Within this article, you can read about what kitten diarrhea is, what types are there and what the symptoms are. We will also take a look at some of the causes and treatments. Get to know the right time to turn to the veterinarian and do check out the dos and do nots checklist at the end of this post. I hope you will find the answer you are looking for.
What is kitten diarrhea?
It is quite common for cats to experience digestive problems from time to time. Veterinarians and health experts refer to this as a gastrointestinal disturbance which leads to diarrhea. But what is it exactly?
Let’s get something straight; diarrhea is not a disease. It is actually a symptom of some other problem. Think of it as a sign that something is wrong with your kitten. It could be a minor or major problem, and the way to differentiate is to be on the lookout for additional signs such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and unusual behavior.
Diarrhea is a condition in which the body produces liquid, oddly colored and badly smelling loose stool. The frequency may vary from three to seven times a day, and it usually passes quickly (within a day or two) and end naturally. Other times, it can occur periodically or last several days causing weight loss and dehydration. These additional problems stemming from diarrhea could be life-threating, and if it is not treated properly with medication, it could lead to shock or even to death.
Who is the victim?
Although diarrhea is a common complaint in feline life, there is no cat breed or special age that are more prone to loose stool than others. Though, kittens and younger cats can be at higher risk due to the introduction of the solid food and the still developing digestive system. Kitties who spend a lot of time outside can also get stomach upsets more often because of the threats and dangers which may occur in the garden or the streets (like eating prey, garbage or even poison).
What types of diarrhea are there?
Since diarrhea has two different types with different causes and symptoms, therefore, it can generally be categorized into two categories: mild (acute) and severe (chronic) diarrhea.
The intestinal upset is mild (acute) if it is sudden, does not persist longer than a few days and usually greenish or white colored. In this case, you might not even find any unusual effect on your cat’s behavior; she will continue eating and playing as usual, so there is nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if your kitten has diarrhea which is too watery, or contains blood or mucus in it, or it is in yellow or black color, then it is highly possible that she suffers from extreme, severe diarrhea and taking her to a veterinarian is highly recommended.
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
To understand the first signs of diarrhea, knowing the bowel movements of the kitten is a must. The normal stool is brown in color and solid. If your kitten is suffering from diarrhea, her stool’s consistency and color changes.
The most classic symptom of diarrhea is a frequent, loose, liquid or even watery stool which is usually light colored. But if diarrhea contains blood or mucus, it can be a sign of a virus or bacteria and this time it is wise to turn to a veterinarian as soon as possible. In some cases, other signs may also occur like dehydration, loss of appetite or weight loss. Lethargy, weakness, and malaise can be signs as well, and fever and vomiting may also accompany diarrhea.
How to diagnose diarrhea?
Diagnosing any health problem and identifying the potential causes so the appropriate treatment can be given in time will help to prevent life-threatening or terminal disease, so it is absolutely important to know how to do it.
It is quite easy to find out if an indoor kitten has diarrhea – just keep a watchful eye over your furry little friend’s toilet routine by checking her litter box. This situation becomes more difficult in case of having an outdoor cat or if the lovely kitty is allowed to go outside. In this case, either you should follow her, or later you will have to find her stool outside. If this is not possible, just always look after her and pay attention if she is showing any sign of weight loss, dehydration or any other signs discussed below.
If you do find your kitten’s stool unusual (watery and oddly colored) write down the nature, color, frequency, and content of it. If the diarrhea lasts longer than few days and/or you find blood or mucus inside it, you are highly suggested to turn to your veterinarian and all the information that you noted will be very useful for your local vet. The diagnosis that the veterinarian might make will be discussed below, in the related chapter.
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What can cause diarrhea?
Diarrhea in kittens can be caused due to various reasons from a very simple thing (like changing environment or diet) to a serious illness or infection (such as leukemia or cancer), and as it was mentioned earlier, it can generally be categorized into mild and severe diarrhea.
As you already know, mild diarrhea is not a thing to really worry about. Usually, it is sudden and passes within a day or two. Yet, it is important to know what can cause it. Here are some of the main causes of mild diarrhea:
- Change in diet:
If you have recently tried changing your kittens’ diet suddenly then it could cause diarrhea. It is mainly common in kittens and younger cats when they start eating solid food.
Eating too much or too often can lead to stomach upset as well, and this time the lovely kitty will most probably have a white, cottage cheese-like stool.
- Drinking milk:
Owners usually offer cow’s milk without knowing that most kittens are lactose intolerant, which basically means that they cannot digest lactose found in milk. This is a common cause of diarrhea.
- Eating garbage:
Kittens are naturally inquisitive, and you will often find them trying to investigate the different smells of your garbage can which can easily result in diarrhea.
- Food allergy or intolerance:
Some cats may be allergic to certain foods which usually causes diarrhea.
- Chemical cleaners:
If you are in the habit of cleaning the floors using strong chemical cleaners, then this could be another reason causing diarrhea because the chemicals will stick to your kitten’s paws which she will later lick and ingest the chemicals.
- Unclean drinking water:
Kittens are quite picky when it comes to drinking water. If it is not clean, it can easily cause loose stool.
Did you recently take your indoor kitten outside or did she experience anything that scared her? Sometimes shock and stress can also be the cause of diarrhea, and this is quite possible when the kitten is new to your home.
Sometimes heat can cause them to have diarrhea as they are not good at regulating their body temperature and can quickly become overheated.
If any of the above reasons is applicable to you than it is quite possible that your kitten has mild diarrhea, and it will get over within a few days naturally.
Severe or chronic diarrhea is a more worrying situation, and most likely you will end up at your local veterinarian with you beloved furball. This time, the kitten’s stool could be watery, yellow or black colored and contains mucus or blood. The causes of this extreme diarrhea could include the following things:
- Intestinal blockage:
Hairball or foreign subjects like bones or litter often leads to loose stool and can be accompanied by vomiting.
- Bacterial infections:
Young kittens and cats are prone to bacterial infections like salmonella, and the symptoms vary from loss of appetite to high fever and vomiting.
- Bowel disease:
Sometimes the kitten’s immune system will attack the normal bacteria found in the intestine and resulting in inflammation. This disease is known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The symptom is usually loss of appetite, vomiting, and weight loss.
Virus can also be a cause of diarrhea and is common among young unvaccinated kittens.
The most common cause of diarrhea is worms. Usually additional signs like vomiting, dehydration or weight loss can be noticeable as well.
Parasites can also be the cause and kittens with their still developing immune system and outdoor cats are at higher risk to have this illness. The most common symptom is blood or mucus in diarrhea. Any time you are in doubt, it is best to take her to the vet for a checkup.
Cats having regular diarrhea may be an early warning sign of diabetes.
- Consuming poison:
People often leave poison bait cubes meant to kill rodents and your kitten can get diarrhea if she tries to lick or eat it. Even toxic plants can be dangerous for their tiny furry body. If you suspect that she has had poison in any form, then I strongly suggest you to visit your nearest veterinary doctor.
- Fading kitten syndrome:
Diarrhea can be the first sign of this dangerous illness which usually occurs in very young kittens and might end up in death.
- Cancer or other tumors:
Diarrhea may also be an indicator of cancer or other tumor in cats’ bodies. Since it can be dangerous, even life-threatening, do not take it easy, veterinarian visit must be done as soon as possible.
How to prevent diarrhea?
Although most of the causes are not those types which we can be easily avoided, yet we can prevent diarrhea with various simple methods and some mindfulness.
- Make your home kitten-safe.
- If you want to keep plants, try to find the ones which are not harmful to your furball. This will reduce the risk of consuming poison.
- Make a kitten-safe floor-cleaner using a mix of vinegar and water. This inexpensive method will save you so much money in the long run.
- Kittens often explore places, especially smelling ones so many times you can find them near the garbage can. To avoid diarrhea that the eaten waste can cause, the simple remedy is to use a lid to cover your garbage can and avoid using cans with the swivel top.
- Watch out for your kitten’s diet.
- Know what food is the best for your beloved kitty and be aware of the foods to avoid.
- Avoid cow milk and replace it with water.
- Kittens are sensitive to diet changes. If you have recently adopted or bought her, then you should call the person in charge and ask him about the kitten’s previous diet and feeding schedule.
- If you decide to change your four legged friend’s diet, you should do it gradually with the method of mixing old and new food.
- Clean out her water bowl every day and refill with water at room temperature.
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- Make your cute furball feel loved.
- When the kitten is new to your home, she might be stressed and helping her cope and adjust to her new environment will help.
- Spend some time with her and make her feel safe and secure because if she is shocked by something, it can lead to diarrhea.
- Avoid exposing your kitten to the hot environment.
- Vaccinate your kitten at the age of eight weeks even if your furry friend is indoor only. This can protect her against infectious diseases.
- Always keep a watchful eye on your beloved friend, know her behavior and be aware of anything out of the ordinary.
How to treat diarrhea at home?
Since there are several causes that can lead to diarrhea, treatment also differs accordingly. Although the severe feline diarrhea and kitten diarrhea should always be treated by a veterinarian who can diagnose the possible causes easier using different tests, there are some treatments you can do before turning to your local vet, but only if you are sure that the problem has been caused by a simple case of overfeeding. Before you try any special home remedies (written below) call up your veterinarian and seek advice based on your beloved cat’s age.
Change in diet
Since the cats’ digestive system needs time to adjust to new foods, suddenly switching their food could cause diarrhea. If this happens, just change back to the old food which did not cause any harm for her, and when she becomes healthy again, you can try to change her diet carefully and gradually by mixing the old and new type of food.
Increase the time between feedings
Experts suggest to avoid giving any food for 12 to 24 hours, especially if the kitten starts vomiting to give her digestive system some rest. The length of this period will depend on the cat’s age and her symptoms so please do call up your veterinarian about it.
Provide enough water
Since a lot of water leaves the kitten’s body while having a loose or runny stool, encourage your furry friend to drink plenty of fresh, clean water. Otherwise, diarrhea will lead to dehydration.
Look after her
If the cause of your kitten’s diarrhea is a simple stressful event (like something suddenly scared her), just spend some time with her so that she feels safe again. You will see she will feel better soon.
Keep her clean
When your kitten uses the litter box, the loose stool might get caught in the fur of her bottom and hind legs causing skin irritation. Therefore, it is best to use a warm, wet cloth to wipe her as soon as she gets out of the litter box.
Keep a watchful eye on her
Remember; diarrhea can be a symptom of some dangerous problem like poisoning or some kind of tumor, so do not leave it unattended. Always keep an eye on her and react to the issue immediately to avoid any bigger problem.
When to turn to the veterinarian and what is going to happen there?
Know the signs of emergency – when to go to the veterinarian?
As you already know, there are several causes of diarrhea. Many of them are mild and passes on its own within few days. Other times it persists longer and can be life-threatening, especially for little kittens, so it is important to contact your veterinarian in time to determine the possible causes and get appropriate treatment. Diarrhea that requires vet visit:
- if it does not pass within a day,
- if it has a foul smell,
- if it has any other color than brown,
- if it contains blood or mucus,
- if the above-mentioned home treatments do not seem to be working,
- if you feel your kitten has eaten something poisonous,
- if your kitten has not had all of her vaccinations.
You should also turn to your veterinarian if your lovely kitty’s diarrhea is severe and/or it is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- lethargy or depression,
- loss of appetite,
- weight loss,
- change in behavior,
- any other sign of illness.
When in doubts, always contact your vet for advice.
Questions you may be asked – what to prepare in advance?
As soon as you contact your veterinarian, the first step he will ask some questions about your kitten’s problem followed by some tests to diagnose the causes then treat your beloved furry kitty with proper medication. The questions may include:
- How old is your cat?
- When did the diarrhea start and how?
- How does your kitten’s stool look like (nature, color, frequency, content)?
- What symptoms appeared and how suddenly?
- What type of food has your kitty eaten recently?
- Have there been any changes in your cat’s diet recently?
- Does your kitten have access to any garbage or poisonous things?
- Has your kitty been in contact with other animals recently who are sick?
- Does your furry friend feel uncomfortable (change in behavior, weakness, lethargy, etc.)?
- Is your cutie taking any medication?
- What type of diseases has your kitty been treated for earlier?
- Has your kitten been vaccinated?
Try to prepare as much information as you can. It makes the diagnosis easier, the treatments more appropriate and therefore, it even can save your beloved four legged friend’s life. After getting all the information from you, you still might be asked to provide stool sample as this can also help to diagnose the problem.
Even though in so many cases diarrhea is caused by something simple, further extensive investigation might be needed to determine the real problem due to the numerous of causes. So after collecting all the possible information from you, the following tests and examinations could be performed by the veterinarian:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Examination of stool sample
- Extended physical examination (temperature, heart, mouth and respiration check-up)
The recommended treatment and medication will depend on the information you give and the examinations your vet does so even though it takes time and can be frustrating, it is worth the time.
Treatments for your kitten’s diarrhea will vary according to its cause which will be diagnosed by the above-mentioned tests’ evaluations. In some cases, simple particular diet can be the solution while other times medication and/or antibiotics may be given to stop diarrhea.
In other scenarios, your veterinarian may prescribe injections, and it is just one of those things when your kitten is required to stay at the vet for a short period. In very rare but serious cases surgery may also be necessary.
What to do after visiting the veterinarian?
Any of the above applies to you, remain calm and always follow your veterinarian’s instructions. If the prescription is medication or antibiotics, make sure your kitten swallows it properly. Another important thing to know is how soon you should see improvement in your kitty’s health. Do not forget to ask your vet and keep him updated regarding your kitten’s problem until it lasts.
What are the Dos and Do Nots when your kitty has diarrhea?
- Do know your kitten’s litter box habits.
- Do look for symptoms of diarrhea.
- Do know the best type of food and foods to avoid.
- Do watch out for your kitten’s diet.
- Do provide clean room temperature water frequently.
- Do make your home kitten-safe.
- Do use covered garbage.
- Do keep your kitten indoor in a spacious cage along with a small litter tray, water, and some food.
- Do keep a close eye on her and note her behavior.
- Do contact your veterinarian and follow his instructions.
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- Do not change diet suddenly.
- Do not overfeed.
- Do not give cow’s milk.
- Do not scare your kitten.
- Do not keep poisonous plants.
- Do not use chemical cleaners.
- Do not try giving any medicine meant for humans.
- Do not scold your cat for accidents.
- Do not leave this illness unattended.
- Do not wait too long before turning to the vet.
I hope this post helped you to understand that kitten diarrhea may be serious, so do not leave it unattended and know the signs of an emergency. Turn to your veterinarian if you are in any doubt. Remember; it is always better to be safe than sorry.