Not surprisingly, cats need a normally functioning digestive system to remain healthy. However, it can be challenging to know what is ‘normal’ and what needs attention from a vet, especially since cats poop much less often than we do. How long can cats go without pooping?
Cats can go 48 hours (two days) without pooping before they require monitoring and a vet visit. A healthy cat will poop every day or every other day. However, some cats may poop twice a day, depending on their diet and digestive health.
Read on to learn more about how long cats can go without pooping, what a healthy bowel movement schedule is like for your pet, and what you can do to help your cat poop.
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What Is a Healthy Cat Poop?
Just like humans, there is a general guideline to what healthy poop should look like for cats. Cats should poop once every day and, in some cases, every other day.
The dropping should be dark brown in color and firm, but not hard–it should retain its shape once it exits the body. The poop should also not have an overly strong odor. Sure, some smell is okay, but anything that gives off a rotten or sickly smell is not normal.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Pooping?
While the average cat will poop once every 24-36 hours, this can vary and still be healthy. Felines that have different diets and activity levels will have different rates of bowel movements.
An outdoor cat that eats more scraps and has a high activity level might poop more often. An indoor cat that eats only dry food and has a more sedentary lifestyle may go to the bathroom less.
While the timing of a cat’s bowel movement can exist within an extensive range and still be healthy, there is a limit to how long a cat can go without pooping. If your cat has not pooped in two days, this should raise a red flag.
You don’t need to speed your kitty to the emergency room right away, but you should continue to monitor your cat to see if they go to the bathroom in the next 12 hours. You can also start some natural tricks to encourage your cat to poop.
If at the end of the 12 hours, your cat still has not pooped, you should take them to the vet.
Why a Cat May Not Be Pooping
There are many reasons why your cat might be experiencing delayed digestion. Some of these might sort themselves out over time, and more extreme cases may need surgery to fix. Constipation in cats can also be a sign of disease.
One of the most common reasons cats experience constipation is over-grooming. Cats bathe themselves with their sandpapery tongues that comb through their fur to remove dust and debris. This also helps prevent the development of matted fur, which can be painful for our four-legged pals. Cats with longer fur are at a higher risk for fur-related digestive issues.
As cats clean themselves, they swallow some of the hair as they groom through it. These clumps often come back up in the form of a slimy furball. However, if they do not vomit the furball up, it can become lodged somewhere in their digestive tract and block or delay a bowel movement.
This issue may fix itself naturally over time, but more severe scenarios can require medical attention to resolve.
Spinal or Pelvic Injuries
If your pet has experienced a recent spinal or pelvic injury, this can sometimes cause problems using the litter box. A pelvic injury can narrow part of the pelvic canal, restricting fecal matter movement along the digestive tract. A spinal injury could make defecating painful, and your cat may become constipated instead.
Low Fiber Diets
Fiber is an essential part of healthy digestion for cats. Dietary fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans, but the feline body does not digest it. Instead, the fiber remains intact and helps give stool a solid shape and retain water for easy passing. If your cat does not have enough fiber in its diet, its poop can become hard and painful to push out.
Feline megacolon is a term that refers to a large, overly dilated colon in cats. When the colon is too wide in diameter, it forms pieces of feces that are too large to fit through the cat’s pelvis. As a result, cats become dangerously constipated and cannot pass their stool.
Feline megacolon often requires surgery to remove the blockage, though it can also be removed or reduced to passing size with an enema.
Colon Blockage or Growths
Physical blockages in your pet’s colon can also cause them to become constipated and unable to poop. However, any foreign ingested object can block your kitty’s digestive tract.
Sticks, bones, and pieces of plastic are all dangerous if swallowed. Other blockages can be caused by internal growths or tumors spreading in your cat’s digestive system. In either case, you will likely need a vet to remove the blockage or diagnose the growth.
Dehydration is a leading cause of constipation in cats and humans alike. Severe dehydration will cause the body to get as much moisture as possible from the internal systems, including the intestines, creating a very compact and hard poop.
Your cat’s body may also go into survival mode and slow down some of the more excessive actions like pooping to preserve energy. Sufficient rehydration can sometimes be as easy as drinking water, but other times your pet may require an IV treatment to replace its nutrients.
How To Get Your Cat To Poop
If your cat hasn’t pooped in two days and you want to encourage their digestive action, there are a few safe tricks that you can use to get the movement going, like:
- Get them to drink more water.
- Play with your cat to increase exercise.
- Keep them calm or remove them from stressful situations.
- Talk to your vet about cat-safe laxatives.
- Give your cat’s tummy a gentle massage.
- Add another litter box in case your cat dislikes theirs.
When To Call Your Vet
If your cat has not pooped in more than 48 hours, you should call your vet. A vet visit may not be necessary, but speaking with your vet over the phone will allow them to give you some advice to help your cat. Your vet will also know your pet’s medical history and let you know if they have any other conditions that may cause constipation.
Contacting your vet early will also give them a heads up that something is wrong if you do need to bring your pet in a hurry. If your cat ends up pooping, then you can always give your vet the update to let them know. This way, they’ll be able to flag the situation in your pet’s file if the symptom were to reappear later.
Cats can go much longer between poops than humans can, making it more difficult to know when they are constipated. It’s also harder to know if a cat with access to the outdoors is constipated, as they have so much unsupervised freedom.
A healthy cat will poop every day or every other day. If you know that your cat has not pooped in more than 48 hours, you should contact your vet; they may give you a cat laxative to use at home before bringing in your pet for examination.
- WebMD: Cat Poop
- VCA: Constipation in Cats
- MayoClinic: Dietary Fiber
- ACVS: Megacolon
- PetMD: 9 Ways to Help Your Constipated Cat
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.