As the first installment of our “Back to School” series, welcome to Cat Poo 101! The basics of what YOU need to know about your cat’s poop!
This article will cover the importance of regularly keeping an eye on your cat’s poop, signs to watch out for in their poop, why it’s important to frequently scoop out your cat’s litter box, how poop can impact your health, and the problem with parasites. Caution: If you find yourself sensitive to the topics of poop or photos of poop, you are not required to read this article.
It’s important to habitually keep an eye on your cat’s poop since you can learn a lot about your cat’s health from it. Cats will usually use their litter box once to twice a day; normal, healthy poop will not feel too lax and not too firm, have a deep brown color, and will have some amount of odor but not smell too foul. If you see this type of poop your cat’s litter box, you have nothing to worry about. However, if your cat is having constipation or diarrhea in the litter box, it’s imperative to keep watch on it and know how often it happens.
If your cat is experiencing constipation, they will strain and push themselves when they try to poop, or they may not be able to poop at all. If constipation is common for your cat, here are a couple of reasons why they may be struggling:
- Kidney problems
- Feline mega-colon (this is when your cat’s colon gets very large and the muscles can no longer squeeze, resulting in the poop becoming hard and built up inside)
- Lack of fiber in their diet
- Possible spine pains or problems
- Over-grooming (this can lead to extra hair being in their digestive tract)
- Colon blockage
- Problems inside their colon like narrow spaces or tumors
To ease your cat’s constipation, you can provide more fiber in your cat’s diet by adding:
- Canned pumpkin
- Powdered fiber supplements
- Cooked mashed carrots
- Mashed peas
- Strained prunes
- Coconut oil
- Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Formula
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball Control Chicken Recipe
- Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Duck Recipe
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Rabbit Formula
Regardless of what you try to do to add fiber to your cat’s diet, make sure to take your cat to your veterinarian.
It is not uncommon for cats to have diarrhea. Sometimes it comes and goes, but if it lasts for months, weeks, or even days, or even if it comes and goes on a regular basis, your cat could be suffering from:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Pancreatic Disease
- Changes to their food or diet that result in intolerance or allergies
- Intentional parasites (worms)
If your cat has diarrhea for longer than forty-eight hours, take your cat to the veterinarian to have them diagnose the cause. If your cat’s diarrhea appears bloody or black, or if your cat has also been vomiting, been lethargic, has a fever, or a loss of appetite, take your cat to an emergency veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian might prescribe medications such as prednisolone or metronidazole to help with inflammation. To prevent diarrhea, do not give dairy products to your cats because they do not digest them well.
Setting up a litter box is pretty easy; get a plastic cat box from your local pet store or Walmart, purchase the cat litter of your choice, and fill the box. It’s vital to keep in mind that cats are very clean animals; they spend sixty percent of their lives grooming themselves! Some cat owners have very different definitions and standards of what a clean litter box is. Preferably, you should scoop out your cat’s litter box twice a day, once is also good. Some cat owners will only clean out their cat’s litter boxes once a week, and even others will clean out the litter box once every two weeks. Would you want to step over mounds of urine clumps or dried up poop to use the restroom? No, of course not! Neither would your cat. Sometimes cats will hold in their poop so they won’t have to “go” in a dirty litter box. So, unless you want a constipated cat, get in there with the pooper-scooper and clean the cat box.
Let’s talk about the health problems a dirty litter box poses to your cat and how it affects your health. Since your cat is the one who uses the litter box, they will suffer first. Your cat can suffer from constipation and urinary tract infections from holding it in from not wanting to “go” in a dirty litter box. Both you and your cat can suffer from bacterial infections (otherwise known as cat-scratch fever) and Salmonellosis. The infection can spread from your cat (who may be using a dirty cat box) to you if you cuddle with your cat. You, however, will suffer from a few diseases if you do not clean your cat box regularly. These problems can include parasite transfer. Cat poop is also home to a horde of parasites (ringworms, hookworms, and roundworms) as it sits and dries in the cat box. One of those parasites is called Toxoplasma gondii; it’s a single-cell parasite which produces fever-like symptoms and has been connected to increased suicidal tendencies. You can also have an overexposure to ammonia as the poop and urine accumulate in the dirty litter box, since they both produce ammonia fumes. Ammonia is a toxic gas; when it is mild, it can cause headaches and queasiness. When there are large amounts of ammonia, it can result in respiratory issues such as pneumonia.
Now let’s go over our parasitophobia because these little critters can be harmful to our cats if litter boxes aren’t scooped out regularly. Parasites are a huge issue when it comes to cat poop. Whether your cat already has parasites or they are simply reproducing on the poop, it is possible for them to transfer them from cat-to-cat and from cat-to-human (especially if you have children). Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites of cats. The adult female worm produces fertile eggs that are passed in the infected cat’s feces; the eggs need several days to several weeks to develop in the larvae stage. Affected cats may have diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or loss of appetite. Less common than roundworms, hookworms are infectious parasites, as well. They’re so small that they are not visible in the cat poop, but they are able to live as long as your cat. Adult cats can become infected by the larvae that penetrate their skin or if they become ingested. Mild cases of hookworm can cause diarrhea and weight loss, but if it is severe, it can cause anemia due to blood loss from the intestines where the worms attach themselves. Your cat’s poop will look similar to black tar because of digested blood in your cat’s poop.
I hope you enjoyed this information or at least found Cat Poo 101 interesting! Before you click the ‘X’ button at the top of your browser, remember these three tips:
- Keep an eye on your cat’s poop
- Take your cat to the veterinarian if your cat’s poop is irregular
- Scoop out your cat’s litter box at least once a day!
Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.