Feline Constipation


My cat keeps going back and forth to the litter box.  Is he constipated?  What should I do?


Although constipation does occur in some cats, more often than not when your cat is squatting and straining frequently, it has a urinary problem.  Look carefully to see if anything is being produced in the box and check around the house for spots of urine in other places  Often, when the a cat has cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) it will have accidents in other places, among them the sink and bathtub seem to be common spots.  If urine accidents are seen, sometimes you can tell that the urine is abnormal (such as if it is pink tinged with blood or has a strong odor), other times you can’t.  The reason your cat is frequenting the litter box or having accidents is due to the pain and discomfort associated with the inflamed bladder, which makes your cat feel like it constantly needs to urinate.  Commonly there is little or no urine production.

No matter what the cause of the straining, your cat should be seen by a veterinarian right away.  The most life threatening concern is that your cat could have a urinary tract blockage and be unable to pass urine at all.  This occurs when the urethra (the pipeline that leads from the bladder to outside the cat) becomes plugged with crystals, inflammatory cells and debris, or a stone.  It tends to happen more commonly in male cats than females since their urethra is longer and narrower.  Your vet will have to perform an emergency procedure to un-block your cat if this occurs and you can expect your cat to stay in the hospital for blood tests and supportive care for several days.  If caught early the treatments are usually life saving.

To sum it up, in most cases when a cat shows the symptoms of straining in the litter box, it has a urinary problem.  Most commonly the bladder is inflamed, but not blocked.  This is not an emergency situation, but only your veterinarian can tell the difference between this scenario and a blocked urinary tract – so don’t wait – call your vet for further instructions and recommendations right away.


If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.


Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.