, digesting, or being absorbed through the digestive tract. GI disorders affect a cat’s stomach and intestines, resulting in pain and other issues. Ensuring your cat is consuming and digesting the proper foods is essential for their overall health and wellbeing.
Digestive Problems: Acute or Chronic?
As with humans, GI disorders are commonplace and can be treated within a matter of days. Regularly occurring issues, on the other hand, may contribute to longer-term attention and care.
In cats, these disorders are called acute or chronic. While acute digestive problems in cats are self-limiting, chronic problems call for a thorough examination for underlying causes and correct treatment.
Symptoms of Digestive Problems in Cats
Symptoms of digestive disorders can vary, but in general, include the following:
- Changes in appetite and/or thirst
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Generally poor appearance of coat
- Weight loss
Your cat may showcase pain through whining, meowing, and irregular postures, such as crouching while arching his back.
If these symptoms continue or worsen after a few days, consult your vet. Prolonged digestive issues can lead to dehydration, infection, even complications of the liver or kidneys.
Common Digestive Problems in Cats
A variety of digestive issues exist in cats, though acute gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and constipation are most common. Fortunately, there are natural supplements and home remedies available to ease your cat with acute digestive problems.
Acute gastroenteritis, or upset stomach, is a short-term digestive problem which results in vomiting. This common digestive problem can be caused by a number of factors: spoiled food; digesting toxic plants; internal parasites; stress; food allergies, and other disease conditions. Cats can also ingest too much hair if over-groomed, and are prone to swallowing foreign objects like rubber bands, tinsel, and dental floss, resulting in inflammation and acute vomiting.
If you suspect your cat has an upset stomach, restricting food for 12-24 hours is beneficial to help the inflammation subside then feed them a bland baby food diet for a few days, with foods such as turkey or lamb baby food. Heartburn relief and hairball relief medicine are available over the counter to help the stomach settle depending on your prognosis.
If your cat does not improve within 12-24 hours, try a different remedy. And if he doesn’t improve after 24-48 hours, consult your veterinarian for further examination.
When your cat’s stool appears wetter than usual or mucous-like, your cat is most likely experiencing intestinal inflammation. In some cases, the diarrhea may even contain blood, pointing to colitis: intestinal inflammation of the colon. If affected by colitis, your cat may exhibit straining, urgency, and defecation outside the litterbox.
Diarrhea is most often caused by infections, viruses, internal parasites, stress, a change in diet, rich snacks or human food, spoiled food, metabolic diseases of the liver and pancreas, as well as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.
Soothing herb slippery elm, found in health food stores, has also been known to provide relief. Probiotics and enzyme preparations, which also lend aid, are available over-the-counter. In addition, baby food or restricted limited ingredient cat food may help ease acute cases of diarrhea.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies constipation. Constipation in cats can be caused by dehydration, lack of fiber, hair or other foreign objects, aging, tumors, trauma or fractures, spinal cord disease, large bowel nervous disorders, metabolic or endocrine disorders, debilitation, and lack of exercise. Cats may also get into the habit of holding their stool when they’re not allowed to defecate when the urge is there, commonly found in house cats with a soiled litter box.
To ease constipation, add extra fiber to your cat’s food with natural psyllium husks or supplements from the store. Adding water to reduce dry food ingestion may also help. If hairballs are the issue, choose a remedy to fight hair buildup. Home remedies such as mineral oil or olive oil provide a temporary remedy for large stool buildups, while one or two teaspoons of canned pumpkin have been found to ease constipation in general.
Also note the importance of exercise if you have an indoor cat, engaging in games which involve pouncing, as well as maintaining a clean, dry litter box.