It goes without saying that inspecting cat poop is not on the top of anyone’s list. First of all it is smelly, it is pretty gross, and it is overall unpleasant. But, it is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your cat is healthy. Cat poop is one of the best indicators of your cat’s health, and any changes in your cat’s poop can be one of the first warning signs that something is wrong. Here, we have gathered all of the information you need to know about what normal poop looks like, and when to take your cat to the vet.
Normal vs. abnormal poop
For most cats, normal poop should be somewhat soft, like silly putty or modeling clay. It is generally shaped like a Tootsie Roll and is about the same size. A healthy stool is dark brown, but not black – black poop can indicate internal bleeding – and not too light, which can indicate liver disease.
If your cat’s poop is small and round, and is hard, this is considered abnormal and unhealthy. This is because this shape, size and hardness is an indication of constipation, which is a very serious issue for cats. Constipation could signal neurological or metabolic conditions, or even a colon obstruction. Or, it could mean that your cat is dehydrated, which could lead to even further health issues.
Soft, shapeless poop is also cause for concern. Cat diarrhea can be caused by many things, including bacterial infections, intestinal parasites and food intolerance. If you are unsure whether what you are scooping is urine or stool, use a pair of disposable gloves to test the texture.
When your cat’s poop appears to be abnormal, do not panic. Not all cases are cause for concern, but it is a sign that you need to pay close attention to your cat’s behavior. Sometimes, cats have diarrhea for a few days after they have started eating new food, or after a long and stressful car ride. If the abnormal poop persists for longer, or is accompanied by a lack of eating, lethargy or vomiting, you should take your cat to the vet immediately.
Differences in color
Normal cat poop should be brown, but in some instances you may notice that you cat’s poop is a different color entirely. There are a number of reasons your cat’s poop might be a different color.
There is likely blood in the poop if it is black or dark brown. In most cases, it means there is internal bleeding someone along the digestive track. The bleeding could be caused by gastrointestinal ulcer, lesions or parasites. If you see fresh blood in the poop, that could be a sign of an injury on the outside of your cat’s body. Blood in cat stool - dark cat poop: very dark brown or even black cat poop.
White cat poop
White cat poop is generally rare in cats, but it could signal a high consumption of bones in their food. If this is the case, their poop will be both white and hard.
Green and yellow cat poop
Green and yellow poop generally signal that food has moved through the intestine faster than normal due to an issue in the digestive system.
Causes of cat diarrhea
Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:
- Changes to their diet or food allergies or intolerances
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Pancreatic disease
If your cat’s diarrhea lasts more than a couple of days, you should take them to your vet in order to figure out what is going on. It is very important that you call your vet immediately if the diarrhea is black or bloody, of if your cat also has a fever, is vomiting or is not eating.
When you take your cat to the vet, their course of treatment will depend on a number of things. Some cats will need prescription medications to take care of the diarrhea. These include metronidazole or prednisolone, which are medications that can help control inflammation. Your vet may also recommend a specialized diet, because diarrhea can also be caused by a food allergy or intolerance or even inflammatory bowel disease.
What to do if your cat is constipated
If you notice that your cat is straining a lot when he tries to poop, or does not produce anything in the litter box, he is constipated. If this only happens a couple of times, or every once in a while, it not something to worry about. But if you find that this happens more often than not, you should contact your vet.
Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:
- Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
- Kidney problems
- Enlarged colon
- Blocked colon
- Lack of fiber
- Spinal pain
To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give him more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to his regular food. Or she might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest. Hairball medications might also help.
It also helps to make sure he gets more exercise and drinks more water so that waste will move through his system more readily.
The following over-the-counter products may relieve your cat’s constipation, but make sure to consult your veterinarian before giving any medications to your cat.
- Laxatone is an edible petroleum gel that helps lubricate your cat’s digestive tract. It comes in different flavors and your cat may lick it off your fingers.
- Metamucil is a source of fiber. Mix one to four teaspoons with your cat’s food every 12 to 24 hours.
- Miralax is another laxative and stool softener. Mix 1/4 tsp once a day with wet cat food.
- Wheat bran is another natural source of fiber. Mix one to two tablespoons with your cat’s food every 12 to 24 hours.
- Canned pumpkin is a source of fiber but it does not actually provide as much fiber content as Metamucil or Miralax. You can add 1-2 tablespoons to each meal.
- Increase water consumption by making additional water sources available away from your cat’s food, switching to a canned diet, or even mixing a little extra water in with the food.
- Maintain healthy weight by changing your cat’s diet in consultation with a vet.
- Increase exercise with cat toys and more play time.
What should your cat’s poop smell like?
We do not need to tell you that your cat’s poop is going to smell gross. Obviously, some odor is normal. However, if it starts to smell very bad, that is not a good sign. There is not a standard smell for cat poop because each cat is different and how they eliminate depends on their diet, exercise, how old they are, and a number of other lifestyle factors. After a while, you should get a sense for how your cat’s poop smells normally. It might not be pleasant, but it will be familiar.
The most important thing to do is to keep an eye out for any changes in your cat’s poop and how it smells. Or, should we say to keep a nose out for any changes. If it is smellier than normal, pay attention to it and track it. It could be the sign of an intestinal issue and you will want to discuss it with your vet.
Another area of concern when it comes to your cat’s poop are worms. There are two main types of worms that cats are susceptible to: round worms and tape worms. Most owners will not notice any symptoms of worms even if their cat is infected, but after an extended period of time they may notice significant weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.
Roundworms are the most commons intestinal parasite in cats. Eggs from round worms are passed from cat to cat through poop, and can last in the environment for several years. Cats can ingest these eggs from an area of the environment that has been contaminated, and also if they eat another animal that has already been infected.
Tapeworms can be seen in your cat’s poop and are usually the first sign that there is something wrong. Most times, cats get tapeworms when they swallow infected fleas during their regular grooming process. Other times, cats can get tapeworms when they eat small rodents that previously ate from contaminated areas of the environment.
Treatment for roundworms should start at a young age. Kittens should be treated every two weeks until they are eight weeks old, and then monthly until they are six months old. Adult cats should be treated every one to three months.
Because tapeworms are generally more common in older cats, they should be treated every one to three months with a product that is effect against both tapeworms and roundworms.
Additionally, hookworms may be of concern to you and your cat, depending on where you live. Hookworms are a type of roundworm that are found in most countries around the world but are more common in some countries than others. They can cause damage to the lining of the intestine, where they can attach to the surface and can cause weight loss and bleeding.
According to the Centers for Disease control, cat owners should be very aware of a disease that can be spread by cats through contact with poop. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite. More than 30 million people in the United States carry the parasite, which can cause severe illness in infants who are infected before birth or in people who have weak immune systems.
Cats can get the disease by eating infected rodents, birds or other small animals, or anything that is contaminated with poop from another cat that is shedding the microscopic parasite in its poop After a cat has been infected, it can shed the parasite for up to two weeks. The parasite can live in the environment for many months and contaminate soil, water, fruits and vegetables, sandboxes, grass where animals graze for food, litter boxes, or any place where an infected cat may have defecated.
People become infected with toxoplasmosis by eating food, drinking water, or accidentally swallowing soil that has been contaminated with infected cat feces. They can also get it by eating raw or undercooked meat from animals that have been infected with Toxoplasma.
Doctors E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken spoke with CNN about Toxoplasma:
“It is important to note that cats that are always kept indoors are usually not a problem. Almost all cats that become infected, and thus deposit infective oocysts, are outdoor cats. Keep in mind cats are no respecters of property lines so a neighbor's cat could deposit Toxoplasma gondii in your garden or children's play areas.
“To stay safe, follow these suggestions:
- Cat litter should be properly disposed of in the garbage, not flushed down the toilet where it can enter rivers and lakes.
- Children's sandboxes and play areas should be covered when not in use. Cats selectively relieve themselves in areas with loose soil or sand. In the studies we reviewed, we found very high concentrations of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts in these areas. If a sandbox has not been covered, the sand should be replaced and then kept covered.
- Gardeners should wear gloves since gardens are another favorite place for cats to relieve themselves. One study reported that gardeners may have as many as 100 oocysts in dirt under their fingernails.
- Vegetables from gardens should be thoroughly washed.”
While it might not be the most glamorous thing to do, keeping a close eye on your cat’s pooping routines is one of the best ways to stay on top of their health. From irregular shapes and sizes to unusual consistencies, constant monitoring is the best way to stay on top of things. As always, it is best to set up regular appointments with your vet to make sure you are doing everything you can to ensure your cat is as healthy as possible.