Just looking for the best cat food for constipation? We recommend Hill’s Science Diet Hairball Control Wet Cat Food
Constipation is common in cats and if you are an owner who hasn’t come across it before it can be a worrying development. We will tell you how to identify whether your cat is constipated, discuss some of the causes of constipation so you might be able to identify what might have happened to your cat, look at the various ways in which you can treat constipation in your cat at home and then guide you through the best food choices.
Our pick of the best cat food for constipation:
- Top pick: Hill’s Science Diet Hairball Control
- Best Budget Cat Food For Constipation: Purina One Natural Advantage
- Weruva Cats In The Kitchen Funk In The Trunk Chicken & Pumpkin
- Nulo Freestyle Chicken And Turkey
- Merrick Limited Ingredient
How can I tell if my cat is constipated?
If your cat is constipated it will display symptoms. In some cases your cat might only have one or two of the symptoms, in more severe cases your cat might display all the symptoms we list. Keep an eye open for the following symptoms of constipation in your cat :
Reduction in frequency
Your cat should be passing stools at least once per day. If your cat doesn’t pass a stool for 48 hours, then a visit to the vet is necessary. At the 48 hour stage, your cat might be impacted so badly that nothing you do will get their system moving. This level of blockage may start putting a strain on the internal organs of your cat and may need manual unblocking by the vet!
If your cat is straining and appears to be in some discomfort when they are in the litter tray then this is a bad sign that they may be suffering from constipation.
Check the consistency of your cat’s stools. If they are hard and dry this may indicate that they are suffering from some constipation. The amount of stool is not so much of a factor as this can be dependent on the digestibility of the food in the diet. The more digestible the smaller the output of stools.
Blood and mucus in the litter box
If there are traces of blood and mucus in the litter tray or with or without hard, dry stools then the chances are your cat is constipated and having problems.
If your cat is vomiting it could be because its digestive system has ground to a halt due to constipation and the digestive system is rejecting additional material in an effort to clear the blocked system. Vomiting could be a side effect of constipation but could also indicate other health issues.
Loss of appetite
As with vomiting, a loss of appetite could occur if your cat has constipation so bad that the digestive system grinds to a halt. Either way, a loss of appetite, vomiting and a cat that doesn’t pass stools for 48 hours should be a very big clue that your cat needs medical attention!
Frequent visits to the litter box
If your cat is making frequent visits to the litter box without anything happening then that is a big clue that they are having issues. It is likely that your cat will also be straining at the litterbox. If you take your cat to the vet at this point they are likely to ask when the last time you saw the cat pass a stool, whether any blood or mucus was present and carry out a physical exam to ensure the bladder is empty so they can confirm constipation.
Defecating outside the litter box
If your cat is defecating outside the litter box they are trying to communicate with you. If the litter is fresh and you haven’t changed the litter brand or type recently you should get suspicious. If the stool is hard and dry then constipation is likely the issue they are trying to communicate to you.
If the litter is well used they might just be uncomfortable about using it. If you have changed brand or type recently it might be uncomfortable on their paws or the new litter might be a material they do not associate as suitable for use in the litter box.
What are the causes of constipation?
So you think your cat might have some level of constipation and are wondering how they got into this state when you take really good care of them? There are a number of potential causes and on the whole, they are down to plain bad luck rather than poor owner behavior:
A lack of water intake or increased water loss (vomiting, hyperthyroidism) that leads to a state of dehydration is a common culprit when it comes to constipation in cats. Cats don’t suffer from thirst as badly as other mammals which are believed to be a throwback to their origins as desert dwellers. This means your cat can easily get low on water without noticing. Many owners feed their cat’s dry diets these days for convenience. These dry diets might only contain 20% moisture whereas a wet, canned cat food can contain as much as 85% moisture. In these conditions, it is easy to see how a cat on a dry diet might become dehydrated leading to constipation.
Lack of fiber
In a natural diet, a cat would be eating fur, ligaments and small bones that would be indigestible and would bulk up the material in the digestive system. This bulked up material would help the gut maintain motility and aid the passage of stools. In a modern, man-made diet, your cat needs fiber to replicate this activity.
It might be that the food you are feeding your cat doesn’t have enough fiber – you might have been convinced to put your cat on a low carb diet thinking this was more natural and overlooked the fiber situation. A lack of fiber in the diet is likely to contribute to constipation.
Obesity/lack of exercise
Cats who are obese are known to suffer from constipation more than active cats that are at a healthy weight. Exercise and physical movement can increase gut motility. Inactive cats miss out on this stimulation and can develop constipation as a result.
Your cat can develop constipation as a result of a physical blockage. The blockage might be a hairball, tumor or even compacted waste that has been unable to transit the gut. Constipation in long-haired cats is particularly common and is often due to hairball issues.
If your cat has had a fall, been hit by a vehicle, or suffered nerve damage by other means this could result in constipation. Anything that might affect the transit time down the GI tract can result in constipation as things grind to a halt.
If your cat finds using the litter box painful in some way or suffers pain trying to use the litter box it may delay using the litter box and become constipated as a result of delaying defecation. Sore joints caused by arthritis or issues such as polyps, fistula or anal tears might all contribute to a situation where your cat finds it too hard or painful to defecate leading to constipation.
Dirty Litter Box
A dirty litter box is enough to prevent some cats from defecating. Generally, in this situation, they won’t defecate elsewhere and will hold on until the box is clean enough to use. This period of holding on can lead to constipation.
A related but slightly different situation is where you change the brand or type of litter and confuse the cat or the cat finds the new litter off-putting in some way. They might refuse to use the litter due to uncomfortable sensations on their paws, different odor or unfamiliar textures. The result is that they hold on too long and cause constipation.
Stress In The Home
The stress might come as a result of being in a multi-cat or animal household and not having secure access to the litter tray, from household invasion from other cats in the neighborhood, from incorrect positioning of the litter tray in the home or any number of potential off-putting issues.
To avoid such stresses have more than one litter tray in the home, put them in quiet ambush free areas, never place them close to food or water sources and make sure there is good access at all times. Any situation that might slow down or prevent your cat from using a litter tray or defecating can give rise to constipation.
Cats with a condition called megacolon often run into issues with constipation. In the majority of cases, the cause of megacolon is unknown. Megacolon is a condition where the colon becomes extended and loses motility meaning nothing gets passed through. It is treated by careful diet management, medicines and in some cases surgery. If your cat is constipated on a regular basis your vet will investigate and look to rule out megacolon as a cause.
How Can I Treat Constipation?
If your cat is seriously constipated or has not defecated for 48 hours it is best to visit a vet and make sure there are no underlying issues or causes – your cat may need rehydrating by iv solution or monitoring over a longer duration.
If your cat is in good health and you are concerned about the possibility of constipation or suspect they may have a very mild case of constipation you can treat constipation in your cat at home. Here are some tactics you can employ :
Increase Water Consumption
If your cat is passing hard, dry stools or seems to be less regular the first thing you should do is try to get more water into them. This is easier than it sounds, but the most straightforward method is to get them on a wet diet as soon as possible as this will deliver a significant amount of moisture into their diet.
Other tactics to get them to drink more water include moving the water away from food – drinking water near food is instinctively wrong as they fear water contamination from food. You can also try increasing the number of water points around the home and getting a cat water fountain to give them running water to drink.
Increase Play/Exercise To Get Things Moving
Physical movement can stimulate your cat’s digestive system to become more motile. Get them playing and exercising to try and loosen things up! An added bonus of this exercise is that it should help keep weight off your cat – obesity is a risk factor for constipation.
If your cat is an indoor cat try to make time every day for a period of exercise. The exercise should really get them moving and leave them panting looking to rest on occasion. Less exertive exercise is useful for keeping them mentally stimulated but you want them running and jumping to get things moving and keep the weight off. Laser pointers for cats are really useful for getting your cat running!
A small dose of unsweetened canned pumpkin can be a good source of fiber that can get your cat moving. You only need about a tablespoon mixed in a day’s supply of cat food to help keep your cat moving. Of that tablespoon 90% is water and 2.8% is fiber so you get a useful laxative effect!
Laxatone is an over the counter laxative that you can get for cats or dogs. It is primarily marketed as an aid for lubricating the digestive tract with a view to excreting hairballs and the like. The gel comes in a tuna or malt flavor so is easy to administer to your cat and can help as a preventative to constipation or if your cat is prone to hairballs
Metamucil is a fiber source you can add to food. Metamucil is created from psyllium – a well-known source of fiber – and is added to cat food in portions of 1-4 teaspoons per meal. It is available in various forms but for a cat, you need an unsweetened and unflavored form.
Miralax is a laxative and stool softener that is available over the counter. Needless to say, this can help your cat defecate if they appear to have problems or are producing hard, dry stools. The recommended dosage is a quarter of a teaspoon per day.
You can help your cat avoid constipation in the longer term by picking a cat food that with help avoid constipation. Ideally, you want to look for moisture-rich cat food (wet) with fiber and highly digestible ingredients.
Highly digestible ingredients reduce overall stool output as most are digested, improve GI motility and reduce potential inflammation in the digestive system. Ingredients that are high quality tend to be more digestible, think animal proteins and fats, carbs should be minimal although some fiber which is a carb is necessary to replicate fur and bones in a natural diet.
Check out some of these highly digestible cat foods for reducing constipation:
Best Cat Food For Constipation
Hills Science Diet Canned Wet Hairball Control Cat Food
This Hill’s Science Diet Hairball Control cat food is a good choice for cats with constipation. Owners do not need a prescription to buy this food. The food is a wet food that will help to maintain good hydration in your cat.
It comes with natural fiber to keep your cat’s GI tract moving. It is purposefully made with high-quality animal proteins that are easily digestible for your cat. Two flavor options available for picky cats: chicken or ocean fish. Consistency is pate rather than chunks in gravy or gel.
Owners think this food is a little pricey but effective at controlling hairballs – keeping things moving. Lots notice it reduces vomiting in cats – probably due to the quality ingredients used as well as unblocking cat’s digestive system. The age-old problem is whether your cat will take to the flavor or not.
- Good for hydration
- Easily digestible ingredients to reduce stool volume
- Natural fiber to keep GI tract moving
- Two flavors for picky cats
- Not all cats get on with the flavor options
Weruva Cats In The Kitchen Funk In The Trunk Chicken In Pumpkin Consomme
Weruva cats in kitchen funk in the trunk cat food is a wet cat food that includes guar gum for fiber and pumpkin for laxative effects. It is grain-free and comes with no GMO or MSG. Made from highly digestible chicken in a consomme format with shredded chicken so neither chunky nor gravy.
Owners comment mainly on the digestive health of their cats improving after eating this but whether this is due to the grain-free element or pumpkin laxative effects is unclear. The cats become more regular and less smelly. Picky eaters seem to get on well with this food
- Good for hydration
- Contains pumpkin – known laxative effects
- Guar Gum – Source of soluble fiber
- Picky cats like this food
- Some cats don’t like the texture – inconsistent – small tins are like pate, large tins settle with shreds at bottom
Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Grain Free Canned Cat Food
Nulo freestyle is another wet cat food that is good for hydration that contains pumpkin which should help keep your cat regularly.
It also features guar gum, a soluble fiber, that should draw moisture into your cat digestive system and help keep things moving and healthy.
The food is grain-free to avoid digestive issues and intolerances, only uses prime meat and fish cuts – no animal byproduct and is all about being easily digestible. It is balanced with all the vitamins and minerals your cat requires as you would expect.
Owners like the list of ingredients but this food might not go down well if you have a picky eater. A number of cats just don’t go for it after the initial inspection. Some owners also comment that the food is not as wet as liked and sometimes needs a touch of water adding to it.
- Wet food for hydration
- Contains pumpkin for staying regular
- Guar gum for fiber
- Real meat cuts no byproduct
- Grain free to avoid sensitivities
- Not well liked by fussy eaters
- Sometimes needs water added as can be a little dry
Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Canned Cat Food
Merrick Limited Ingredient wet cat food is rich in fiber and moisture to keep your cats digestive system running in good order.
The fiber runs to 1.4% in this food (to put that into context 78% of the food is moisture) and comes in the form of guar gum (soluble fiber) and organic alfalfa.
Guar gum is good for easing constipation by drawing moisture into the digestive tract and alfalfa is a source of insoluble fiber to help with gut motility and bulking up.
You might be wondering what the limited element of the diet is? That refers to the ingredients that are eliminated from this food to reduce sensitivities (vomiting and diarrhea). This wet cat food does not include corn, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, grains or glutens in its formulations so if your cat has sensitivities this food should help.
One word of warning – alfalfa does contribute to sensitivities in some cats so if you decide to use this food keep your eyes peeled for any unusual toilet issues or vomiting.
It comes in four different flavor options: chicken, duck, salmon, and turkey and has a pate consistency. Good for cats with dental issues and picky on flavors.
Any problems? The duck flavor is reported to be very rich and can cause problems if your cat is not used to such a rich diet. Also some reports of quality inconsistency.
- 4 flavor options
- Limited ingredients for cats with sensitivities
- Guar gum and alfalfa for fiber
- No grains included
- High moisture content
- Made in USA by Purina
- Inconsistent quality
- Duck flavor is very rich
- Alfalfa may cause sensitivities in some cats
Purina One Indoor Advantage Wet Cat Food
This wet cat food is formulated especially for indoor cats – it contains a natural fiber blend that is used to promote a healthy digestive system
The food has no artificial flavors or fillers so it should be easily digestible. It contains ocean fish, chicken, liver, pork and brown rice.
Many owners report that their cats really enjoy this canned cat food and that it really does help combat hairballs and keep things moving – this is mainly due to the natural fiber used in the formula that helps keep your cat’s digestive system moving and pushing hair through.
The added bonus is that being a wet cat food the moisture content is high and we know good water intake is essential to keep digestion moving.
- Good value wet food
- Reduces hairballs
- Good for hydration which helps with constipation
- Uses natural fiber
- No artificial flavor, fillers, or preservatives
- Made in USA
- Cats enjoy the flavor
- One flavor – seafood
Our top pick is the hill’s science diet purely because so many cats seem to get on with it and it is proven at getting things moving.
As with all cat food, your cat might not like some of the flavors and textures you offer. For this reason, we have included other potential options that you can try with your cat. We would get a small can of each and see which goes down best – they all have water and fiber included so should help your cat with constipation.
Don’t forget if your cat has a serious problem, like being unable to defecate for 48 hours, they need a vet to check them out!