Five Common Cat Digestive Problems
Digestive problems in cats are so common in our companion animals that many pet parents think they are normal. But if your cat vomits regularly (once a week or more) or has loose stool, then there is something going on under the hood. It might be time to change her food or her environment, and it's definitely time to talk to your veterinarian. Here are some tips for solving the most common cat digestive problems.
1. Intestinal Worms
Internal parasites are very common in cats — even indoor cats. The most challenging aspect of diagnosing and treating them is that a cat could be infested and never show any signs. The most common intestinal parasites in cats include hookworms, roundworms
The signs of an intestinal parasite invading the cat digestive system can include:
- Worms in fecal matter or vomit
- Weight loss
Intestinal worms in cats are not only gross but also contagious to humans, which is why it is important to have your cat's poop tested by your vet once or twice a year. Follow all deworming instructions from your vet if your kitty tests positive.
Constipation is another common woe for the cat digestive system. Constipation can be caused by dehydration, pain, motility (muscle movement) problems in the colon or a rare condition called megacolon stemming from cats that "hold it" for too long or by chronic constipation or obstipation.
Recurring constipation, however, is no laughing matter. Your vet's solutions might include increasing your pet's water intake by supplementing
Hairballs are extremely common, but that doesn't mean your cat has to live with them. Hairballs are formed when a cat is shedding excessive amounts of hair or when the cat has an underlying digestive problem. If your cat passes only the occasional hairball (no more than once a month is considered normal), then you don't necessarily need to call your vet.
For cats who need a food change to control hairballs, Hill's™ Science Diet™ Adult Hairball Control Light Cat Food can be
4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and GI Lymphoma
One of the more irritating conditions in a cat digestive system is inflammatory bowel
IBD is a frustrating disease for vets because the signs mimic many other gastrointestinal disorders and the disease can only be definitively diagnosed with a biopsy of the intestine. Many pet owners do not like the idea of their cat undergoing surgery, so they elect to have a non-invasive abdominal ultrasound performed instead. While IBD cannot be definitively diagnosed from an ultrasound, there are several clues that can suggest a cat is suffering from the disorder, such as thickened intestinal walls. Treatment for IBD usually includes deworming and antibiotics if necessary. Your cat may also need oral or injectable steroids and to switch to a gentler hypoallergenic food.
With IBD, it is important to reduce
5. Food Allergies
True food allergies are relatively rare in cats, and usually involve a combination of gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea or gas) and skin signs (itchy skin, red patches
If your vet suspects that your cat has a food allergy, they will prescribe
Don't panic if your cat develops a sudden digestive issue. With the knowledge of what cat digestive problems to watch out for and when an episode warrants a vet visit, you can keep your cat and her stomach happy.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.