How often a cat should poop will depend to a large degree on the cat. There are a lot of factors influencing this, as with any other aspect of feline health. Your cat may use the litter box once a day or much more frequently; some cats need to go less often. Your pet’s overall state of health may be reflected in litter-box habits so it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation.
How many times a day should cats poop? Adult cats should defecate at least once daily. Some cats go more often; defecating more than four times a day may indicate a digestive issue.
If you’ve found yourself landing on this page, you probably have questions regarding your cat’s health. Maybe you’re wondering why your cat doesn’t use the litter-box more often. Perhaps your cat seems to be going to the litter-box a lot and you’re concerned that she may be unwell. Keep reading — we have the answers to these and more questions.
How many times a day should cats poop?
Like humans, adult cats should move their bowels at least once per day. It’s not unusual for some cats to go slightly less often but if they miss more than two days you should check to make sure that nothing is wrong. It’s also not out of the ordinary for some cats to go more frequently; some cats poop three or four times a day. If you free-feed instead of using portion control, your cat will probably need the litter-box more frequently. In the case of a kitten, they may poop more frequently because their digestive systems are still developing; it’s quite normal for a kitten to need the litter-box half a dozen times a day or even more.
As your cat grows out of kittenhood, she should poop less frequently and eventually settle down to regular habits. A number of factors can influence the frequency with which your cat poops: her overall state of health, her usual diet and any recent variations there may have been, plus factors relating to her environment. If your cat suddenly seems to be pooping a lot more or a lot less than usual, you may need to make sure she doesn’t have any health issues. It should be easy for her to pass stool — straining and crying are a sure sign that she needs help from the vet. When cleaning your cat’s litter-box, you should quickly note whether the contents look normal as this can be an indicator as to whether her digestion is functioning well or not.
In general, a cat should produce small, solid pieces of scat, dark brown in colour and fairly dry. Obviously, it will smell bad but an unusually foul odour can be a symptom of severe problems. If the colour is other than dark brown or the stool is loose and not solid, your cat may be unwell. The problem may be temporary (perhaps she ate something that disagreed with her or had some emotional upset that day) or it may be something more serious that will require treatment to resolve. Any blood in the stool should immediately be discussed with your vet, even if no other symptoms are present.
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Diarrhoea and diet
Diarrhoea is a common problem for cats. It will often resolve in a day or so without any intervention. Some cats seem to develop diarrhoea periodically but are none the worse for it. If your cat’s digestive issues persist, though, you get her examined by your vet. Diarrhoea can cause dehydration and is often distressing for your pet; there may also be an underlying infection or food intolerance that needs to be addressed so your cat can recover.
If your cat is producing loose stools, there may be a number of causes. Diet is perhaps the most common. It’s important to feed your cat a good-quality, high-protein cat food, preferably a premium brand that uses rabbit or poultry as a primary ingredient. Avoid brands that contain a lot of vegetable ingredients, especially grains. Grains such as wheat or rice provide little or no useful nutrition — only empty calories. This includes “whole grains”.
Cats are not omnivores and they don’t require grain, whole or otherwise; far from being healthy, foods with a heavy emphasis on vegetable ingredients can cause digestive problems in cats. Keep in mind also that you should be feeding cat food to your cat and not food for humans or dogs (or other animals). Some cats go wild for dog food and most will beg for food off your plate. Unfortunately, dog food is not formulated for the feline digestive system and human food often disagrees with cats. Some of our food can be downright toxic, such as garlic or onions. A very common culprit is milk; while feeding milk to cats and kittens may be traditional, it’s generally a bad idea as cats are lactose intolerant once weaned.
Diarrhoea and other causes
Stomach complaints can cause your cat to suffer from diarrhoea. Causes can include food poisoning, poisoning by non-food items, and viral or bacterial infections. Sometimes your cat will recover from these naturally: once the toxins are excreted or the infection fought off, everything should eventually get back to normal. In other cases, you may need to take your cat to the vet. Seek medical attention for feline diarrhoea that is persistent or extreme, especially if there are other symptoms. If your cat has a bad stomach upset accompanied by lethargy, disorientation or refusal of food and drink, you should report her symptoms to the vet.
Your cat could be seriously ill. Another common cause of diarrhoea in cats, although generally not very severe, is stress: it’s very common for a cat to suffer diarrhoea when you move house or if she has to take a long trip. Again, this will usually resolve itself once everything has calmed down. The problem may reoccur if the stress is ongoing; common ongoing stressors include separation anxiety when the owner leaves for work each day, the presence of noisy, over-friendly or hostile pets in the same house, bullying by family members or situations involving a lot of upheavals, such as remodelling or construction in your building. Your vet will be able to help you with feline stress and anxiety; herbal or pheromone-based preparations may help.
Treatment for diarrhoea
A cat with diarrhoea can rapidly become dehydrated so ensuring that your pet gets enough fluid is a top priority. Feed her wet food with additional water mashed into it or give water from a syringe. Some people attempt to medicate their cat’s diarrhoea at home using herbal remedies such as slippery elm bark; I wouldn’t recommend this as herbal treatments aren’t standardised and you don’t always know what’s in them.
I’d also caution against another common home remedy: yoghurt. Adult cats are lactose intolerant. While plain yoghurt shouldn’t contain any lactose (the bacteria cultures in the yoghurt should have converted it all) some brands use an admixture of milk products such as cream or powdered milk to give their yoghurt a creamier flavour. This means that you could be feeding your cat something that actively irritates her gut and makes the diarrhoea worse rather than better. Giving your cat diarrhoea remedies for humans is a very bad idea — some are profoundly toxic to cats, while others could cause your cat to suffer from a dangerous degree of constipation.
If your cat’s diarrhoea doesn’t clear up by itself or if it tends to come back, you should seek help from your vet. Your vet may provide treatment to deal with an infection if one is present. If your cat is dehydrated, intravenous fluids may be prescribed. Your vet can help you uncover the underlying cause of persistent diarrhoea and tackle it so your cat can recover.
Constipation and dehydration
If your cat isn’t pooping regularly and seems uncomfortable when she does, insufficient hydration may well be to blame. Many cats spend their days more or less dehydrated because they don’t drink enough water. You can encourage your cat to drink by ensuring that the water-dish is always spotless and has clean water; moving the water-dish away from your cat’s food bowl can also help her feel more confident about drinking from it. (I’ve seen cats do this themselves; if your pet insists on dragging her dishes to opposite ends of the room no matter how many times you put them back, take the hint!) Some cats simply don’t get on with conventional water-dishes.
Even if you provide multiple water-dishes and clean them out regularly, your cat may refrain from drinking until she’s starting to become thoroughly dehydrated. This is particularly common in cats who have visual impairments; because they can’t see the surface of the water easily they may feel uncomfortable about drinking from a dish. If your cat tends to splash the water out of her bowl before drinking or prefers drinking from the tap to drinking from her dish, that’s a sure sign that she needs a better solution. I would encourage any cat owner to invest in at least one kitty drinking fountain, preferably the kind with an electric pump. This provides a stream of cool, clean water for your cat to drink.
Constipation and diet
You can also improve your pet’s dehydration (and the attendant problems with constipation) by feeding her wet food instead of dry. I recommend wet food as a general principle. Too much dry food can cause a lot of problems for cats. Small quantities as treats or to fill up forage toys are fine and the odd chunk of kibble can help with dental care.
However, making dry food the main source of nutrition for your cat can predispose her to urinary and renal issues as well as constipation. If your cat has problems when passing stool, dry food would be the first thing I’d change — the amount of additional water can be quite dramatic. I might also break with my usual policy of not feeding cats vegetables to offer cantaloupe chunks from time to time — cats enjoy these and they are rich in moisture. Some people make the mistake of assuming that extra dietary fibre (roughage) will help with constipation; however, your cat’s digestive system is different to a human’s.
Extra fibre may actually cause more problems than it solves, especially if it’s not combined with additional hydration. In the longer term, you might want to look at putting your cat on a reducing diet if she is very much overweight; cats who are suffering from obesity can become constipated.
Constipation and other factors
A cat who is having difficulty getting to or using her litter-box can start holding in stool and become constipated. This can be caused by a number of things. Your cat may simply find the box uncomfortable — most commercial litter-boxes are too small, especially for larger cats. Try replacing your litter-box with a large plastic storage crate, having cut down one side to provide access.
Sometimes the problems is another cat in the home who stops her from using the box; the solution here may be to set up two separate boxes in different parts of the house. A cat with an injury or a physical problem that causes her pain may also hold on too long in order to avoid having to walk and climb up into the box; arthritic kitties often deal with this issue. You can help by making sure the litter-box isn’t too far away and is easy to get into. You should also talk to your vet about your pet’s pain management. The type of litter you use can also be an issue. When cats walk in the litter and kick it around, dust from the granules can get into their fur.
The cat then licks it off during their usual grooming and ends up ingesting it. As long as the litter is relatively dust-free and neutral this isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, there are some types of litter, especially the kind containing clay, that can actually cause constipation. They block up the cat’s colon and make it harder to pass stool (much like the kaolin used in some kinds of diarrhoea medicine). Changing your brand of litter may help.
Remedies for constipation
Constipation that has lasted for more than 48 hours should be reported to your vet. It’s especially important to seek medical care if your cat is visibly in pain, has started refusing food and water, or has symptoms such as vomiting. If the problem is severe, your vet may decide to administer an enema. This is not something you should try to do yourself as there is a high potential for physical injury or poisoning.
The process itself is risky and many commercial enema kits contain constituents that are toxic to cats. In cases where the constipation is caused by severe dehydration, your vet may have to administer intravenous fluids. Where there is an impaction due to long-term constipation, your vet may need to treat it surgically. This is why it’s so important to stay on top of feline constipation — impaction is a serious condition that could kill your cat.
If your cat has an ongoing problem with constipation your vet may recommend additional treatment besides increasing hydration or changes in diet. Many over-the-counter medications used by humans with similar problems can work on cats, although they’re used in much smaller doses. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t give anything to your pets without carefully discussing it with your vet.
Lifestyle changes for digestive health
Just like a human, a cat’s lifestyle is an important factor in her overall health. This includes digestive health. All cats need plenty of exercises which they may not get if they spend most of their time in the house; this lack of exercise can make your cat very unwell generally and is often at the root of digestive upsets. I’m very keen on keeping cats indoors but you do need to ensure they get sufficient exercise.
The home environment should be enriched with enticing toys that encourage your cat to climb, jump and chase. A cat tree is an excellent idea, especially the kind with teaser toys built in that encourage your cat to climb up and get them. Forage toys such as a treat ball are a good way to keep your cat mobile; a treat ball is filled with kibble which the cat can only access by rolling and chasing the toy around the room. I also like those fishing-pole toys — they have a long, flexible handle with a bundle of feathers or a stuffed toy dangling from one end, making them easy to use from a seated position if you don’t have the energy to chase your cat around.
I’ve never met a cat who didn’t love them. Another option is to harness-train your cat and take her for walks on a lead; not all cats take to this and it does require some patience. With a healthy diet and plenty of exercises, your cat should be back to normal in no time.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.