Diarrhoea is a common problem in cats, and it can be accompanied by vomiting. It’s often caused by something they ate that irritated their gut.
When cats have diarrhoea, they get soft to watery poos and have to go to the toilet more frequently than normal. In general, cats with diarrhoea are well and may even be eating and drinking normally. They tend to get better within 24-48h. Treatment includes a special food, maintaining hydration, and probiotics.
What to do
What to do if your cat has diarrhoea
If your cat has diarrhoea and is otherwise bright and well, you can:
- Feed small amounts of low fat, bland food every 2-3h, such as plain boiled chicken or white fish
- Give free access to fresh water
- Give a probiotic if the diarrhoea lasts for longer than 24h
If your cat is also being sick it’s best not to feed them for a few hours. Find out what to do if your cat is vomiting here.
Most common causes of diarrhoea in cats
- Dietary indiscretions: such as eating something they shouldn’t or a sudden change in food
- Obstructions caused by foreign bodies like toys, thread, rubber bands or an intussusception (when the gut rolls over itself)
- Food allergies or intolerances: when they react to an ingredient in their food
- Infections: viral, bacterial or parasites (worms)
- Eating toxins or reactions to medications
- Illnesses in other organs such as liver, kidney or pancreas
Find out more about other causes of diarrhoea in cats.
When to worry
When to worry about your cat’s diarrhoea
Cats are small and can get dehydrated or have low blood sugars quickly. Seek the help of a vet in practice if:
- Your cat has had several episodes of watery diarrhoea, is vomiting and not eating or drinking
- Your cat is sleepy and not interested in interacting
- Your cat is constantly straining to poo
- Your cat is unwell or showing signs of pain
It may be helpful to take a fresh poo sample with you.
Joii can help if:
- You are worried about a kitten under 12 months of age or an elderly cat
- Your cat is well but not interested in food or water
- You need to discuss feeding during an episode of diarrhoea
- Your cat has had several episodes of occasional vomiting and diarrhoea
- You think your cat might have eaten something toxic or poisonous
- You see worms in your cat’s poo
How to prevent your cat from having diarrhoea
- Provide a consistent, good quality food
- Keep worming and vaccinations up to date
- Limit access to toxins, poisons and prey
- Provide toys without loose strings or elastic bands
- Have your cat regularly checked by a vet if they are on long-term medication. These should include blood and urine tests
What diarrhoea looks like in cats
- Poo can vary from pasty to watery
- The colour can be normal poo colour, yellow, dark brown, red or bloody
- It’s common to see a streak of fresh blood mixed within the diarrhoea
- Your cat may have urgency to go to the toilet and have an accident outside the litter tray
- They might strain to pass poo
- The diarrhoea may contain mucous
- They may pass wind and have gurgly tummies
- They may also be vomiting and not want to eat
- They may have tummy pain and walk hunched up, cry when being picked up and not want to move.
How to treat diarrhoea in cats at home
Most mild cases of diarrhoea only need supportive treatment at home. If your cat only has diarrhoea and is otherwise well in themselves:
- Feed small meals of bland, low fat food four times a day, for 3-5 days so their body is not overloaded.
- Bland foods include plain boiled chicken, white fish or scrambled egg.
- Prescription commercial foods, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d: this is a highly digestible prescription food that provides all they need in the right amounts and speeds recovery.
- Provide access to fresh water.
- Offer rehydrating solutions, or the liquid from a tin of tuna in spring water. This will encourage them to drink and avoid dehydration.
- Use a probiotic for 3-5 days.
Once the stools go back to normal, you can start a gradual change back to their normal food over a period of at least 4 days.
If your cat is having diarrhoea because of a specific illness, they will need treatment for this. For example, if the diarrhoea is caused by worms, they will need all of the above as well as a wormer.
Vet treatment for diarrhoea in cats
If your cat is not responding to home treatment or looks unwell, they should be taken to a physical vet practice.
The vet will ask you lots of questions and examine your cat to establish the cause. They may need to run blood tests and send a poo sample to the lab; they may also need to take x-rays and do a scan of their tummy.
Depending on the cause of diarrhoea, your vet may recommend different treatments:
- Antibiotics and pain relief
- Medications to treat other problems, like vomiting
- Fluids given through a drip line into their vein
- Special foods and supplements in the long term
- Surgery may be advised to find out the cause of the problem or if they have a foreign body or mass.
Are some cats more at risk of diarrhoea?
- Any cat of any age can have diarrhoea.
- Cats with outdoor access are at a higher risk of developing diarrhoea as they have access to plants, insects, toxins, etc.
- Kittens and cats that aren’t vaccinated or wormed regularly are more likely to have infectious causes of diarrhoea. Kittens are also more prone to intussusceptions, especially if they have worms.
- Middle-aged to older cats are more likely to develop pancreatitis and liver disease.
- Certain types of infection are more likely to occur in multi-cat households.
Other causes of diarrhoea in cats
The most common causes of diarrhoea in cats are:
- Eating something they shouldn’t have
- Sudden changes in food
- Food intolerances or allergies
- Protozoa (a very small type of parasite that live mostly in the gut):
- Virus (like Feline Panleukopaenia, Coronavirus, FeLV/FIV)
- Bacteria (like Salmonella and Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens).
- Gut blockages caused by
- Foreign bodies: toys, stones, sticks, fabrics
- Liver or Kidney Disease
- Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas (an organ that lives between the stomach and small intestine and helps with digestion)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Ingestion of toxins or Poisons
- Human painkillers
- Heavy metals
- Toxic plants, like Lilies
- Tumours or cancer