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What is a Diarrhea in Cats?

What is it?

Cat diarrhea is a common gastrointestinal problem that various factors, including diet changes, poisoning, infections, parasites, and underlying medical conditions, can cause. It is characterized by loose, watery stools and can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and other health complications. Prompt diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian are essential for managing cat diarrhea and preventing further health problems. Therefore, prompt

How is it Treated?

The treatment of diarrhea in cats depends on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms. Treatment may involve dietary changes, medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, and supportive care such as hydration and electrolyte management. In some cases, diagnostic testing such as blood work or fecal analysis may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of diarrhea and guide treatment.

Breed Predispositions


Milo, a playful Siamese cat, had always been the epitome of feline health and energy for his owner, Lisa. But when Milo suddenly started experiencing diarrhea, Lisa grew concerned about her furry friend’s well-being. Eager to find answers, she took Milo to the veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.

Cat’s diarrhea, also known as the frequent expulsion of loose, watery, or unformed stools, indicates a disturbance in the digestive system. As cat parents, it’s crucial to understand that diarrhea is not a disease but a common gastrointestinal symptom that points to an underlying issue. The severity and duration of this condition can vary, with acute instances clearing up rapidly and chronic situations lasting longer.

Numerous factors could cause your cat’s diarrhea, including infections, dietary alterations, stress, or other gastrointestinal disruptions. It’s essential to be aware that persistent diarrhea can result in dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes. Hence, if the condition continues or deteriorates, you must call your vet and monitor your cat’s hydration closely.

Types of Diarrhea in Cats

There are several types of diarrhea in cats, each with different underlying causes and characteristics:

  • Acute Diarrhea: This type of diarrhea occurs suddenly and lasts for a short duration, usually a few days to a week. It is often caused by dietary indiscretion, ingestion of spoiled food, or a sudden change in diet.
  • Chronic Diarrhea: Chronic diarrhea persists for an extended period, usually over three weeks. It can be caused by various factors, including food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), parasitic infections, or underlying medical conditions.
  • Infectious Diarrhea: Infectious diarrhea is caused by viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Common culprits include feline panleukopenia virus, feline coronavirus, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Giardia, or roundworms.
  • Inflammatory Diarrhea: Inflammatory diarrhea is associated with inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. IBD, food allergies, or bacterial overgrowth in the intestines can cause it.

It’s important to note that a veterinarian should determine the specific cause of cat diarrhea through proper diagnosis and testing.

What Causes of Cat Diarrhea?

Diarrhea in cats can be caused by a wide range of factors, from minor dietary changes to serious medical conditions. Here are some of the most common causes:

Dietary Changes and Food Intolerance

A sudden alteration in a cat’s diet can disrupt its digestive or intestinal tract, resulting in diarrhea, one of the most common causes of cat health concerns. This can occur when introducing new cat food too quickly or when a cat consumes something it shouldn’t, like certain human foods or spoiled pet food. Some adult cats may have a food allergy or intolerance to certain ingredients, such as lactose or gluten, which can upset the GI tract and lead to diarrhea.

causes of diarrhea in cats


Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can cause significant disruptions to a cat’s gastrointestinal system. Salmonella, a common cause of infection often associated with raw food or unclean water, can result in severe diarrhea. Campylobacter, another type of bacteria, can be contracted from contaminated feces, water, or undercooked meat. Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that produces toxins, also lists possible causes of cat diarrhea.


Internal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms can cause digestive issues, including diarrhoea. These parasites live in a cat’s intestines, consuming nutrients and causing inflammation. Protozoan parasites, like giardia and coccidia, are common diarrhea culprits and are often contracted through contaminated water or feces.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation of the cat’s intestinal tract. While the exact cause of IBD is unknown, it’s believed to be a reaction to proteins in the diet or an abnormal immune system response. Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, weight loss, and reduced appetite.


Hyperthyroidism, a common condition in older cats, occurs when the thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. This condition can accelerate the metabolic process, leading to weight loss, increased appetite, and diarrhoea symptoms.


Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, is another possible cause. The pancreas aids digestion and, when inflamed, can leak digestive enzymes into the abdomen, causing diarrhoea, among other symptoms.


Certain types of cancer, such as intestinal lymphoma, can result in diarrhea. This occurs due to the abnormal growth of cells interfering with normal digestive processes.

Certain Medications and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Certain medications, including antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can cause diarrhoea. This happens when these drugs disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in a cat’s gut. The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is another potential cause of cat diarrhea.

Each of these causes requires different treatments, so consult a vet if your cat is experiencing ongoing diarrhea.

Signs a Cat Has Diarrhea

Clinical signs indicating that your cat may be suffering from diarrhea include:

  • Loose or watery stools
  • A heightened frequency of bowel movements
  • Visible straining or urgency during the act of defecation
  • Unexpected accidents or soiling outside the confines of the litter box
  • Blood or mucus appearing in the stool
  • Noticeable lethargy or decreased interest in food

These changes in your cat’s behavior are crucial to observe; monitoring the situation is vital if diarrhea happens. Persistent diarrhea, lasting more than a day or more severe, requires attention. Adult cats, as well as kittens, are susceptible to diarrhea. If your cat shows other worrying symptoms, it’s recommended to contact your vet right away for a proper diagnosis and fitting treatment.

How Vets Diagnose Diarrhea in Cats

Identifying the root cause of cat diarrhea typically involves a comprehensive approach that includes a detailed history, physical examination, and various diagnostic tests. Veterinarians use the following common methods to diagnose cases of cat diarrhea:

Physical Examination

During a physical examination, the vet will scrutinize the cat’s body, including the abdomen, for any irregularities, such as enlarged organs or indications of discomfort. The vet will also evaluate the cat’s overall condition and hydration status, whether a kitten or an adult.

Fecal Analysis

Fecal analysis entails scrutinizing a sample of the cat’s stool under a microscope to check for intestinal parasites, like roundworms, hookworms, or coccidia. This process helps establish if parasites are the culprits behind the cat’s diarrhea.

Blood Tests

Blood tests provide information about the cat’s general health and organ function. A complete blood count (CBC) measures the quantity and variety of blood cells, while a biochemical profile assesses organ function and checks for liver and kidney values anomalies.

Bacterial or Viral Testing

Should a bacterial or viral infection be suspected, the vet may collect a sample from the cat, such as feces or blood, to test for specific pathogens. Bacterial cultures can identify the type of bacteria involved, while PCR or serological tests can detect viral infections.

Imaging Studies

X-rays or ultrasounds may be utilized to visualize the gastrointestinal tract and spot any structural abnormalities like obstructions, masses, or changes in organ size. Such imaging studies can contribute valuable information in identifying the cause of the diarrhea.

Dietary Trials

The vet may suggest a dietary trial if a food allergy or intolerance is suspected. This involves feeding the cat a hypoallergenic or novel protein diet to see if the diarrhea resolves. Should it cease, it can indicate the cat’s adverse reaction to a specific food ingredient.


When inflammatory disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or other gastrointestinal conditions are suspected, a biopsy may be required. A small intestinal tissue sample is collected through endoscopy or surgery and examined under a microscope to identify abnormal cellular changes or inflammation.

These diagnostic methods assist veterinarians in determining the root cause of a cat’s diarrhea, from mild bouts to severe cases, thus guiding the suitable treatment plan. If your cat is suffering from diarrhea without an obvious cause, it’s crucial to contact your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment approach.

Treatments for Cats with Diarrhea

Managing diarrhea in cats is contingent on the cause and intensity of the condition. Here are a few standard methodologies that veterinarians may adopt:

Hydration Therapy

Hydration therapy might restore hydration and electrolyte balance if the cat is dehydrated due to diarrhea. This could be performed intravenously (IV) fluids or fluids administered subcutaneously.

Nutritional Management

Modifications in the cat’s diet are frequently recommended to regulate diarrhea. This could involve introducing a bland diet, like boiled chicken and rice, or transitioning to a highly digestible prescription diet. In some cases, a brief period of fasting could give the gastrointestinal tract some respite.

Pharmaceutical Intervention

Prescription drugs may be used to address specific underlying causes of diarrhea. For instance, antibiotics might be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected. To eradicate intestinal parasites, antiparasitic medications are helpful, and anti-inflammatory drugs can manage inflammation related to inflammatory bowel disease.


Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, can help reestablish the equilibrium of gut flora and enhance digestive health. They are often incorporated into the treatment plan for diarrhea to foster the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Additional Treatments

Based on the underlying cause of diarrhea, further treatments might be implemented. This could encompass anti-diarrheal medications to diminish the frequency of bowel movements, anti-spasmodic drugs to ease abdominal discomfort, or dietary supplements to bolster digestive function.

It’s crucial to understand that the specific treatment for diarrhea will vary based on the individual cat and the underlying cause. For cases of acute diarrhea or prolonged diarrhea that could warrant emergency care or even small bowel diarrhea, it’s always advisable to consult a veterinarian to ascertain the most appropriate treatment plan for your cat’s situation.

Prevention Tips for Diarrhea in Cats

treatment of diarrhea in cats
  • Furnish a balanced, suitable diet – Offer your cat a well-balanced, high-quality diet that aligns with their age, state of health, and specific nutritional requirements. Sidestep abrupt dietary changes as they can induce digestive discomfort.
  • Ensure a clean water source – Consistently give your cat access to fresh and uncontaminated water. Regularly clean their water bowl to inhibit bacterial proliferation.
  • Incremental dietary alterations – If there’s necessary to modify your cat’s diet, change incrementally over 7-10 days. Mix small quantities of the new food with the old to allow their digestive system to adapt.
  • Avoid offering leftovers – Human food, especially those high in fat or spices, can disrupt your cat’s digestive system. Steer clear of giving them leftovers or food not meant for feline consumption.
  • Limit access to hazardous substances – Store household cleaning products, poisonous plants, medications, and other harmful substances where your cat can’t reach them to prevent accidental consumption.
  • Uphold hygiene and sanitation – Keep the litter box clean, and regularly wash and sanitize food and water dishes to prevent transmitting bacteria or parasites.
  • Schedule routine veterinary visits – Regular wellness exams should be arranged for your cat to oversee their overall health and address potential problems before they escalate.

It’s crucial to remember to consult a veterinarian if your cat develops persistent or severe diarrhea for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Maintaining your pet’s healthy digestive system is vital for an effective immune system. They’re frequently provided to people grappling with gastrointestinal problems but could also benefit your kitty.

Lastly, bear in mind the environmental factors. Temperature, humidity, or air quality changes can upset your cat’s stomach. Consider keeping windows shut and turning off fans and heating systems.

If your cat is prone to such issues, introducing fiber-rich food like canned pumpkin can be helpful. The approach to preventing diarrhea depends largely on understanding your cat’s sensitivities and needs. Always consult your vet before giving your cat any new food or supplement.

Frequently Asked Question

Wet cat food generally does not cause diarrhea in cats. It is often recommended for cats with digestive issues as it provides hydration and can be easier to digest than dry food. Cat diarrhea can be caused by dietary changes, food intolerance, gastrointestinal infections, parasites, or underlying health conditions.

Occasionally, mild diarrhea may improve within 24-48 hours. Nevertheless, it is crucial not to disregard persistent or severe diarrhea, as it may result in dehydration and additional complications. Observing your feline’s state and seeking advice from a veterinary professional if diarrhea continues or is accompanied by worrisome symptoms is essential. 

Certain foods can cause diarrhea in cats, especially if they are not accustomed to them or have food sensitivities. Common culprits include sudden dietary changes, spoiled or contaminated food, fatty foods, dairy products, or foods high in fiber. Each cat’s tolerance to different foods can vary, so observing how your cat reacts to specific ingredients is essential.

To help firm up your cat’s stool, try feeding a bland diet of boiled chicken or white fish with plain, cooked rice or pumpkin puree. Gradually transition back to their regular diet once the stool improves. It is also important to ensure your cat has access to fresh water to prevent dehydration.

The duration of diarrhea in cats can vary depending on the underlying cause. Sometimes, it may resolve within a day or two with simple dietary modifications. However, suppose diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. In that case, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Persistent diarrhea in cats can be caused by various factors, including infections, dietary indiscretion, food allergies or intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal parasites, or underlying medical conditions. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for appropriately treating and managing the diarrhea.

While home remedies may help in some cases of mild diarrhea, it is important to consult a veterinarian before administering treatments. Depending on the situation, your vet may recommend temporary dietary modifications, such as a bland diet or probiotics. However, addressing the underlying cause of the diarrhea is crucial to ensure the best outcome for your cat’s health.

Over-the-counter medications for diarrhea in cats should not be given without veterinary guidance. Some human medications can be toxic to cats or worsen their condition. It is important to consult a veterinarian who can recommend safe and effective medications based on the underlying cause of the diarrhea.

Cats with diarrhea may have accidents outside the litter box due to urgency or discomfort. Diarrhea can be messy and difficult for cats to control, especially if it is frequent or severe. It is important to address the underlying cause of diarrhea to prevent accidents and provide proper treatment for your cat.

Cerenia is an antiemetic medication commonly used to control vomiting in cats. While it may help manage certain cases of vomiting-related diarrhea, its primary role is to reduce vomiting, not specifically treat diarrhea. The underlying cause of diarrhea should be identified and appropriately treated for long-term resolution.

Fortiflora is a probiotic supplement commonly used to support gastrointestinal health in cats. Probiotics can help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which may aid in resolving diarrhea caused by certain imbalances or infections. However, it is best to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance on using probiotics for your cat’s specific condition.

While mild or short-term diarrhea is usually not life-threatening, persistent or severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other complications that may be dangerous, especially in young kittens or cats with weakened immune systems. It is important to monitor your cat’s condition closely and seek veterinary care if diarrhea persists or worsens.

Probiotics can be beneficial in some cases of cats’ diarrhea, particularly when gut flora imbalances or certain infections cause diarrhea. Probiotics help restore the natural balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract and support gastrointestinal health. However, the use of probiotics should be guided by a veterinarian, as they can recommend specific probiotic strains and dosages based on your cat’s condition.

While it is rare, some pathogens carried by cats, such as certain strains of Salmonella or Campylobacter, can potentially cause gastrointestinal infections in humans, leading to symptoms like diarrhea. Practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly after handling cats or cleaning litter boxes, can help minimize the risk of transmission.

It is recommended to call a veterinarian if your cat experiences persistent or severe diarrhea if other concerning symptoms accompany diarrhea, or if your cat appears unwell, lethargic, or shows signs of dehydration. A veterinarian can assess your cat’s condition, perform necessary diagnostic tests, and provide appropriate treatment to address the underlying cause of the diarrhea.

If your cat’s diarrhea persists for more than a day or two, is severe or bloody, or if it shows other concerning symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or dehydration, it is time to be concerned and seek veterinary care. Diarrhea can indicate an underlying health issue that requires proper diagnosis and treatment for your cat’s well-being.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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