Treating an upset stomach: diarrhea in cats

Treating diarrhea in cats
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Most cats will suffer a bout of diarrhea at some time and for a variety of possible reasons so when does it become a problem that needs veterinary advice?

It can be upsetting for any cat owner when they see their cat feeling unwell due to a digestive upset.

However, there are some simple steps that can be taken to help them get back to their normal selves if the diarrhea is mild.

Diarrhea is defined as an increase in frequency, volume or liquid content which leads to unformed feces being produced. The consistency of diarrhea can vary from the feces being soft but slightly formed, to liquid. The color of the feces when the cat has diarrhea can vary from being very dark to being lighter than normal. It is a good idea, if your cat uses a litter tray, to monitor your cat’s feces to see what is normal for them, so you can notice if there are any changes.

In some cases when your cat has diarrhea, you may notice other signs – such as fresh blood or mucus – your cat may also be producing a greater volume of feces at an increased rate and you may also see them straining to pass feces too.

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How can I help my cat feel better if they have got diarrhea?

The good news is that most cats will recover from mild diarrhea in a relatively short period of time. 

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As an SQP we can help in the following ways:

  • Recommendations for a bland diet should be given; ideally food that is easy to digest, like boiled chicken or white fish.
  • Smaller meals throughout the day can help. These meals are more digestible so it gives greater time for the stomach to heal.
  • Plenty of water should be provided. Cats who are suffering with digestive issues may drink more to replace the water that has been lost through the diarrhea.
  • A probiotic can be used – these are known as ‘good bacteria’. The probiotic performs a specific role in limiting the digestive upset and can quickly help to restore the normal intestinal function.

Once your cat is starting to show the signs of more normal feces, then gradually introduce their normal feed over the course of a few days.

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Does my cat need to see a vet about the diarrhea?

If the cat is showing mild diarrhea then it should normally settle in a couple of days but if the diarrhea is persistent, the symptoms are getting worse or the cat is generally unwell, then speaking to your vet is advisable.

It is important to contact your vet if:

  • Your cat is being sick, as well as having diarrhea;
  • You see blood in their feces;
  • Your cat has gone off their food or seems lethargic;
  • If your cat is young, elderly or is being treated for another health problem;
  • If the diarrhea persists or if digestive upset becomes a regular occurrence.
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Why does my cat keep getting diarrhea?

Cats may just have diarrhea occasionally but if your cat suffers from diarrhea on a regular basis then further investigation may be needed from your veterinary surgeon.

There are a number of reasons why your cat can get diarrhea, from eating something they shouldn’t to a sudden change to their diet.

A sudden change of diet can make us all feel unwell and cats are no different. A cat’s stomach can struggle to get used to a new food, especially if it is included into their diet suddenly without a gradual change period. If you are keen to change the food that your cat is currently on, then ideally do it gradually over a period of seven to ten days, whilst mixing a little of the new food with the original food and increasing accordingly. Eventually the new food will replace the original feed.

Another reason for diarrhea could be worms, which are a parasite that live in the cat’s intestinal tract – sometimes any doubt about a worming protocol then speak to your SQP or veterinary surgeon.

A common cause of an upset stomach in cats is a stomach bug, either because of a virus or bacteria. Just like us, there is a wide range of stomach bugs that can cause our cats to have diarrhea. Some stomach bugs can be more serious than others, including Salmonella or Campylobacter. If your cat is showing any other concerning signs then once again seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Should your cat have continuous diarrhea, your veterinary surgeon may want to do further investigations; these may include a pooled fecal sample which you will be asked to collect over a three-day period. Three days is ideal as there’s then more of a chance to find the cause of the diarrhea. A blood test may be performed too.

When it comes to diarrhea and your cat is not recovering, then I would recommend speaking to your veterinary surgeon – especially if the diarrhea is showing more symptoms – or if the diarrhea is getting worse. A quick treatment can prevent serious problems.


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