Cat has diarrhea: definition, causes, symptoms, treatment and prophylaxis

Digestive disorders and especially diarrhea in the cat are not uncommon. The possible causes for this are varied. This can vary from a simple stomach upset to complicated diseases. It is important to note that not all diarrhea has a serious cause and needs to be treated immediately. However, the cat should be monitored more closely and if the symptom occurs over a long period of time, as well as in severe cases, a veterinarian should be contacted in time.

Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM
Table of contents

When do we speak of diarrhea in the cat (diarrhea)?

Diarrhea (medical term diarrhea) refers to the frequent discharge of liquid or pulpy feces. Frequent means that the cat defecates more than 1 liter per day.

The journey through the gastrointestinal tract usually takes between 12 and 24 hours. Fecal consistency, color, and frequency of shedding can vary greatly depending on cause, diet, or gut health.

Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms in cats. The condition of your pet determines whether a veterinarian should be consulted. / Africa Studio


The massive loss of water and electrolytes is the main reason why diarrhea should be taken seriously. This usually arises in the cat from one or more of the following reasons:

Reason 1: Food

The wrong food, abrupt food changes or a food intolerance can often lead to diarrhoea in cats. Have you tried a new type of food or changed from dry to wet food? Some proteins, carbohydrates but also additives added to the food can be the reason. 

Reason 2: Parasites

Parasites (worms or protozoa such as giardia or coccidia) that your cat got outside can also be the reason for diarrhoea. Here, especially great caution is required for outdoor cats.

Reason 3: Gastrointestinal infections

Viruses and bacteria, as with us humans can also be the reason for this. Such infections usually occur more in younger animals.

Reason 4: Organ dysfunction

Hyperthyroidism or pancreatitis, on the other hand, can cause chronic diarrhea. Does your cat also show other symptoms such as vomiting or has been losing weight for some time? Organ dysfunction could be the cause!

Reason 5: Poisoning

Poisoning by detergents, poison or poisonous plants are also reasons for diarrhea. A side effect of antibiotics also brings this symptom. 

Reason 6: Stress

Cats are very sensitive to stress. In addition to behavioural and bladder problems, your cat may also get diarrhoea due to stress. Is your cat shy or does he hide often? Changes in the household, such as a new person moving in, a construction site, a move, new furniture, a different positioning of the litter box can be very big stress factors for your darling.

There are a number of other possible causes of diarrhea in cats, such as immune-related diseases, IBD or tumors. In most cases, however, the diarrhea will go away on its own and there is no need to worry. However, if you are concerned about your cat, the easiest thing to do is contact the vets at Dr Sam.

What are the symptoms of cats with diarrhea?

To judge whether your cat has diarrhoea or not, it is important to look at the consistency of the faeces. If your tiger is an outdoor cat and only does his business outside, the whole thing is a bit difficult.

Whether a cat has diarrhea can be recognized by the following symptoms:

  • Is the feces mushy or watery?
  • Is the faeces light brown, dark brown red or even black?
  • Is the feces slimy?
  • Is the cat pressing without success?
  • Has the frequency of bowel movements increased?

Other symptoms in cats diarrhea are:

  • Weight loss
  • Great thirst/drying of the cat
  • Tiredness

Among the rather rarely occurring, but quite serious symptoms include, blood, parasites, undigested food or foreign bodies in the stool.

In uncertain and more severe cases, a fecal examination can bring clarity. This examination should only be done at a special laboratory. Self-experiments or unapproved laboratories (such as providers who offer certain sets to send in yourself) are strongly discouraged.

Cat puppies as well as older cats have a higher risk of dehydration! In combination with vomiting, a lot of water can be lost from your cat's body in a very short time.

How is diarrhea diagnosed in cats?

If your cat has diarrhea and other symptoms, it's best to be safe and get a diagnosis. Veterinarians can, for example, detect foreign bodies by palpation, rule out or confirm certain causes, and record and evaluate the cat's overall condition.

For this the cat will be palpated, temperature taken, pulse checked, etc.. For the final diagnosis, depending on the condition of the cat, different tests can then be ordered, such as blood and stool samples, in more severe cases also ultrasound or X-ray examinations. As mentioned above, the first priority is to identify the causes responsible for the diarrhoea.

What to do when the cat has diarrhea?

It is normal that you, as a cat owner, are concerned when your darling has diarrhoea. But what can you do about it?

  • To feed or not to feed? For many years it was always recommended to let the cat fast. However, recent studies have shown that normal bowel movement only occurs when smaller amounts of gentle food are given!
  • What should be fed? Gentle food means easily digestible food such as boiled chicken and turkey as well as mashed potatoes. Dairy products, on the other hand, can aggravate diarrhoea!
  • Ensure sufficient water absorption!
  • For the time being, people who have been released should not be allowed to go outside.

When should a veterinarian be consulted?

If the diarrhea is still not gone after 24 to 48 hours, then a veterinarian should be contacted and the exact cause clarified. Even if the cause has only disappeared temporarily, you should still act in a timely manner for the benefit of his darling and visit a vet, so that he determines a diagnosis. 

Professional advice should be sought immediately, especially if the following symptoms occur:

  • Diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours
  • Cat no longer eats
  • Cat no longer drinks
  • blood in the faeces

If you have a thermometer handy, you should also take the cat's temperature. If the temperature is more than 39.2 °C, caution is advised. See our article on fever in cats for more information.

The veterinarians at Dr. SAM are happy to help you assess the situation and give you useful tips through the online consultation.

Can you prevent diarrhea in cats?

The main cause of diarrhea in cats is food intolerance. If your cat is eating the food and everything has been fine until now, you clearly should not change the brand or the flavour. Abrupt food changes should be avoided!

Certain organ diseases like hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney problems can be treated quite well with medication. Just because a cat is a bit older doesn't mean that you can't do anything about certain diseases.

Worming and vaccination prophylaxis are a must. Always make sure to worm your cat. It is important that your pet stays worm-free! For a faecal examination, you should always collect faeces. This means that you should collect faeces for 3 days before sending it in.

In addition, food intended for humans should be avoided, wet food should not be left too long, and foreign objects or potentially toxic substances such as certain plants or cleaning products should be made inaccessible to cats.

Even if diarrhoea can never be completely prevented, at least a few triggers can be avoided in advance with these tips.

If you are unsure and would like to learn more about Dr. SAM - just click on the link and get further insights into our work.

Best regards,
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
- Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

Table of contents
Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

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