We’re kind of blessed with cats, if you can call it that: because they tend to poop in the same place day after day, we have a good idea of what their bodily waste looks like. In other words, we know what ‘normal’ is. Among the many warning signs that something is wrong with your cat is the sight of blood in the litter pan. So if you’re cleaning up after your feline friend one morning and see what looks like blood in their stools, your first reaction will usually be one of panic. But what is this an indication of; is it serious; and what should you do next? Here, we aim to outline the possible causes and how to treat a cat with blood in its stool.
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Naturally, your first port of call should be your vet. But so they can diagnose and treat whatever condition is causing the problem, you need to be able to give him or her a good history. It’s important that you know what to look for, the symptoms your cat is displaying and anything in your cat’s routine that may have changed or may otherwise account for the problem.
How Often Should My Cat Poop?
It’s an inexact science, but generally speaking, cats defecate once a day. In a healthy cat, bowel movements are brown, solid and moist but not runny, and not too hard either. They should be able to pass solid waste without any apparent discomfort or difficulty.
There are some variations to the ‘once a day’ rule. Kittens, for example, have smaller digestive systems, and so will usually poop more often. Diet also plays a part, along with how active your cat is on a normal day. Obviously, any pre-existing conditions that affect your cat’s general health may also affect the frequency with which she poops. If you’re already aware that she has digestive or bowel problems, or is on any medication to treat these kinds of illnesses, then the ‘once a day’ rule might not apply.
As their owner and person in charge of cleaning the litter pan, you’re probably best placed to notice any change to their normal routine. Unusual smells, strange consistencies of poop or any alteration in the frequency with which they’re using the litter tray should ring alarm bells.
How Do I Know That What I’m Seeing is Blood?
It’s not always easy to tell what you’re seeing. There tend to be two types of blood to look out for, though:
- Fresh, bright red blood – this is called Hematochezia in medical terms. It’s often an indication that there is a problem in the lower intestinal tract or the rectal area around the anus. Don’t just look for this on the stools themselves – there may also be blood spots on the side of the litter tray.
- Dark, dried, or coagulated blood is known as Melena. Slightly more difficult to spot, this is blood that is older, and has been partially digested by enzymes in your cat’s stomach. The likelihood is that this has come from further up the intestinal tract. Look for dark spots within the stool – these may be similar in appearance to coffee grounds.
Telling your vet more about the blood you’ve spotted will help him narrow down the options when looking for a diagnosis.
What Other Warning Signs Might There Be?
- Your cat may be using her litter tray more often than usual.
- She may also be appearing to have problems voiding her bowels, such as straining when she’s trying to poop.
- She may yowl or whimper while trying to void her bowels.
- Feces may be smaller, drier and harder than usual.
- She may start trying to poop outside of her litter box.
What if I See Mucus in My Cat’s Poop?
A small amount of mucus can be usual. This is secreted by the intestinal tract to help lubrication and ease the passing of stools. You may notice a film of mucus on a normal cat’s poop. But if there’s more than usual and it’s a yellow or green color, then this is also an indication that something is wrong with your cat’s intestinal workings. Report this to your vet when you go.
What Are the Possible Causes of Blood in Cats’ Stools?
There are a whole host of reasons why blood might suddenly show up in the litter pan. Not all of them are life threatening, some are pretty minor and may even resolve themselves with time. But the truth is that owners are not necessarily experts and because blood in stools can be an indication of a far more serious problem, it’s not worth taking the risk.
So don’t panic, but do seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. Typical causes of blood in cats’ stools might include:
- Food intolerances and dietary changes
- Ingestion of poisons or toxic substances
- Allergic colitis
- Inflammation of the bowel
- Rectal polyps
- Parasitic infestation
- A hernia in the anal area
- Prostate disease
- Injuries around the anal area – bites, scratches and so on
- Fractures of the pelvis or lower limbs
Should I Wait to See if the Problem Resolves Itself?
Absolutely not. Cats are relatively small animals and their health can deteriorate quickly if left untreated. They can become seriously dehydrated in a very short period of time, for instance. Also, the earlier any problem is identified then usually, the easier it is to treat and the more successful that treatment is likely to be.
Make a note of any other symptoms your cat is displaying, so you can give your vet as complete a history as possible. This will often help speed up diagnosis and guide your vet into what tests might need carrying out.
Other symptoms might include:
- Spells of diarrhea
- Appetite loss
- Increased thirst
- Unusual lethargy
- Weight loss
- Mucus in the litter pan
- Odd behaviors, such as dragging its rear end along the carpet
Also, tell your vet if you have changed your cat’s diet recently or if there have been any other lifestyle changes to her normal routine that might have affected her digestion. If she’s had any kind of an accident or you’ve caught her eating something she shouldn’t have done, mention this too.
Will My Vet Want a Sample of My Cat’s Poop?
Taking a sample of the bloody poop can certainly help your vet start to find the cause of the problem. Collect the fecal matter by turning a clean plastic food bag inside out over your hand or by using a clean tool to pick it up and drop it in the baggie. Get it to the vet as soon as you can. Early testing may be able to determine whether the problems is simply down to a parasitic infestation or whether further examination is required.
Can I Treat the Problem Myself?
Not unless you’re a vet! As you’ll see from the list above, there are a wide variety of reasons why your cat may be straining to go or has blood in her poop. For effective treatment, you need a clear diagnosis from a professional. While you’re waiting for your vet’s appointment, however, make sure your cat has access to clean drinking water to help keep her hydrated and keep flushing out any toxins.
Once you have a diagnosis from the experts, there may be things you can do at home to prevent the problem from recurring. These might include changing her diet, perhaps switching to cat food that has no additives or artificial colorings. Your vet will advise you.
You should also try and keep an eye on what your cat is eating above and beyond the food you put down for her. Outdoor cats may be rooting through the garbage or ingesting roadkill. Indoor cats may be fed table scraps, or be chewing string or other household items, for instance. Any of those things can upset a cat’s digestion, causing blood in stools.
What Might Treatment Entail?
Once your vet has diagnosed the problem, he’ll be able to decide how best to treat it. Not many cats love a trip to the veterinary surgery, but reassure yourself that the faster the problem is identified, the sooner it can be resolved and your cat can return to her normal, happy self.
The treatment, of course, depends on the issue, but typical courses of action might include:
- Some form of fluid therapy, to ensure your cat doesn’t become dehydrated
- Antibiotics for any bacterial infection
- Medication that will eradicate internal parasites
- A new diet, perhaps even a prescription food, that will be easier for your cat to digest and will help alleviate strain on the intestines
- Specific drugs that can help slow the gut’s motility (that is, the speed with which food passes through your cat’s digestive system).
What’s the Prognosis for a Cat With Blood in its Stools?
While it may seem scary, the good news is that the prospects of a full recovery are high. Many instances of blood in the stools in cats are down to relatively minor conditions, or can be successfully resolved by a change in diet. The majority of cats will go on to lead a happy, healthy life.
- Chaoqun Yao, Tritrichomonas Foetus Infection, A Cause Of Chronic Diarrhea In The Domestic Cat, Springer
- Diarrhea, Cornell Feline Health Center
- Diarrhoea, International Cat Care