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Digestive Health in Cats

Digestive Health in Cats

April 30, 2018

If you have owned a cat for a while, you've probably learned the hard way that cats often suffer from digestive issues. It's not at all uncommon for kittens and adult cats to experience bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive problems. But what causes these issues? And how can you tell when your cat has a serious digestive illness? This guide gives you the answers to those and other questions about your cat's digestive health.

Symptoms of Digestive Issues for Cats

It is fairly easy to determine when your cat is experiencing gastrointestinal problems, mostly because the symptoms are similar to those of human digestive issues. The most common digestive problems for cats include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Decreased thirst
  • Dull coat
  • Lack of grooming
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain

While the occasional symptom is usually nothing to worry about, recurring or chronic problems probably need a closer look. They may be a sign of a digestive health concern.

Common Digestive Problems in Cats

These are the most common digestive problems that cats experienced, along with the signs and symptoms that you should look for:


Gastroenteritis is caused by an inflamed digestive tract. Your cat may experience bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or any combination of the three. This issue can be caused by any number of things, with food poisoning and bacteria topping the list as possible culprits. Gastroenteritis normally clears up on its own, but you should take your cat to the vet if it has difficulty eating or drinking or seems overly tired.


Constipation is usually caused by a lack of sufficient water intake, but it may also be caused by an imbalanced diet. Switching to food made from all-natural, premium ingredients may help. Rarely, they are caused by an intestinal blockage from food, hairballs, or a foreign object. However, cats may also have an underlying disorder that causes the constipation. If your cat experiences recurring constipation, she needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian.

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

IBS is a common issue for pets. It can be caused by any number of things, including stress, autoimmune disease, or food intolerance. Symptoms are similar to those of gastroenteritis, though they are generally milder. Your cat will likely experience regular bouts of symptoms if she suffers from IBS. A vet can help you determine the cause and rule out other issues.

Small Intestinal Malabsorption

Small intestinal malabsorption is caused by an inflamed digestive tract. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, lethargy and weight loss. If your cat has these signs, she should see a vet immediately to determine the cause and find possible treatment.


At some point in life, most cats will experience hairballs. The signs and symptoms of a hairball are pretty easy to spot. They will usually include gagging and/or vomiting. Because hairballs are caused by grooming, they are generally not concerning unless your pet has a hairball blockage. In this case, you will notice excessive gagging or hacking from your cat, though the hairball will not come up. Eventually, your cat may seem disinterested in food and even lose weight. In those situations, you may need to see a vet for treatment. Hairballs can be prevented with regular brushing of your cat with a good quality deshedding brush for cats such as Furbliss.

Treatment Options for Feline Digestive Issues

While the signs and symptoms of digestive issues can be scary for pet owners, you should know that most of these concerns can be addressed quickly and easily with a few adjustments. Your vet may recommend changing your pet's diet or adding a probiotic like Profivex.

Oftentimes, simple treatments are effective at easing or even eliminating your cat's symptoms. If your vet is concerned that your cat has a more serious illness, he or she may recommend blood tests, imaging tests or even surgery to find the root of the problem. For most cats that experience occasional episodes of constipation or diarrhea, however, a simple probiotic is often the best route to take.

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