Constipation in Cats
Constipation in Cats: Probably will not just ‘pass out on its own’.
Most cats defecate at least 1-2 times a day. While not defecating everyday seems like a minor problem in human, this can easily escalate to a life-threatening problem, in cats, if not attended to. There are endless possibilities to why Cats experience constipation. It can range from simple things like stress, dehydration, problem with litter trays but also not limited to neurological problems, metabolic disease or obstruction to the normal passage of stool (such as growth / cancer, abnormal pelvic conformation). Signs of constipation can include but not limited to – no feces in litter tray, vocalizing while toileting or straining to pass feces, lethargy and inappetance in severe cases.
So what exactly is constipation? Constipation occurs when hard and dry feces stay in the rectum or colon. Here is the sequela of what constipation can cause. As the feces continue to stay in colon, the colon still does its job of reabsorbing water from the feces making the feces even drier and harder making it more difficult to pass out and this is known as obstipation. At this stage the feces is unlikely to be passed out on its own. Here’s the life-threatening part, the colon also reabsorbs toxins (within the feces and also those produced by bacteria in the gut) into bloodstream leading to endotoxaemia which may then progress to affecting other organs within the body (causing multiple organ failure). Inappetance and dehydration then can add on to the problem as the affected cat feels unwell.
Most of the time, feces can be felt in colon through abdominal palpation but your attending vet may choose to take an X-ray to assess severity and extent of the problem. Management for non-complicated constipation (not cause by other concurrent problems) may range from simple manual excavating of feces through the rectum to enema (flushing with fluid / lubricant to soften the faeces for passing out). However in severe or recurrent cases, surgical removal of the colon (subtotal colectomy) may be the solution after stabilizing your cat.
So if you ever noticed any changes to your cat defecation pattern, don’t just dismiss the problem thinking ‘it will pass’, because it may not.
(Photo caption above: Cat from the X-ray has since underwent and recovered from the (subtotal colectomy) surgery with us. She is currently doing well at home with her normal diet and a little pinch of fibre.)