Digestive Health for cats

What are cat digestive issues?

A digestive (or Gastrointestinal) disorder is any health situation that prevents your cat from properly digesting food or alters the rate that food passes through their digestive tract. Don't ignore the signs! If your furry friend is showing symptoms of digestive disorders, seek immediate advice from your veterinarian.

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Signs your cat may have a digestive issue

The most common signs of cat stomach problems and digestive disorders are soft stools or diarrhoea. You may also notice some or all of the following signs in your cat.

  • Vomiting

  • Regurgitation

  • Weakness

  • Flatulence

Chronic digestive disorders can be a debilitating problem for many cats and require testing and a thorough diagnosis from your veterinarian.

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Examples of common digestive disorders

Digestive upsets can happen for a variety of reasons, and all of them can make your cat feel under the weather. Remember, that diarrhoea can be difficult to spot in cats that toilet outside. If you suspect your cat is having issues it’s worth providing a litter tray so that you can see what’s going on. Below are some of the more common digestive problems we see in cats.


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  • Acute gastroenteritis

    This is the most common cause of an ‘upset stomach’ in cats. It usually consists of vomiting and diarrhoea that begins suddenly. It can be caused by lots of things like eating something unsavoury (or as many cats love to do, eating half a mouse and leaving the rest for us to find!), parasites, viruses and hairballs, to name but a few.

  • Chronic enteropathy or Inflammatory bowel disease

    Unlike the sudden onset upset we just mentioned, chronic enteropathies are slower to appear and tend to last a long time. Diarrhoea and weight loss are common signs. Again, it can be caused by many different things such as adverse food reactions, immune reactions and genetics.

  • Colitis

    The colon is part of the large bowel and when this gets inflamed it’s called colitis. It’s usually very characteristic and most cats show the same signs - looking like they urgently need to have a poop, they might strain to have a poop but not much comes out, and one of the classic signs of colitis is fresh blood and/or slimy mucus in the stools.

  • Constipation

    The same as in humans, when cats are constipated, they find pooping difficult and they might go to the toilet much less frequently. Constipation can be caused by lots of things. Eating bones, feathers and fur can make the stools hard and difficult to pass, the presence of lots of hair, especially in long-haired cats or a sluggish bowel will also mean that the stools are dry and difficult to shift. Some breeds like the Siamese are more prone to a sluggish bowel than others. This can result in a condition called megacolon.

  • Pancreatitis

    This is a complex condition in cats and can be difficult to diagnose with vague signs. These signs include vomiting, lethargy and lack of appetite. In cats it can seem to come and go and often goes hand in hand with other problems like adverse food reactions and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Food allergies

    Cats can react badly to certain foods for a number of reasons and together we call these adverse food reactions. True food allergies are rarer than people think and they tend to be caused by proteins in foods such as chicken, fish and milk. Food allergies can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and also skin issues like itchiness and excessive grooming.

How can you help?

First, if you suspect your cat is suffering from a digestive disorder, talk to your vet about treatments that may be able to help. You can further help your cat by reducing the amount of stress triggers in their environment with some of these suggestions:

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Stick with a routine

Changes to your furry friend’s environment or routine can lead to GI upset. Providing your cat with a calm, safe environment – as well as some regular playtime – can help your cat’s anxiety.

See Tips

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Parasites like roundworms and hookworms can cause Gastrointestinal issues, so if your cat tends to explore the outdoors, make sure they have the proper preventative care.

Learn More

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Consider their nutrition

Foods made with highly digestible ingredients can be gentle on upset tummies. Ask your veterinarian about switching your cat’s food and how to do it without upsetting your cat’s stomach any further.

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Resources and tips

To help provide your cat with the best care possible on the journey ahead, check out these helpful resources from our team of veterinarians.