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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Health > Diarrhea in cats and kittens

Diarrhea in cats and kittens

When your cat is afflicted with persistent diarrhea, the best way to handle the problem is to stop it before it becomes an even bigger problem. This means a prompt vet appointment, a fecal test along with any other test the vet deems important to determine the cause and produce a cure.

When a cat is producing watery stool, she is losing important minerals (sodium, chloride, potassium and electrolytes) not to mention food, and other bodily fluids like mucus and even blood within her system. Particularly in kittens, dehydration can quickly set in. If for some reason immediate veterinary intervention is not sought, the kitten could die.

In her book, Kittens for Dummies author, Dusty Rainbolt provides a wealth of information regarding diarrhea in young kittens. She also thoughtfully provides the reader with a stool color chart, so abnormally colored stool can alert the owner when a health problem exists. Diarrhea can be caused by:

  • Parasites
  • Coccidia
  • Giardia
  • Improper diet
  • Cow’s milk
  • Viruses
  • Stomach upset
  • Food allergies
  • Feline Leukemia
  • Colitis
  • Foreign objects causing obstruction
  • Bacteria
  • Stress

There are two types of diarrhea, acute (meaning lasting about 48 hours) and chronic diarrhea that can be long-term.

According to Dr. Susan Little DVM:

“Diarrhea in kittens can be very frustrating as there are so many potential causes.

I like to use a good broad spectrum dewormer such as fenbendazole (Panacur) as it also gets Giardia. If there is blood in the stools, the culprit may be coccidia and a sulfa drug (such as TMS) must be used.

A little known cause of diarrhea in cats is Tritrichomonas, and a special culture must be requested from the lab. Sometimes, high protein, low carb diets help (canned, not dry) and if not, then a fiber added diet such as Hills’ W/D.”

Responding in a prompt manner is the key when it comes to fighting diarrhea in cats and kittens. Some of the measures you can take at home while waiting for the vet appointment are:

  • Feeding plain yogurt with active cultures.
  • Cooked hamburger and twice-cooked rice mixed together.
  • Bene-Bac powder- available at any good pet supply store.
  • GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) Liquid- 3 drops in wet food.
  • Adding fiber to the diet to see if the stools become formed.

If the diarrhea persists, or if other symptoms accompany the diarrhea, please seek your vet’s advice. If your vet asks you to bring in a sample, switch the cat litter in your litter pans to dry beans. This has the same consistency of litter and the retrieval process becomes easier.

Checking for dehydration:

While the kitten/cat is at rest, lightly pinch the scruff of the neck, pull up gently, keeping the cat firmly on the ground.

Hold the scruff for just a few seconds then release.

The scruff should fold down to normal in seconds, if the scruff/skin stays tented up, get your cat to the vet immediately or administer subcutaneous fluids yourself.

You can also check the gums by lightly pressing your finger against the side of the cat’s gums. The gum should go white and then pink up quickly. 

If you see streaks of white on your cat’s gums or the gums are pure white or yellow, get the cat to the vet quickly.

The third eyelid (called the yaw) will also show when a cat has become dehydrated.

What NOT to do:

  • Do NOT give over-the-counter medications to your cat, unless the vet okays it.
  • Do NOT deprive your cat of food over 24 hours. You can withdraw food for one day to rest the gut, but any longer your cat stands a chance of developing a worse problem than diarrhea.
  • Do NOT use over-the-counter wormers, or other pet-aids that you think will solve the problem.
  • Do not self-diagnose your cat.

Litter pan patrol:

  • Use care and caution when cleaning contaminated pans.
  • Do not wash the pans in sinks or bathtubs. Use a rubber trashcan, and be sure to dump the water down the toilet.
  • Use rubber gloves at all times when handling the pans.
  • Scrub the pans out with hot water and bleach.
  • Spray the bottom of the tray with PAM Cooking spray to stop the diarrhea from clinging to the bottom.
  • Use proper hygiene habits before and after litter pan patrol
  • Isolate the cat or kitten with diarrhea from the others to prevent the infection spreading
  • Make that cat and kitten off limits to any child in the home till the cat is healthy.

Acting promptly when it comes to diarrhea can mean the difference between a manageable vet bill and a hefty one. Prevention is the key and early intervention is crucial.



Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.

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