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Digestive Problems in Cats And The Solutions Every Guardian Should Know

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Unless Garfield is toilet trained, we’ve all seen our share of messy litter boxes. When it’s because of a digestive problem, this can send some of us more worry-prone pet guardians into a worrying tailspin. And, when these issues become chronic, that worry transforms into downright paranoia. Even if the vet finds nothing wrong, there might be an easy, holistic solution to those pandemic hairballs and never-ending bouts of diarrhea. For example, EcoDigestive is a powerful supplement that offers meaningful probiotic and enzyme support for dogs and cats.

For those of us with pups in the fur-family, check out Digestive Problems in Dogs.

An Introduction to the Feline Digestive System

Though different in size and chemical makeup, the feline GI tract is quite similar to our own. On its journey, that canned Friskies will pass through:

Digestive Problems in Cats And The Solutions Every Guardian Should Know | Vet Organics The Mouth. Grown cats possess 30 permanent teeth, all of them designed to tear and cut. As they are unable to move their jaws from side to side, cats are forced to swallow their food in chunks. With enamel up to 10 times thinner than our own, felines are particularly susceptible to acidic food and cavities. Unlike dogs, they are unable to taste sweet things.

The Esophagus. This 12 to 15-inch long tube pushes food from our kitty’s throat into her stomach. Unlike dogs, cats have no control over their esophageal muscles.

The Stomach. This organ uses hydrochloric acid to break our cat’s food into chyme. Unlike dogs, their stomach is meant to digest many small meals throughout the day. To ensure that bones are adequately digested, a feline’s stomach acid is of a much lower PH than our own.

The Small Intestine. This long and coiled tube is responsible for absorbing nutrients from whatever our cats eat. Proportionally shorter than the small intestines of dogs, the feline bowel is particularly good at breaking down proteins.

The Large Intestine. Once food reaches our cat’s large intestine, his body gets to work absorbing any water or electrolytes. It’s at this stage that solid feces form and bacteria get to work breaking down any remaining food.

Five Common Symptoms of GI Problems in Cats

Caused by a breakdown in the above process, feline digestive issues can range from mildly painful to downright unbearable. Here are six common signs of GI issues and a few of their most common causes:

Acute Gastroenteritis. Usually short-lived, gastroenteritis is a painful inflammation of the GI tract. Though rarer in cats, it can be caused by eating spoiled food, toxic plants, or aggravating pre-existing food intolerances.

Digestive Problems in Cats And The Solutions Every Guardian Should Know | Vet OrganicsHairballs. Sometimes our cats lick off more than they can digest when they are grooming themselves. When that happens, the excess fur is expelled through the mouth in the form of a hairball. Though all kitties get them at some point in their lives, they’re certainly not normal. If Felix has no skin issues, then it’s likely a food intolerance or lack of fiber that’s to blame.

Diarrhea. While nothing to worry about if it happens occasionally, frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration and muscle weakness. Characterized by watery stools, feline diarrhea is most often caused by eating overly rich snacks and table food.

Colitis. More common in cats under five, colitis causes the large intestine to swell. Though often triggered by food allergies, this condition can also result from polyps or an abrupt change in diet.

Constipation. Characterized by an inability to pass stools, this uncomfortable condition is often caused by a lack of dietary fiber. In cats, it’s often a side effect of metabolic or endocrine disorders.

Five Natural Ways to Combat Feline Digestive Issues

While we should always consult a vet before beginning any long-term treatment plan, us cat lovers can help prevent digestive issues in our cats by:

Upping Their Activity Levels. Lazy cats often don’t get the stimulation they need to trigger bowel movements. Bringing some play into their diet can help lessen the severity and frequency of constipation.

Digestive Problems in Cats And The Solutions Every Guardian Should Know | Vet OrganicsChanging Their Diet. Dime store cat food is often chock full of fillers, soybeans, and animal byproducts. As these items can trigger allergic reactions, removing them from our cat’s diet can be a great way to combat indigestion and diarrhea. Changing her food is one of the only solutions to this particular problem of harsh, nutritionally lacking food. Just be careful. A sudden change in diet can lead to an increase in GI problems.

Cutting Out Dairy and Adding Pumpkin. Even though we see cats drinking milk all the time, it’s actually not good for them. Cats are lactose intolerant. In place of milk, we suggest adding fiber-rich foods like pumpkin or kale. These salad staples do wonders against constipation and diarrhea.

Digestive Problems in Cats And The Solutions Every Guardian Should Know | Vet OrganicsUse All-Natural Supplements. EcoDigestive is a powerful supplement that offers meaningful probiotic and enzyme support for dogs and cats. It’s wallet-friendly and easy to add to our cat’s food. Commercial cat food can be difficult to digest because of fillers and by-products. Using a balanced and well-formulated supplement like EcoDigestive can lengthen our cat’s life and improve their overall well-being.

Deworming Regularly. Feline parasites, such as hookworms and Giardia, are often at the root of many upset tummies. Regular use of a dewormer can help ward off these creepy-crawlies and ensure a healthier GI tract for Garfield and his friends.

Ensuring Proper Hydration. Unlike us, cats have a hard time telling when they’re dehydrated. Therefore, it’s essential that we give them constant access to cool, clean, fresh water. We also suggest using shallow bowls to ensure that kitty’s whiskers stay nice and dry.

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to prevent our cat from suffering the occasional digestive upset. At least now we all have the tools and understanding to easily evaluate the problem, determine whether a vet visit is needed, and apply a few simple solutions. 

Michelle Lievense

Michelle is a writer and ghostwriter, specializing in wellness, sustainability, and global social change. She is particularly fond of serving ethical organizations who contribute to a better life for people and animals through humane and environmentally responsible missions. At Vet Organics, Michelle uses her time as a vet tech, her academic studies in animal science and behavior, and nearly a decade working on a ranch teaching animal husbandry to write on a variety of cat and canine health topics. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found hiking in the mountains of Colorado with her dogs or snuggled up with a good book and her cats.

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