Cats are generally tight-lipped about their overall health and tend to keep any aches, pains or upset tummy troubles stubbornly to themselves. But you can tell a lot about a cat's health by the deposits in his litter box. Any long-lasting changes to his poop could indicate underlying medical issues.
Soft and Firm
Cleaning your cat's litter box is not a glamorous or enjoyable chore, but typically goes quickly thanks to the easy scoopability of healthy poop. Deep brown in color, well-formed and slightly soft, your cat's poop normally has a consistency similar to dough. It squishes when squeezed, but doesn't turn to complete mush and still retains its solidity. It should scoop easily without falling apart or making a complete mess. It's fairly normal to find bits of hair encapsulated inside, sometimes sporting long tails at one end.
Loose and Liquidy
There will most likely come a time when instead of the fully formed poops you're used to, you come across a pale, mushy puddle of poo in your cat's litter box. The occasional bout of diarrhea shouldn't alarm you, as he may have simply picked up a temporary virus and needs to work it out of his system. Diarrhea can also appear due to food allergies or changes, medical conditions or parasites. Scoop the mess out and make a mental note of the date. If your cat's diarrhea lasts more than two or three days, visit your vet to determine the cause. Cats with watery stools can suffer dehydration quickly, so offer plenty of fresh, clean water to keep your cat hydrated.
Hard or Non-Existent
Cats are typically pretty regular in their litter box deposits, and most poop once a day or so. Skipping a day every now and then is no cause for concern, and makes your scooping duties that much easier. But if you notice a few days of non-poopy boxes, or the droppings present are darker in color than normal and very hard, your cat is struggling with constipation. Always have fresh water available to encourage your cat to drink, and see your veterinarian to rule out medical issues such as abdominal blockages or kidney problems.
So you're merrily scooping your cat's litter box, keeping an eye on the consistency and color of the poop when you spy something that looks like spaghetti sticking out of one of the piles. Or maybe you see little bits of what looks like rice. Your cat's not ordering take-out when you're not looking, he has some nasty intestinal parasites. Roundworms are long, spaghetti-like worms that pass through to the litter box when they die. Those little rice pieces are tapeworm eggs shed by adult worms attached to your cat's intestinal wall. Treatment for intestinal parasites requires deworming medication, available from your vet.
Jane Williams began her writing career in 2000 as the writer and editor of a nationwide marketing company. Her articles have appeared on various websites. Williams briefly attended college for a degree in administration before embarking on her writing career.