Family Veterinary
Mobile Clinic

Call or Text 1-800-993-7941

Serving the Sanford and 

Southern Pines areas of North Carolina

Category: Products for Diarrhea in Cats

This information is only for healthy adult cats with diarrhea of less than a week duration.

If your pet has any of these:

  • Known or potential toxin ingestion including overdoses of their own medications
  • Drank from a freshwater body of water such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, etc. in the Summer to Early Fall (possible blue-green algae toxicity)
  • Known or potential ingestion of an object that may cause GI obstruction such as bones, toys, rawhides, cloth, string, hair bands, a lot of paper, or a lot of food (especially bread)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy or listlessness, lying around a lot
  • Straining to defecate
  • Pain
  • Dehydration
  • Is less than 6 months old
  • Is not currently vaccinated against parvovirus
  • Pregnant or nursing
  • Is elderly
  • Has any other major health condition such as diabetes, IBD, Addison’s disease, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, etc.
  • Has a lot of blood in their stool
  • Looks pale or weak
  • Is panting, breathing heavily, or breathing very rapidly for no obvious reason
  • Has any abnormal behavior such as stumbling, collapse, confusion, or personality change

Then you need to take them to a veterinary hospital immediately. The following information doesn’t apply to your pet!

Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

The causes of acute diarrhea in cats are quite numerous and include parasites, bacterial infection, fungal infection, protozoa infection, dietary indiscretion, toxins, stress, and certain medications, especially antibiotics. We don’t look too hard for the cause of acute diarrhea in an otherwise healthy pet because it is often self-limiting (resolves on its own) or resolves with symptomatic treatment. If your pet has been taking certain medications that are known to cause GI upset, the first thing you’ll do is stop that medication. There are almost always alternatives.  Ask your veterinarian.  NEVER continue to give your cat NSAIDs when they are having any kind of GI problem.

Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Healthy Cats

There are many things you can do at home to treat a healthy adult cat who is having diarrhea. Deworming, probiotics, treating anxiety, increasing fiber, resting the GI tract, and a bland diet all may help.

Deworm Them

A very common cause of diarrhea in cats is intestinal parasites.  Not all parasites are visible to the naked eye, so just because you don’t see worms in the stool doesn’t mean that your pet doesn’t have worms.  Even indoor cats can get GI parasites from houseplant soil, for example.

While preventatives control infection they aren’t always 100% effective. These parasites shed eggs into the feces intermittently and sometimes cause symptoms before they produce eggs (pre-patent infection). Therefore, we always recommend deworming cats with acute diarrhea.  Our recommended dewormer is fenbendazole.   Deworming is safe and inexpensive, and we’d all feel pretty stupid if the cause of diarrhea is worms that we didn’t treat. In addition, these parasites can infect humans and other animals, so it’s important to treat for that possibility regardless of results.

Probiotics

Dietary indiscretion (eating things they shouldn’t like other animal feces, garbage, etc.), food intolerance (something that causes GI inflammation), certain medications (antibiotics especially), and stress can all result in dysbiosis or the imbalance of normal GI flora. All of these problems can be corrected with probiotics. There are a few that we recommend because they have a LOT of multiple strains of good bacteria. Most over-the-counter products don’t have enough bacteria to make any difference.

Anti-Anxiety Medications or Supplements

If your cat is experiencing stress that may contribute to diarrhea, you can help by providing anti-anxiety supplements for stressful events.

Increase Soluble Fiber

Increasing the amount of soluble fiber in the diet can help diarrhea to resolve quickly.  There are multiple ways to add soluble fiber to your cat’s diet:

  • Psyllium powder
  • Canned pumpkin
  • plain cooked rolled oats
  • plain cooked steel-cut oats

Rest Their GI Tract

Often, resting the GI tract is enough to resolve diarrhea. In healthy adult cats, you can fast them for 24 hours. That means no food or treats for 24 hours. NEVER WITHHOLD WATER FOR ANY REASON UNLESS SPECIFICALLY INSTRUCTED BY YOUR VETERINARIAN.

After 24 hours, your cat should be hungry. If they aren’t, you need to take them to a veterinary hospital because something more serious may be going on.

Bland Diet

Otherwise, start feeding a bland diet. Bland diets are either prescription foods designed to be easily digestible, or home-cooked food.

Start by feeding just a few tablespoons of the bland diet. If after 4 hours there is no diarrhea, feed a few more tablespoons. Continue very small frequent meals for the rest of day 1.

On day 2, feed 1/4 of regular food mixed in with the bland diet divided over 4-6 meals.

Day 3, feed half bland diet and half regular food over 3-4 meals.

On Day 4, feed 3/4 regular diet and 1/4 bland diet over 2-3 meals.

On Day 5, as long as your cat is not having diarrhea, they can resume their normal eating schedule and food.

If at any point the diarrhea returns without significant improvement, go to a local veterinarian right away. There may be something more serious going on.

One thing NOT to do is to switch your pet’s regular food unless their regular food has something wrong with it such as it smells “off” or rancid, the formula changed, or it is no longer available. If that situation exists, the new food should be as close as possible to the old food. In other words, if your pet has been eating a chicken and rice-based diet and doing well for a long time, this is not the time to switch to venison and potatoes. Get a different chicken and rice food. You don’t need to get the same BRAND of food, you need to get the same INGREDIENTS. Changing the protein and/or carbohydrate source in the food can cause inflammation and that causes diarrhea.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If at any point during the treatment, your pet starts showing any new symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, pain, dehydration, blood in the stool, etc., it’s important to take them to a veterinary hospital for diagnostics and treatment. This usually includes X-rays and blood work to start. For treatment, your cat may need IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, appetite stimulants, and other things. It depends on what is found.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

*DO NOT give your pet any human anti-diarrheal medications. Diarrhea helps rid the GI tract of harmful bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other substances that we will probably never know about. Slowing down the GI tract with anti-diarrheal medications increases the contact time between these infectious diseases and toxins and causes more problems. It’s best to let them poop out the problem, then rest the GI tract as described above.

*DO NOT try to treat diarrhea at home for more than 4 days without improvement. Take them to a veterinary hospital.

*DO NOT continue to give your pet NSAIDs when they are having diarrhea.  Serious GI ulcers can result.

*DO NOT wait to see what happens if you think your pet may have ingested a toxin or a potentially obstructive object. Take them to a veterinary hospital.

*DO NOT delay treatment if your pet’s condition worsens at any point in any way. It could be a sign that there is something very serious going on. Take them to a veterinary hospital.

If you have any questions about your cat’s treatment or condition, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get diagnostics and treatments from a local veterinary practice.