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Understanding Cat Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, and FAQs

Understanding Cat Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, and FAQs

“Why does my cat have diarrhea all of a sudden?” is a question we’d be willing to bet most cat owners have asked at least once. Your cat can be perfectly fine in the afternoon and then struggle with digestive issues that same evening. 

Cats, being mysterious creatures, often leave us puzzled when it comes to health issues. It’s no fun and definitely alarming when your kitty is dealing with diarrhea — seemingly out of nowhere. 

Let’s explore the various causes of cat diarrhea and address some frequently asked questions to help you better understand and manage this issue.

What Causes Cat Diarrhea?

Several factors can contribute to diarrhea in cats, including abrupt changes in diet, sensitivities, parasites, stress, and other health conditions. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats. 

Dietary Changes

Abrupt changes in your cat's diet can lead to digestive upset, resulting in diarrhea. Gradual transitions to new foods are recommended.

Cats are creatures of habit, and their gastrointestinal tracts are sensitive to change. Abruptly changing their diet, such as introducing a completely new brand or flavor of cat food, can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, leading to digestive upset and diarrhea.

Stress

Cats can be very sensitive to changes in their environment. Stressful situations can trigger diarrhea. Common situations that may stress out your cat include:

  • Moving to a new environment 
  • Introducing a new pet or baby into the household
  • Major changes to daily routines
  • Loud noises
  • Boredom and lack of mental stimulation 

Allergies & Sensitivities

Some cats may be sensitive or allergic to certain ingredients in their food, leading to gastrointestinal issues.

Cats, like humans, can develop food allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients in their food. This sensitivity can manifest in various ways, including diarrhea and vomiting.

It varies by cat, but chicken, beef, fish, wheat, corn, and soy tend to be some of the biggest culprits. Some cats also struggle with certain additives and preservatives. 

Viral & Bacterial Infections

Infections from bacteria or viruses, such as salmonella or feline coronavirus, can cause diarrhea. 

Cats, like any living beings, are susceptible to infections caused by bacteria and viruses, and these pathogens can wreak havoc on their digestive system.

Parasites

Intestinal parasites like worms can lead to diarrhea, especially for cats that spend time outdoors. 

Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms are just a few types of worms that frequently impact cats. Each type has its own lifecycle and mode of transmission, often entering your cat's system through contaminated food, water, or contact with infected feces.

How to Prevent Cat Diarrhea

Preventing diarrhea in cats involves a proactive approach to their overall health and well-being. Here are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the risk of diarrhea and maintain your cat's digestive health.

Maintain Hydration

Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times. This helps flush things through your cat’s digestive system and prevents dehydration. 

According to Cornell University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, cats need “about 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of lean body weight per day.” 

Monitor how much water your cat is drinking. If your cat is fussy, try turning on the faucet or using a pet water fountain to encourage increased water intake. 

Cat drinks from faucet

Adjust Diet Gradually

Introduce new food and treats to your cat slowly. A gradual pace allows your cat's digestive system to adapt more easily and reduces stress.

According to the Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Medicine, transitioning food over the course of 1-2 weeks is recommended. Replace about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the old food with the new food per day until the transition is complete. 

Stick with the same bowls, times, and location for meals to create consistency. 

Use Cat Probiotics & Supplements

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can support gut health in cats. A cat-friendly supplement, like Maya Pet, may help boost your cat’s microbiome and minimize digestive issues like diarrhea. 

Maya Pet has 10 targeted Smart StrainsTM of good bacteria chosen to support your cat’s digestive health. We focus our bacteria strains into four main categories:

  • Enhancers that may help boost your cat’s microbiome and digestion.
  • Managers that can help support gut acid and the digestive tract.
  • Inhibitors that can help block pathogens and bad bacteria shown to make your cat sick
  • Communicators that may help your cat’s digestive system, nervous system, and brain work together more efficiently 

  • Plus, Maya Pet comes in a convenient powder form that’s easy to mix into the food your cat enjoys on an ongoing basis.  

    Reduce Stress

    Reduce stress by providing a comfortable and familiar environment for your cat and stick to an ongoing routine as much as possible. 

    Pet auto-feeders are a great way to provide consistent meal times. And your cat’s scratching posts and litter box should remain in the same spot to avoid confusion. 

    If major changes are on the horizon, it’s best to allow your cat time to adjust as gradually as possible. For example, consider keeping your kitty in a small area of a new home and gradually increasing access as they adjust to the new sights and smells. 

    When introducing a new pet (or human) into the home, you can let your cat smell a blanket or toy that belongs to the new family member to get used to the smell. Then, slowly introduce them over the course of a few days or weeks.  

    Orange tabby cat sleeps on a pile of blankets

    Protect Them from Unsafe Substances 

    Cats are curious and often mischievous creatures. Cat-proof your home and monitor them to make sure they don’t accidentally get into something that might trigger digestive issues or worse.  

    Keep toxic plants, chemicals, and other hazards out of reach or behind closed doors to avoid accidental ingestion. You should also keep your cat food and treats in sealed containers so your cat doesn’t get into them and overindulge. 

    Your yard also has plenty of things your cat might get into. If you allow your cat outside, consider a “catio” or enclosure to limit exposure to potentially harmful plants, animal waste, and debris. 

    If you do have to leave your cat alone for an extended period, ask a friend or neighbor to check-in. Your kitty will appreciate the extra love, and you’ll have peace of mind that your furry friend is safe and happy. 

    Routine Health Care

    While there’s a lot you can do at home to naturally prevent diarrhea, sometimes routine care and professional help are necessary — especially if your cat’s health isn’t improving and you can’t pinpoint what’s causing the diarrhea. 

    Professional guidance can help you address potential allergens, parasites, and other issues that may impact your cat’s digestive health. 

    FAQs About Cat Diarrhea

    Let’s address a few more common questions cat owners have about diarrhea and other digestive issues. 

    Can Wet Food Cause Diarrhea In Cats?

    Yes, sudden changes in diet, including transitioning to wet food, can lead to digestive upset. Gradual introductions and monitoring your cat's response are essential.

    Does Dewormer Cause Diarrhea In Cats?

    Sometimes. Deworming medications may have negative side effects, such as temporary gastrointestinal upset. This side effect varies depending on the cat and is usually short-lived.

    Can I Give My Cat Pepto Bismol For Diarrhea?

    According to the ASPCA, you should not give your cat Pepto Bismol. This medicine contains salicylates, which can cause “gastric irritation or ulceration, bleeding problems, seizures, and liver damage” in large doses.

    How Long Will My Cat Have Diarrhea After Changing Food?

    There’s no set answer here. In general, gradual transitions over 7-10 days can help minimize digestive upset. If diarrhea persists, you may need to consider other factors contributing to the digestive issues, such as allergies, parasites, and more. 

    Can Antibiotics Give Cats Diarrhea?

    Yes, it's possible for antibiotics to cause diarrhea in cats. Antibiotics can affect the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This disruption to the natural balance of gut flora can lead to diarrhea in some cats.

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