In a nutshell, constipation is one of the many reactions kitty could have to switching his food. Others include diarrhea, vomiting, a refusal to eat the new delicacy or nothing at all. Changing a cat's chow is a precarious venture due to the feline's finicky nature and somewhat delicate system.
VetInfo indicates that it isn't uncommon for kitty to experience trouble with regular bowel movements as even the slightest changes in diet can disrupt the normal workings of a cat's digestive and elimination system. Despite this fact, VetInfo also stresses that cats should have two bowel movements each day. Anything less is a cause for concern. WebMD indicates that kitty's poop should be deep brown in color and well formed -- not too hard, not too soft or mushy.
It's difficult to track just how often kitty goes poop unless you are the defecation police religiously dedicating your observation powers to the number of nuggets left in the litter box each day. As noted by VetInfo, cats are extremely private in regards to their potty behavior. They don't want you to know the when and how long of their business. This behavior often leaves human companions unaware of kitty's constipation until a couple days have passed but nothing else has.
A constipated cat is a miserable cat. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, some of the specific signs to watch for include: straining and crying when trying to eliminate, finding small hard stools covered with blood or mucous in the litter box, frequent unproductive trips to the litter box, loss of appetite and weight, lethargy, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and a general lack of grooming for which cats are generally incredibly fastidious.
More Fiber and Protein Please
As is the case with human constipation, it often takes a little friction to get things moving. Nothing does friction better in the digestive tract than fiber with its loosening power. WebMD suggests adding a little canned pumpkin to kitty's food. Cats like the taste and it blends well -- especially with wet foods. VetInfo reminds cat owners that a feline's digestive tract is short thus allowing a high protein diet requiring minimal processing to move through fairly quickly.
Hydrate and Move
Both WebMD and the ASPCA recommend getting kitty to drink more water. This is a challenge as cats are not naturally large consumers of liquid as their pre-domestication diets in which they consumed the entirety of captured prey -- including blood and other body liquids -- previously satisfied their hydration requirements. That's no longer the case and the situation only worsens in consideration of the fact that many cats eat a strictly dry food diet. A little extra water sloshing around in kitty's system could work as a catalyst to get a bowel moving.
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.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.