Litter box cleaning is one of the less glamorous jobs of a cat owner, ranking right up there with puke cleanup and hairball disposal. But cleaning your kitty's private bathroom can warn you if your cat's not feeling well, as a change in poop consistency is a good illness indicator.
When to Worry
As you scoop your cat's litter box, you can't help but notice the state of his poop. Healthy cats drop soft but well-formed pieces, which scoop easily from the litter. Mushy, muddy or completely liquidy poop indicates that your cat is suffering from diarrhea, a condition that just about every creature deals with from time to time. The occasional discovery of this mushy mash shouldn't concern you, so long as his poop returns to normal in a day or so. But if the mess contains blood or is very darkly colored and your cat has a fever or is lethargic, it may indicate a more serious issue.
Seeing some mushy poop in your cat's litter box shouldn't immediately send you into panic mode, as sometimes cats get a bit of a tummy bug that loosens things up. Things as simple as a change in diet or an intolerance to a certain food can cause a cat to hit the litter box more often, and are fairly easy to pinpoint as the cause of the sudden change. Other issues, such as intestinal parasites, infections and medical issues like kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are harder to diagnose at home, and require a full checkup and testing by your veterinarian. Even if you think you know the cause, you may want to err on the side of caution and see your vet anyway for a proper diagnosis if the diarrhea lasts longer than a few days.
Unless your cat is displaying a host of additional symptoms or is leaving huge messy poopy piles everywhere, you may not need to worry about treatment right away. In many cases diarrhea resolves on its own, leaving your cat no worse for wear and making litter box cleaning a little easier. If the loose stools last for more than a day or two, take your cat's food away and offer plenty of fresh, clean water to help him stay hydrated and to work out whatever bug he may have picked up. Fast him for 24 hours—contrary to what he'll have you believe, he won't die—and gradually reintroduce small amounts of some bland, easily digestible food after that. Boiled rice and boiled chicken are nice and gentle on your kitty's delicate belly. Once his stools return to the proper consistency, gradually reintroduce his regular food, mixing it with the bland diet until he can tolerate it properly.
Visit Your Vet
If your cat's diarrhea seems excessive, or he exhibits other symptoms such as vomiting, change in appetite or weight loss, visit your vet. The doctor will most likely ask you some questions regarding your cat's normal routine and home life, such as whether he goes outside, when the diarrhea started and if any stressful events or changes have occurred. He may order some tests to determine the cause, and give your cat a dewormer just in case a bunch of uninvited freeloaders have taken up residence in Kitty's intestines. Treating the underlying medical condition usually resolves the diarrhea, and your cat will be healthier in the long run.
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