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​The symptoms of digestive problems in your cat

Adult cat lying down indoors on a white blanket.
Knowing what signs to look for in your cat that indicate a digestive problem can help make sure they get the right treatment as quickly as possible—learn more about the common symptoms here.

When it comes to digestive problems, cats can suffer with multiple issues caused by lots of different things—so knowing how to recognize the signs of a digestive issue can be helpful.

Your cat has difficulty eating or swallowing

If your cat has an obstruction in their esophagus (such as a hairball), or the muscles of their esophagus or stomach aren't functioning properly, your might notice they have difficulty eating or swallowing.

You'll notice they seem reluctant to eat—which may be painful—and when they do it can be difficult or strained. They may regurgitate food; this is where they passively bring up food, normally soon after they've eaten and without any warning. They may cough, or may have bad breath caused by undigested food blocked in their esophagus.

Your cat is vomiting or has hairballs

Due to their carnivorous lifestyle, it's not unusual for cats to occasionally vomit, particularly if they have eaten something their body identifies as harmful. However, frequent vomiting, either twice a month or more, can be an indicator of a more serious problem, such as an infection, inflammatory diseases or ulcers. When your cat vomits, they will bring up food that has been partially digested in the stomach, often quite some time after eating. This is different to regurgitation, which is a more passive, immediate reaction.

If your cat regurgitates a compact, matted lump of hair, it may be suffering with hairballs. These are caused when excess hair ingested through grooming sticks together in your cat's digestive tract. Normally, your cat would digest and pass out these hairs, but if there are too many its body can't do this and hairballs are formed. This is a problem particularly with indoor cats, as they spend much more time grooming themselves than outdoor cats.

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Your cat has diarrhea

Like vomiting, diarrhea can be indicators of a broader illness which is affecting your cat. Vets make the distinction between large intestine and small intestine diarrhea, characterized by different symptoms and with different causes.

If your cat has large intestinal diarrhea, their stools will tend to be of the same volume or more than normal, but often include blood or mucus. You may also notice their stools are softer at the end of the day. Your cat will also exhibit a need to move its bowels urgently and frequently.

Small intestinal diarrhea in your cat tends to be of a large volume, can have color variation such as green or orange, and may include undigested food. Your cat may also be suffering with vomiting, weight loss, and flatulence.

One of the difficulties of checking your cat's stools is that your cat may tend to go outside to evacuate its bowels. If this is the case, check whether your cat has feces around its anus, as this can be an indicator of diarrhea, and monitor how often it goes outside.

If you notice your cat exhibiting any of these symptoms, it's important to take them to a vet so the cause of the problem can be identified and your cat given the proper treatment. Many digestive issues can be alleviated or managed with the right diet, so ask your vet for advice on the best food to give your cat to support their digestive health.

  • Digestive health

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