Talking about pooping 💩 can be an uncomfortable topic 😳, but when it’s not happening, it’s even worse!
If you’re reading this article it’s because you're wondering, is constipation normal in kittens? When should I be concerned?
The fact of the matter is, constipation in kittens is neither rare, nor is it imminently dangerous☠️. However, it's always worth keeping an eye out and making sure everything is going alright, eventually.
A constipated kitten is an uncomfortable kitten. They're all stopped up and, just like when it happens to us, might have some pains, cramping, or just uncomfortable bloating.
So, what causes constipation in kittens? At what point do you need to take action, and what kinds of actions should you take?
We’ll get to all of that and more. And by the way never, ever, ever miss our educational videos 📽️ in every blog post.
As always, if you are looking for more cat care 🐱 resources, you can either skip all the way down to the bottom to the more cat care guides, or visit the toe beans pet parents blog, which by the way is loaded with resources, and you can search by topic.
Pooping is obviously a normal part of life, but sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as expected. It can happen at any age, but today we’re going to talk about kittens that aren’t pooping.
The first thing to ask yourself is how long has it been since the last time your kitten used the litter box?
Well, that's not quite accurate. A more accurate question would be, how long has it been since the last time your kitten pooped?
If they're not quite litter trained, lack of poo in the box might not be an indication that they're constipated; instead, maybe they found an out-of-the-way corner of the closet, or under a piece of furniture. In this case you’ll probably smell it before you see it!
But what if there is no hidden poop?
If you're pretty sure your kitten hasn't found some out-of-the-way place to do their business, and there's nothing new in the litter box to clean up, it might be time to start worrying, just a little.
First of all, kittens don't necessarily go do their business every day.Depending on a bunch of different factors, they may go once a day or as often as six times a day.
On the other hand, they might skip a day, and that's more or less normal.
When should you start worrying? Usually, if your kitten hasn't gone in two days, then it's time for a vet visit.
What about extremely young kittens?
If your kitten is super young – like, a few days or weeks old – they may not have a fully-functioning body just yet.
A neonatal kitten, one that has just recently been born, is still figuring out this whole "digestion" thing.
In nature, with a mama cat around to help, this is solved through a little stimulation.
The mother instinctually licks at the rear end of her kittens to stimulate them into going. If your tiny furry bean was unfortunately orphaned, well, they might need a little help from you.
But no worries, no licking required here 😊
"It's also important to understand that neonatal kittens—those under a month of age—may not be physically able to poop without assistance. Young kittens require stimulation from their mother's tongue in order to defecate. If orphaned, they need to be gently stimulated by a caregiver before every meal." – KittenLady.org.
So, if you find yourself caring for a young kitten, you’ll need to learn how to stimulate your little one since they can’t go on their own.
If you’ve never done it before, check out this great video from the Kitten Lady to learn all about stimulating a kitten.
How to Help Baby Kittens Pee and Poop!
What Causes a Kitten to Not Poop?
We’ll begin at the root of the problem. Constipation has a lot of different causes, some of them are common and super easy to fix, while others are less common and potentially more dangerous.
Let's go over them and see what kinds of symptoms you should look for.
1. Lack of Stimulation
As mentioned above, very young kittens need stimulation until their bodies learn what muscles to contract in what order to cause defecation to happen.
If your kitten is brand new out of the box, this might be the issue. It's generally easy to solve with a little manual stimulation of their genitals.
However, this is only relevant if your kitten is a few days or a few weeks old.
Most of the time, once your kitten is around a month or six weeks old, they'll have this pooping thing down pat and won't need manual stimulation to help them out anymore.
So, if your kitty is beyond six weeks, you can rule this issue out.
Probably the most common cause of constipation in both kittens and people is dehydration.
The bowels need moisture to keep stool soft as it passes through. Without water, poo will harden and seize up, becoming extremely difficult or impossible to pass.
Dehydration will inevitably lead to constipation. Your kitten may be visiting the litter box, but nothing comes out, and they may cry about it because they're trying, straining, and it's not happening, or it's even painful.
And if anything comes out, it's small, hard clumps, like pebbles of poo.
If your kitty baby doesn't have easy and constant access to water, dehydration is likely to occur.
Even if you keep a water bowl for them, some cats end up preferring running water and have an aversion to water that has been sitting in a bowl. This is actually an instinctual behavior.
Still or stagnant water is often full of nasty organisms, so cats will seek a moving source. Dehydration is also more probable if you give your kitten dry food and not wet food since they have less moisture making its way into their systems.
“Feeding wet food and/or adding water to food is another good way to increase water intake; and, in some cases, flavoring the water with a small amount of either water from a can of tuna or low sodium chicken broth can prompt a cat to drink more.” - College of Veterinary Medicine; Cornell University.
Dehydration is only a cause for concern if it continues. Luckily, it's also pretty easy to solve, so long as you figure out how to give your kitten water in a way they'll drink. You might need to change their water bowl frequently or get a fountain for them.
Here are some tips to get your kitten to drink more water:
Food, drinks, and toilets do not go together with cats. Try keeping the water bowl away from the food bowl and litter box.
Exposed sitting water may not taste as good. Try washing the water bowl every day. Thoroughly rinse it and refill with fresh yummy water.
Many cats do not like it when their whiskers touch the edge of a bowl when drinking. Try using a wide-brimmed bowl.
Just like us, cats prefer to eat and drink out of ceramic, glass, or metal bowls – Avoid plastic bowls as they can taint the water.
Some kittens might be put off by the taste of chlorine especially if they are rescues and were used to drinking water from natural sources. Consider buying natural spring water or try collecting rainwater for your kitten to drink while slowly transition them to tap water.
As mentioned above, instinctually cats often prefer to drink from a running water source. Try a cat water fountain.
Try using different types of water bowls in different places. Watch and learn what type of bowl and location your kitten prefers to drink from.
Remember their little tongues have barbs that angle toward their throat, so once something is attached, it’s headed into their digestive tract.
Obstructions are more dangerous than dehydration, and if you suspect that your kitten swallowed something that's causing an obstruction, you should take them to the vet. You don't want to end up with bowel problems or something worse happening.
Case in point: My little kitten nephew, Loki managed to consume a foam portion of his human brother’s toy without him noticing. The first unusual symptom they noticed is that he began throwing up.
Then he stopped eating. Not eating is always a warning sign, well so too is repeated purging.
Sometimes throwing up is the result of your kitty eating too fast, other times it can be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease, so don’t jump to the conclusion that your kitty has an obstruction just because they throw up.
I digressed, back to Loki. When his symptoms didn’t improve it was time for a vet visit, which showed a foreign object in his intestines.
The vet had to surgically remove the object. Thankfully the little guy made it through with no complications and was sent home with meds, a funny haircut, and the cone of shame. The remainder of the offending toy went into the trash.
Unfortunately, these kinds of scenarios aren’t uncommon. Some cats even have pica and will eat all sorts of things they shouldn’t.
If you have a kitten in your home, just like a toddler, you need to kitten-proof your house as best as you can. Remove access to electrical cords and pick up any small objects that your kitten could possibly get in their mouth.
Doing a little prep work will help remove otherwise harmless items that could turn into dangerous obstructions.
Another somewhat common cause of intestinal blockage is parasites.
Cats are no stranger to worms – many animals end up with them at some point – and they can range from slightly annoying to dangerous.
In kittens, with bodies that are smaller and more vulnerable to parasites, something like roundworms can grow out of control.
In some cases, the sheer number of worms can cause a blockage.
How can you tell if your cat has worms? There are a bunch of signs, including constipation. They may also have:
Vomiting, particularly when they try to eat and can't keep it down.
Weight loss, because their intestines are full of worms, and they can't keep food going through.
Dull fur, because the loss of vitamins and nutrients is showing through.
A potbellied look, because the worms are all bunched up in the gut causing it to swell up.
Worms in their poo if they do manage to go. They'll look like short bits of spaghetti (hopefully you aren’t eating pasta).
Parasites are at least relatively easy to handle.
Antiparasitic medications will kill them off, allowing them to either be digested or expelled in the next bowel movement, but these meds will need to come from your vet.
Roundworms are exceptionally common, and as such, one of the recommended treatments for a new kitten is to have preventative antiparasitic medication.
These treatments are generally given every couple of weeks when your kitten is between three and nine weeks old and monthly after that.
There are also other kinds of worms, like hookworms, tapeworms, and heartworms, that can show up (and be prevented by medication), but if constipation is a main symptom, chances are that roundworms are the most likely parasite.
5. Congenital Defects
Our fifth and final cause your kitten is unable to poop is also the least likely cause.
If your kitten has had trouble with defecation from the onset, there's a chance that they have a congenital defect.
These abnormalities in anatomy can occur pretty much anywhere and can range from superficial (like polydactyly; having an extra toe) to defects in the heart or brain that are, in medical terms, "incompatible with life."
In some cases, a kitten can be born with megacolon. This condition occurs when there are nerve issues within the colon aren’t working properly.
The colon then becomes stretched-out and can no longer serve the function of moving along feces – the result, a kitty that can’t poop.
Megacolon can also be acquired and/or cause by trauma, but this is more common in adult cats.
“Acquired megacolon has many causes, the only real common one being behavioral. Some cats have psychological problems defecating in the litter box. A new type of cat litter may be the cause, or it could be competition with another cat, or the cat may just be a very nervous type. Feces becomes retained and the colon stretches, and, just like a pair of panty hoses the colon loses its’ elasticity.” - Stephen Sheldon, D.V.M.
There is also an unusual congenital defect called atresia ani, where there is no anal opening. While rare, this defect can be corrected with surgery.
What to Do if Your Kitten Isn't Pooping
As with anything related to your kitten’s health, catching any ailment early is critical. And so, the first step in determining what to do if your kitten is not pooping is noticing that s/he is not pooping.
Scooping the litter box is the most dreaded part of cat parenting, no argument here. However, especially for busy pet parents, scooping the litterbox daily is the most effective way to monitor your kitten’s bowel movements.
If your kitten is experiencing some form of constipation, the first thing to do is check their water situation. Watch them throughout the day.
Are they peeing? Are they drinking? Are they vomiting? The answers to these questions can help you figure out what the next step should be.
As discussed above, dehydration is the most common and the easiest of these issues to solve. You may need to figure out if your kitten is averse to standing water and wants flowing water.
You may also want to check if you have more than one cat, and one of the cats is bullying the other away from the food and water. Each cat should generally have their own bowls and litter boxes for exactly this reason.
If you see signs of worms or other illnesses, you'll want to talk with your vet. You'll probably need medication to give the kitten to help them fight off whatever is ailing them.
Alternatively, you might want to take some casual steps at home, such as:
Making the litter box more inviting. Some cats want more security or want you to be nearby when they go, and may seem constipated if they don't have that security.
Play more. A languid cat is more likely to have constipation since part of what moves the intestines along is physical activity.
As we mentioned earlier, if your kitten hasn’t pooped in 48 hours, give your vet a call, describe the situation, and see if they have any recommendations.
It’s never wrong to call your vet, so don’t feel like you have to wait two days when you are concerned about an issue.
Have you ever had a kitten with constipation problems? If so, what ended up being the issue, and how did you go about handling the situation? Was it something that took a lot of time and effort to resolve, or was it a simple fix? Be sure to let me know down below. Not only would I love to hear your stories, but I'm sure other readers going through similar situations would appreciate it, as well.
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).