Diarrhea is not a disease per se. It is an important symptom of an underlying issue that might or might not be medical-related. Some of the more common causes of cat diarrhea include a sudden change in diet, food intolerance, infections (bacterial, viral, protozoal), dietary indiscretion, metabolic disorders, worms, drugs or poisons, and obstruction in the intestine.
Some cases of diarrhea resolve on their own within a few hours without any treatment given, but some can be quite profuse and frequent that they need immediate veterinary attention. Thus, it is necessary to assess the severity of diarrhea and your cat’s overall condition to determine if your pet needs to see a veterinarian. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance which can be life-threatening. The following conditions warrant immediate veterinary assistance:
- Diarrhea in kittens (even if they are acting normal), senior cats, or those that are suffering from an underlying health issue
- Diarrhea is accompanied by other sick cat symptoms like vomiting, depression, lethargy, pain, etc.
- Frequent, profuse, or watery diarrhea
- Diarrhea is tinged with blood
Your cat’s poop can also tell tales. Its characteristics (texture, color, frequency, etc.) can provide valuable information about the health of your cat. You can check out this comprehensive cat poop chart to know whether there is something wrong with your kitty’s health status.
Just like in people, there are home remedies for cat diarrhea that pet owners can try first to see if there is any improvement. Take note, however, that home treatment remedies can only be given if diarrhea is relatively mild and it is not accompanied by any other symptoms.
Natural home treatment remedies for diarrhea in cats
Contrary to popular notion, food should never be withheld in cats with diarrhea. Withdrawing food can have a negative effect on the ability of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to heal itself and this can increase a cat’s risk to developing hepatic lipidosis, a fatal disease of the liver. It is best to make minor changes such as removing any treats or table scraps and giving only premium cat food.
If there has been a recent change in the cat’s diet, switch back to what you were previously feeding him and observe if diarrhea resolves. The new cat food diet may contain ingredients that caused the diarrhea. There are cases in which diarrhea occurs after feeding newly opened pet food that is of the same type and brand of what the cat is being fed. This can be traced back to contamination or spoilage which can be important causes of changes in pet food quality.
Food allergies and food intolerance are also important causes of cat food-related diarrhea in cats. A cat may suddenly develop diarrhea as a reaction to the food it has been eating for many years. For these cats, switching to a hypoallergenic diet might be the answer. Do consult your veterinarian on a recommended hypoallergenic diet for your cat.
However, do be careful when switching to a new diet, as sudden switching can also be a potential cause of diarrhea. The GIT needs adequate time to get used to the new diet. Thus, when introducing a new type of pet food, be sure to do it gradually over 7-10 days. It is done by gradually increasing the amount of the new pet food brand and decreasing the old one. Unlike in dogs, when the new and old pet food brands/types are combined, in cats, these should be placed in separate food bowls. Sometimes, cats may hate the new pet food and mixing it with the old pet food brand may cause them to go off feed, which can be harmful to them.
Fiber in the diet
Some types of diarrhea in cats respond positively with a low-fiber diet. But there are also other types of diarrhea that respond well to increasing the fiber intake of affected cats. Sudden diarrhea that produces a lot of stool may be alleviated by a low-fiber diet because it is highly digestible. There are cat food products with about 3% crude fiber or less that are indicated for cats with sensitive stomachs. On the other hand, diarrhea in which there is only a small amount of feces produced during each elimination can improve when dietary fiber is increased. You can try adding unflavored psyllium, cat laxative such as Miralax, or a teaspoon or two of pumpkin to your pet’s food and see if there is any improvement.
Multiple smaller meals
Divide the cat’s daily ration into smaller meals (3-4 portions) and give it at specific times during the day. Give something that can be easily digested which means bland and low-fat food, as well as potatoes, cheese, or even meat-based baby foods (but be sure to check for onions, garlic, or any ingredient that may be harmful to cats).
Probiotics are made up of beneficial microbes that thrive in the intestinal tract of cats. Maintaining a healthy microbial flora environment in the GIT is very important for normal digestion. Stress, antibiotic therapy, disease, etc. can cause an imbalance on the microbial floral population leading to digestive upsets. Giving probiotic supplements can help restore the microbial population in the intestine and improve diarrhea symptoms. Sometimes, low-grade chronic diarrhea in cats in which no other symptoms are displayed can be corrected by probiotic supplementation.
Encourage intake of water and electrolytes
Pet owners should keep in mind that diarrhea can increase a cat’s risk to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Find ways to encourage your pet to increase its fluid intake by providing fresh clean water in a clean and odor-free bowl, or by offering diluted chicken or beef broth. Switching to a canned pet food diet may also do the trick.