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Hairballs Are Top Cause Of Feline Constipation

By: Dr. Kevin Wright

Most healthy cats poop once or twice a day, but some, if they are being fed too much, defecate every other day. As long as the poop is soft but well-formed, and the cat doesn't strain, it's normal. The every-other-day cats are not constipated, they just march to a different drummer.

On the other hand, if a cat produces hard, dry stool, like small brown pebbles, and it cries and seems to have trouble producing a bowel movement, then it is constipated.

Now let's talk about some possible causes. Cats that get hairballs often become constipated. Keep hairballs under control with regular grooming and the use of commercial cat laxatives.

If your cat is one of the odd ones that like to eat paper, grass or other indigestible things, that, too, can plug up the plumbing.

A diet low in fiber also binds the bowels. Cats typically eat a lower fiber diet than dogs but are designed to ingest feathers, hair and skin from their prey, all sources of water-soluble fiber that keeps the faeces flowing.

If your cat doesn't drink enough water, that makes any diet issues even worse. Don't offer your cat canned food. The moisture of most canned foods is so high that your cat may not want to drink.

Some cats are finicky and just don't like to drink. Some like their water cold, fresh out of the tap; others like it to warm up and age a day or so. Experiment to see whether the way you offer water makes a difference.

Constipation sometimes can be a problem of the mind. Some cats don't like to use dirty litter boxes and will hold it in rather than relieve themselves at the cost of soiling their paws.

Other cats may not feel comfortable using the litter box if there are strangers in the house or if the litter box has been moved recently. Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to turn the urge back on once the moment has passed.

Constipation also is more common in cats that are out of shape due to age or lack of exercise. Flabby abdominal muscles don't give the support needed to completely empty the colon.

The best preventive measures are having plenty of fresh drinking water available for your cat and feeding it a high-quality dry diet rich in fiber. There are many prescription diets for senior cats that are just the thing to avoid colonic traffic jams.

If your cat has been constipated, make an appointment with your veterinarian. If the condition is not relieved quickly, it can cause a serious lifelong disorder called "megacolon."

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