Why Does My Cat Have Diarrhea?

Cat at table

Diarrhea in cats is fairly common. While it’s generally not a cause for panic, it can sometimes signal more significant health issues. Understanding why your furball may be suffering from this uncomfortable condition is an important part of ensuring their overall well-being. Let’s dive into the world of cat digestion, explore common causes of diarrhea in our furry friends, and discuss when it’s time to get your vet involved.

Normal Cat Digestion Briefly Explained

Let’s start by understanding what normal cat digestion looks like.

The digestive process in cats, similar to the one in humans, initiates at the mouth, where food is ingested. This food then travels down the esophagus, arriving in the stomach where digestive enzymes begin the breakdown process. This conversion of food into nutrients enables the body to absorb what it needs for sustenance.

The journey continues through the small and large intestines, with the remaining unabsorbed food finally exiting through the rear end in the form of feces. Generally, healthy cat feces appear well-formed, log-shaped, and of a brown hue.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

Now, as to why your cat may have diarrhea, there’s no single answer. However, there are several common causes.

  1. Dietary Indiscretion: Cats are naturally curious creatures and sometimes, they eat things they shouldn’t. Consuming anything from spoiled food to non-edible items (like string or plants) can upset their stomachs and lead to diarrhea.
  2. Changes in Diet: If you’ve recently switched your cat’s food, that could be the culprit. Cats’ stomachs are sensitive to sudden dietary changes. It may take a few days for their digestive systems to adjust to new foods.
  3. Food Intolerances and Allergies: Just like humans, cats can have food allergies or intolerances. This isn’t always easy to spot, but common culprits include certain types of proteins, dairy products, or specific brands of cat food.
  4. Parasites: Parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and giardia can also cause diarrhea in cats. These pests make their home in your cat’s intestinal tract and can create a whole host of issues, diarrhea being one of the primary symptoms.
  5. Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases, like panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or salmonella, can all lead to diarrhea in cats.
  6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a condition where a cat’s digestive system becomes chronically inflamed, often resulting in diarrhea. This condition is usually diagnosed by a vet after other causes have been ruled out.
  7. Certain Medications and Antibiotics: Medications, particularly antibiotics, can disrupt the normal balance of good bacteria in a cat’s gut, causing diarrhea.
  8. Stress: You might be surprised, but yes, cats can get stress diarrhea too! Changes in their environment or routine can lead to stress, causing an upset tummy and diarrhea.
  9. Other Health Conditions: Other health conditions, including hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or liver disease, can also manifest as diarrhea.

Diagnosis of Diarrhea in Cats

Normal cat poop is typically log-shaped and brown, and it maintains its form. On the other hand, diarrhea is generally loose, watery, or even entirely liquid. If your cat has had diarrhea for more than two days, or if they’re displaying other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, or lethargy, then you should reach out to your veterinarian.

Your vet is the best person to diagnose why your cat has diarrhea. They will likely perform some tests, including a fecal exam to check for parasites, blood tests to rule out certain diseases, and possibly even X-rays or ultrasounds. This will help them identify the root cause of your cat’s tummy troubles.

What Should I Do If My Cat Has Diarrhea?

If you’re wondering what to feed a cat with diarrhea, a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice can sometimes help settle your cat’s stomach. However, if your cat’s diarrhea is mild and they’re otherwise healthy, there are a few steps you can take at home:

  1. Observe the symptoms: Check if your cat is behaving normally despite the diarrhea. Make sure they’re eating, drinking, and acting normally. Pay attention to how often they’re going to the bathroom and what the stool looks like.
  2. Check for other symptoms: Look for other signs of illness such as vomiting, lethargy, changes in appetite, or unusual behavior.
  3. Hydrate: Ensure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so it’s important to make sure that your cat is drinking enough water.
  4. Review their diet: If you recently changed your cat’s diet, introduced new treats, or if your cat might have gotten into something it shouldn’t have, it could explain the diarrhea. In this case, you might want to revert any dietary changes and see if the diarrhea resolves.
  5. Contact a vet: If the diarrhea continues for more than a day or two, or if your cat is showing other signs of illness, consult a veterinarian. If you notice blood in your cat’s stool, seek veterinary care immediately.

While occasional mild diarrhea might not be a serious health concern, persistent, severe, or bloody diarrhea can be a sign of a serious underlying health issue and requires veterinary attention.

Joey eating

Dear Diary, You won’t believe the day I’ve had. The humans switched my food today. Apparently, they think “gourmet salmon” sounds fancy. It smelled like the bottom of a fish market on a hot day! I gave it a shot (I mean, come on, it’s food) but ended up doing the ‘litter box sprint’ all afternoon. Life lesson: trust the chicken, not the fish. #BadKittyTummy #GourmetNotGourmet #TrustTheChicken #MyButtHurts


Prevention of Diarrhea in Cats

Regular vet check-ups can help prevent many causes of diarrhea by catching potential issues early. Following recommended dietary habits and ensuring your cat doesn’t eat anything unsuitable can also prevent dietary indiscretion. Regularly de-worming your cat and keeping them indoors can prevent many parasites.

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Reducing your cat’s stress can also help. Try to keep their environment stable and predictable, providing plenty of playtime and relaxation opportunities.

What Foods Give Cats Diarrhea?

Cats can have sensitive stomachs and certain foods can lead to diarrhea. Here are a few that are known to potentially cause issues:

  1. Dairy Products: Many cats are lactose intolerant. As such, they lack the enzymes necessary to digest milk and other dairy products. This can lead to diarrhea.
  2. Raw Foods: Both raw meat and eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli which can cause diarrhea in cats.
  3. Certain Proteins: Some cats might be allergic or intolerant to certain types of proteins. This can vary from one cat to another.
  4. Fatty or Greasy Foods: Foods high in fat can trigger diarrhea in cats. This includes foods that are typically considered human foods, like fried foods or certain types of meat.
  5. Certain Plants and Flowers: Some cats like to nibble on plants, but certain types can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea.
  6. Sudden Changes in Diet: Switching your cat’s food abruptly can lead to digestive issues. If you plan to change your cat’s diet, do so gradually, mixing in some of the new food with the old over a period of a week or so.
  7. Artificial Additives: Some cats might react negatively to artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in some commercially available cat foods.
  8. Spoiled or Contaminated Food: Food that’s gone bad or has been contaminated can cause digestive issues, including diarrhea.

Remember, every cat is unique, so what causes diarrhea in one cat might not cause it in another. Check with your vet before making significant changes to your cat’s diet.

Will Cat Diarrhea Go Away on Its Own?

Sometimes, mild diarrhea in cats can resolve on its own, particularly if it’s related to a minor dietary indiscretion or a sudden change in diet. However, it’s important to monitor your cat closely. Diarrhea can be a symptom of an infection, parasites, or a chronic disease. Additionally, prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous, especially in kittens or older cats.

Mild diarrhea may resolve on its own. However, if your cat is experiencing severe or persistent diarrhea, you should see a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. As always, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat’s Diarrhea?

You should be concerned about your cat’s diarrhea if:

  1. The diarrhea is persistent or severe: Diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two can lead to dehydration, especially if your cat is very young, very old, or has an underlying health condition.
  2. Your cat is displaying other signs of illness: Symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, or changes in behavior can indicate that something more serious is going on.
  3. There is blood in the diarrhea: This could be a sign of a serious health problem, like a gastrointestinal ulcer or a parasitic infection, and should be addressed by a veterinarian immediately.
  4. Your cat is straining to defecate or appears to be in pain: This could indicate a blockage or other serious issue that requires immediate veterinary attention.
  5. Your cat is very young or very old: Kittens and older cats are more vulnerable to dehydration and other complications of diarrhea.
  6. There are changes in the frequency or volume of diarrhea: If your cat is having more frequent or larger amounts of diarrhea, this could be a sign of a more serious health problem.

If your cat has any of these signs or symptoms, you should consult a veterinarian. Persistent or severe diarrhea requires professional evaluation and treatment to ensure your cat’s well-being.


Understanding the potential causes of diarrhea in your cat is a significant step toward helping them lead a healthy life. However, it’s crucial to remember that if your cat has persistent or severe diarrhea, you should reach out to a professional vet for advice and treatment. After all, you want to keep your feline friend purring contentedly for as long as possible.

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

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