Constipation in Older Cats

As cats age, they may experience some difficulty defecating, or constipation.  Cat constipation symptoms include straining to defecate over a period of time, very hard feces and sometimes small amounts of fresh blood in the feces.

As cats age, their mobility declines due to arthritis or deteriorating sight, they may become more fussy eaters and dehydration may result from renal insufficiency or other common elderly cat diseases.  Old age may bring with it some muscle weakness, and hairballs may become more of an issue as older cats may not groom themselves as efficiently as they used to.  All of these factors contribute to constipation in older cats.

A more severe form of constipation in cats results from a condition called megacolon.  In megacolon, the colon becomes dilated and loses its ability to contract and evacuate faeces.  In some cats, factors such as nerve or spinal damage and previous pelvic fractures may have contributed to the development of megacolon.  However, in the majority of cases, we cannot identify a reason for its development.

Mild constipation and mild megacolon can often be managed with regular administration of laxatives prescribed by a veterinarian and high fibre diets.  Severe cases of constipation may require regular enemas.  Cases of megacolon that are not manageable medically may be candidates for total or subtotal colectomy, which is a surgery to remove the colon.  Colon surgery can be tricky and complications are not uncommon, so this surgery is usually only considered as a last resort to other forms of treatment.

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2 Responses

  1. Alice says:

    I found this article very informative. I adopted my pet at 2 months and he had constipation/colitis problems ever since I adopted him. I found it strange for a kitten so young to be suffering from this. It took about 2 years, but finally after several deopstipations/enemas he was put on a diet that has thus far been helping him. Wet food works best for him as dry and human food constipates him immediately. Thanks again Dr. Deepa.

    • Deepa says:

      Hi Alice,
      Glad you found this helpful. Another thing worth checking in young cats is whether they have some structural abnormality such as a rectal stricture or diverticulum. Your vet may have already done those but I would suggest start with a rectal exam, then maybe an xray study of the abdomen using contrast material, or colonoscopy.
      Thanks for the comment and good luck with the little one.

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