Diarrhea is a common problem brought on by a wide variety of causes. Since cats tend to be particular about what they eat, they are less likely to get diarrhea as compared to dogs, but it still happens. The seriousness of the diarrhea is determined by both the characteristics of the diarrhea itself and any associated signs.
What to Watch For
Diarrhea is characterized by stool that is soft to liquid in consistency. The cat may strain to defecate and there may be blood, mucous, parasites, or foreign objects in the stool as well. Other symptoms that may accompany diarrhea include vomiting and lethargy.
Many things can bring on diarrhea. Some of the most common causes are parasites, infection, and eating inappropriate things (e.g., non-food items).
Many times diarrhea will resolve on its own. Be sure your cat has plenty of fresh water available. Sometimes feeding cooked rice mixed with canned cat food will help curb the diarrhea. If the symptoms do not resolve within 24 hours, or are accompanied by other signs like vomiting or lethargy, your cat should be seen by your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will start with a physical exam of your cat, and ask several questions to determine possible causes of the diarrhea. If at all possible, bring a stool sample in with your cat for analysis. Blood tests and X-rays may also be utilized. Advanced testing, if needed, may include ultrasound or intestinal biopsy.
Initial treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms. Medication for parasites, antibiotics, antidiarrhea medication, and fluids for dehydration (under the skin or intravenous) are most commonly used.
Other causes of diarrhea include inflammatory bowel disease, toxins, cancer, liver disease, overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroid).
Living and Management
Dietary restrictions may be necessary initially. Recurrent episodes of diarrhea, on the other hand, will require further workup.
The risk of diarrhea can be decreased by keeping your cat on a consistent diet and minimizing his or her exposure to things likely to cause diarrhea.