What Causes Diarrhea In Cats, And What To Watch For
Diarrhea in cats isn't an illness. It isn't even necessarily a symptom of an illness, since the condition can be caused by a number of different things. In general, a single episode of diarrhea isn't usually something to be terribly concerned about. Chronic bouts of diarrhea, or an episode that lasts for a significant length of time, will bear watching however, as this may be a sign of an illness or disorder an requires attention.
Being the fastidious creatures they are, cats don't like to experience bouts of diarrhea any more than humans do, especially if they mess themselves, or make their litter box a mess. Even if kitty isn't sick, we want to do what we can about a diarrhea problem, if only to make life a little less miserable or unpleasant for the pet.
Have you ever given your kitty a saucer of milk as a treat, only to find out later that your pet has come down with a case of the runs? As much as a cat may enjoy a saucer of milk, it may have difficulty in digesting lactose, which can bring on problems. Even a change in the type or brand of cat food it eats can lead to a temporary bout of diarrhea. Unlike dogs, which seem to be able to eat about everything, or at least will often try to, cats are a bit more picky, and even when they're willing to try something new it may not always agree with them.
The Various Causes Of Diarrhea In Cats
There are several causes of diarrhea in cats that are normally nothing to be too concerned about. These include an intolerance of certain foods, the presence of hair balls, an allergic reaction to certain foods, and eating food that has spoiled. The latter situation could of course lead to problems beyond a simple case of diarrhea, but it usually does not. A cat will also sometimes experience a case of diarrhea that is brought about by a certain medication.
Causes of diarrhea in cats that are potentially of a more serious nature would be bacterial or viral infections, and the presence of parasites, such as roundworms. There are also diseases and disorders that can place a cat in great danger, and of which diarrhea is one of the symptoms, such as kidney disease, liver disease, digestive tract disorders, and hyperthyroidism.
The Possibility Of Dehydration Is A Major Concern
The greatest danger diarrhea poses to cats is the same danger it can pose to humans, and that is dehydration. Of course a cat, being much smaller than a human, does not have nearly as great a capacity for holding liquids. When an onset of diarrhea occurs, one should make certain the cat has a ready supply of clean, fresh water. At the same time, food should be withheld for a period of time, perhaps for 24 hours or so, as ingesting food may only cause the condition to linger on.
What To Look For
While it may be a bit unpleasant to clean up after a cat that has diarrhea, or to constantly have to clean out its litter box, it's important to keep an eye on the stools to see if they are unusually dark, which could signify the presence of blood. Bloody stools can be an indication that internal bleeding is occurring, which can be serious, and in some cases extremely serious. The presence of dark colored or bloody stools should definitely be a cause for concern, and will warrant a call to the vet. Other things to look for which would tend to indicate the cat's condition is possibly serious, are vomiting, fever, lethargy or listlessness, and straining while attempting to defecate.
It's of course impossible to totally prevent diarrhea in cats, but given proper care, most cats can live a life in which diarrhea is a rare event. If the cat is an outdoors cat, it is somewhat more apt to eat things which may contain parasites, which can eventually lead to bouts of diarrhea. Most indoor cats seldom ingest food containing parasites, and the most common cause of diarrhea with these cats is apt to be hair balls. Cat's can be given food, and if need be medications, that are designed to discourage the formation of hair balls, and can also be given medications that will help them to pass hair balls. With respect to dairy foods, such as yogurt, which cats love, it depends upon the cat whether or not there will be a problem with diarrhea. Some cats can deal with lactose, while others cannot. If in doubt, it's better to give the cat something else to eat. If the type or the brand of a cat's food is being changed, it's usually a good idea to do so gradually, mixing the cat's new food in with its old food for a time. By doing so, diarrhea can often be avoided. Whenever diarrhea in cats can be avoided, cats will feel better, they will feel cleaner, which is very important to any cat, and their owners will be happier for not having to be cleaning up after them.