Cleaning your kitty's litter box may not top your list of things you love to do, but it's a necessary evil of cat ownership. Well-formed poop makes it quick and easy, but if the poo looks more like a puddle, it's a good indication that your cat's health is suffering.
What's The Difference?
To many people, veterinarians included, soft poop and diarrhea are interchangeable terms. This both is, and is not, entirely accurate. Although both fall under the “loose stool” category, true diarrhea tends to involve runny, watery messes, while soft poop is more of a mush. Healthy, well-formed cat poop resembles bread dough in firmness and consistency, while soft poop looks more like mashed potatoes. Diarrhea typically refers to a watery puddle, which may or may not actually make it inside your cat's litter box. The thing about diarrhea is that when it comes, it comes quickly, meaning your cat may not make it to his box in time. Soft poop usually isn't as urgent in its arrival, so your cat should have no trouble making it to his box.
Regardless of whether you diagnose your cat's poop problems as just soft or full-blown diarrhea, the causes are usually the same. In some cases, your cat may have caught a simple tummy bug which just needs to run its course. Intestinal parasites can alter poop consistency, as the little freeloaders steal vital nutrients from your kitty's system. Your cat could suffer from food allergies and intolerances, which can cause gastrointestinal upset. Stress can do a number on your kitty's tummy, causing a change in litter box use. Or a more sinister underlying medical condition could be at work, such as kidney disease or hypothyroidism.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Treating poop problems in cats offers a frustrating conundrum – you must first figure out what triggered the diarrhea to treat it, but narrowing down the probable cause may take longer than the diarrhea lasts. Give your cat a few days to see if his poop returns to normal before playing detective. If the diarrhea lasts longer than two or three days, think of any changes to your cat's routine or diet that may explain the change in poop. Calm your stressed cat with additional attention and calming pheromones, and switch your cat's food back to a previous brand if you've changed it suddenly. Introduce any new food brand slowly by mixing it with his old brand to help him get used to it. Gradually increase the amount of new food and decrease the old over time so the change isn't such a shock to your cat's system.
The frustrating truth is that you may never know what caused the diarrhea in the first place, and can only try to minimize the effect it has on your cat through diet change or medications.
When To Seek Help
Everyone, cats included, gets a bout of diarrhea from time to time. You don't need to run to your vet at the first instance of a loose or runny poo pile, but keep an eye on your cat's litter box to see how long the diarrhea lasts. Your cat can quickly dehydrate from frequent watery diarrhea, and any additional symptoms such as changes in behavior or eating could point to a potentially serious medical condition. If the poop change lasts more than a few days or your cat's behavior changes, see your vet for a checkup and possible additional tests.
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.
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.