We’ve all experienced an upset stomach, we’re all familiar with how painful and annoying it can be. But, imagine if you couldn’t tell anyone what was wrong with you, or had no control over how to fix yourself. Or you saw one of your family members suffering but had no idea how to help them. What if that family member was your beloved cat? You would want to know everything that could possibly be wrong so you could try to fix it, right? Well, to know about all the possible reasons of diarrhea in cats, you first have to understand what diarrhea is and what you should look for.
What is Diarrhea?
If you’ve ever eaten something bad, you know what diarrhea can be like. It’s the same for a cat, which includes an intestinal disturbance and leads to liquid or frequently loose bowel movements. It can either be acute and sudden, or it can last for days, weeks or even months. Cat owners need to keep an eye on the duration of diarrhea; if it lasts for more than a day or two, you should consult the vet since it can lead to dehydration and be a symptom of something worse.
Possible Reasons for Diarrhea in Cats
Now that you know what diarrhea is, you need to have some information regarding what could possibly have caused it. There are various possible reasons of diarrhea in cats, so you need to know which of them applies to your cat.
It Might be the Food
Pet owners often feed their cats the same food they’re eating, without doing the proper research on whether it is suitable for them. Then again, there are outdoor cats who eat what they want when they go on their adventures to the great outdoors. Although, many times these food items are okay, there are instances when they can be harmful to your cat. If you notice your cat may have diarrhea, you should consider the following:
- Did you change the cat’s diet? Sometimes a sudden change in diet, such as changing the brand of cat food, can upset the cat’s stomach and cause diarrhea.
- Your cat may be allergic to something in the food; for instance, allergy to protein or grains is possible.
- Food intolerance is another dietary issue you should be careful with. For example, most cats are lactose intolerant and cannot digest the lactose present in milk, yet cat owners often give their cats milk without knowing about the negative impact.
- Is your cat an outdoor cat? If it is, then it’s possible your cat ate that didn’t agree with it, such as something out of the garbage. Or, your cat may have eaten spoiled food or a non-food material.
Does Your Cat Have an Infection?
The first thought that comes to a cat owner’s mind when they see their cat suffering from diarrhea is that it must be food-related. However, there are other, more serious reasons for diarrhea in cats as well. Your cat may have an infection which may be causing diarrhea. Some of the common infections include:
- Parasitic infections, which can be caused by parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, coccidia, giardia and liver flukes. Another parasitic infection, usually caused by parasites like ticks and fleas, is rickettsial.
- Viral infections, which include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), rotavirus, panleukopenia.
- Bacterial infections, including E. coli, salmonellosis, tularemia, Helicobacter, and Campylobacter.
- Protozoa infections, such as cryptosporidium or giardia.
- A rare fungal infection called Histoplasmosis. This infection generally affects cats’ lungs, but it can spread to the rest of the body as well.
Inflammatory or Systemic Reasons
If there is no infection that can be determined, diarrhea may be due to an inflammation or the reason may be systemic. Inflammatory reasons of diarrhea in cats include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease, in which the intestines of the cat are invaded by different kinds of inflammatory cells.
- Colitis, which is an inflammation of the colon.
- Pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas.
There may be a more sinister reason for your cat’s diarrhea, such as a disease. These diseases are often systemic, and diarrhea is merely a symptom of something worse. Some of these include:
- Liver disease, which can be caused by a number of things; for instance, if your cat ingests a toxin, has an infection or inflammation, or suffers from congenital disorders.
- Kidney disease, which is a chronic disease. Usually seen in middle-aged or senior cats, the disease is slow and progressive, which means it gets worse over the time. It can also be acute, which includes a sudden onset.
- Hyperthyroidism, a disease that is caused by a tumor on the thyroid gland. The tumor is usually benign and secretes a hormone which causes hyperthyroidism.
- Addison’s disease is another possibility. In this disease, the adrenal glands are less active than they normally are.
Other Possible Reasons for Diarrhea in Cats
If none of the above reasons of diarrhea in cats seem to explain your cat’s condition, then you need to look a little out of the box (no, not the litter box). Some of the other possible reasons of diarrhea in cats include:
- It may be as a reaction to some medication, such as antibiotics, antihistamines, chemotherapy or steroids
- There may be a blockage in your cat’s digestive system; for example, due to a hairball or some foreign object, it may have swallowed.
- Your cat may be having an allergic reaction to something, also called anaphylaxis.
- An insect or spider may have bitten or stung your cat.
- It is possible your cat has a hypersensitive digestive tract.
- The pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting enzymes which helps your cat digest its food. If the pancreas fails to secrete the required levels of enzymes, as seen in exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, your cat may be unable to digest its food properly.
- Your cat may have been poisoned, intentionally or unintentionally. Cats can easily be poisoned by ibuprofen, zinc, antifreeze, uremic and other substances.
- Your cat’s digestive system may not be absorbing all the nutrients properly, a condition known as malabsorption. It can be caused by several reasons, such as the ones listed above, including bacterial or parasitic infections, blockages, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, certain cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and more.
What to Do if Your Cat Has Diarrhea?
If you suspect that your cat has diarrhea, avoid giving it any food for 12 to 24 hours. Make sure it has access to clean, fresh water so it is not dehydrated. However, if diarrhea persists for more than a day, or if you notice other symptoms, such as vomiting, lethargy, bloody stools, unexplained weight loss and a decrease in appetite, or a fever, you should consult your vet and get your cat properly checked out.