The Effects of a Hard Stool in Cats

"Suddenly it hurts when I go potty."
i George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Just as you curl up to go to sleep for the night, you hear Tommy howling away. As you race down the hallway to check on him, you see that he’s just trying to go potty. He’s straining and his hard stools clearly are becoming problematic.


The same sorts of things that cause you to have difficulty going to the bathroom also affect your furball. Cats typically don’t drink a lot of water. If you feed Tommy a purely dry food diet and he doesn’t drink enough, his solid waste can become unbearably hard. Difficulty passing his business also can be related to the type of his food. Bargain brands or low-quality kibble often are lacking in fiber and other nutrients feline bodies need to push waste out. If he’s not leaving behind a solid present in his litter box every day or two, he’s probably constipated and it’s time to get him in to the vet to get to the root of the problem.

Serious Effects

Dry stools shouldn’t be taken lightly. If Tommy isn’t able to clear out his bowels, waste gets backed up. In the beginning he may vomit frequently and start losing weight. Eventually, the stool becomes so hard and dry it actually becomes impacted in his rectum, a condition known as a fecal impaction. The hard mass doesn’t come out, although liquid waste and blood still may escape through his rear end. You may mistake it for diarrhea, but it’s actually improperly digested waste trying to escape somehow. He won’t be able to control it and might wind up leaking in his bed. Not only is it gross, it’s most likely very painful and stressful for your little guy.

What to Look For

Since Tommy is feeling backed up, he most likely won’t seem like himself. He’ll be lethargic, seem uninterested in his food and give you the “I’m the saddest kitty in the world” face. You’ll see him running off to get to the litter box, but nothing comes out when he gets there. Loud crying and moaning while he’s trying to relieve himself also are common.


Getting Tommy in for an immediate checkup can help prevent major problems. Your vet will conduct a thorough exam, including getting a good feel inside Tommy’s rear. If need be, your veterinarian can order x-rays to rule out any obstructions that may be triggering Tommy’s bowel problems. Once your purring pal gets a clean bill of health, your vet can make changes to his diet. Depending on the cause of Tommy’s problematic stools, he may need a high-fiber kibble or possibly a mixture of wet and dry food to get more fluid into his gut. Some kitties need to take laxatives their entire lives to deal with poopie problems; however, don’t attempt to give Tommy a laxative on your own. Your vet will let you know which type is best for your beloved friend and show you how to give it to him. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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