Constipation in Kittens
What should you do if a kitten is all stopped up and just won’t poop? Constipation can occur in kittens for many reasons, so you’ll want to determine the cause while also taking measures to alleviate their discomfort and help them pass stool.
WHEN TO WORRY ABOUT CONSTIPATION
It’s important to know that kittens vary greatly in how often they go to the bathroom. While a kitten should pee every few hours, they may pass stool anywhere from 1 to 6 times a day, depending on the kitten’s age, care, and GI health.
Sometimes, a kitten may even go 24 hours without pooping. If this happens, don’t panic—but do keep an eye on them and focus on trying to help them go potty. If they haven’t pooped in more than 48 hours, that’s when you’ll definitely want to head to a veterinarian for further assistance. If the kitten has any signs of discomfort such as straining, bloating, crying in the litter box, lethargy, or distension, veterinary care should be sought.
BABY KITTENS CAN’T POOP ON THEIR OWN
It’s also important to understand that neonatal kittens—those under a month of age—may not be physically able to poop without assistance. Young kittens require stimulation from their mother’s tongue in order to defecate. If orphaned, they need to be gently stimulated by a caregiver before every meal. Use a soft tissue or a baby wipe to stimulate the kitten’s anus in a circular motion, continuing movement until and while the kitten is pooping. This will signal to the kitten’s body to push, and will encourage them to have a bowel movement.
CAUSES OF CONSTIPATION
Dietary issues such as improper diet
Parasites such as roundworms
Blockages caused by ingesting a foreign body such as a toy or feather
Megacolon, a condition causing a dilated colon with poor motility, and the inability to properly pass stool
Congenital defects, such as atresia ani, that can make it difficult or impossible to defecate
Left untreated, constipation can cause severe discomfort, suppressed diet, and even permanent damage to the colon.
To treat kittens with constipation, caregivers should first rule out serious medical conditions by getting a physical exam and an x-ray from a veterinarian. Once it’s known that the kitten isn’t suffering from an underlying defect, caregivers can help a constipated kitten in the following ways:
If the kitten is a bottle baby, make sure that she is on a proper kitten formula and is not fed home remedies, cow’s milk, or other milks. Ensure that the formula is made fresh, stored properly, and isn’t expired.
Ensure that the kitten has been fully dewormed, especially for roundworms.
Provide a probiotic supplement. Kittens need good bacteria to support overall gut health!
Keep the kitten hydrated. Consider adding an electrolyte solution to the kitten’s formula if she’s a bottle baby. If she’s eating meat, try mixing an extra splash of water into the food to increase hydration.
Keep the kitten active and moving to stimulate bowel movement. Bicycle the legs, gently massage the tummy, and encourage walking to get things moving.
A soak in warm water may be useful. Fill the sink with comfortably warm water and place the kitten into it with the tummy and butt submerged. You may find success if you manually stimulate the kitten’s butt while submerged, gently rubbing the area to encourage the body to push.
A kitten-safe laxative supplement may be useful. Powdered Miralax is known to be safe for cats, but should be used sparingly in kittens. You can add just a very small pinch into the kitten’s food. Note that an adult cat recommended dose is 1/8 teaspoon, so a kitten dose should be considerably smaller—a very small pinch of a few granules.
A veterinarian may prescribe a prescription oral medication such as Lactulose.
In some cases, a veterinarian may suggest an enema. Never perform an enema at home without training on how to properly do so. A veterinarian or an experienced caregiver can perform an enema if needed.
In severe cases, a medical professional can also help manually remove blocked waste through a process called deobstipation.