If your cat has diarrhea your goal will be to stop it as quickly and as safely as possible. Before getting started on causes and treatments you might want to read the Scoop on Poop to get a good understanding of the different varieties of diarrhea. This may help you to narrow down the cause and possible treatment more quickly.
Diarrhea can be caused by a number of different things.
- Symptom of IBD or intestinal cancer
- Infection or bacterial overgrowth in the intestines
- Some diabetic cats exhibit diarrhea as a symptom when their blood sugar is too high
- Antibiotic use
- Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Food sensitivity or allergy
- Indiscriminate eating
- changing a cat’s diet too quickly
- offering too many different foods on a regular basis
- kitty unexpectedly eating something they weren’t supposed to
Probiotics help in a variety of causes. IBD Kitties has a great page explaining the different probiotics you can use and includes an emergency “stop diarrhea” protocol. The Raw Feeding for IBD Cats website also has a great article on probiotics and their use (with a link to download a printable version at the top of the page)..
- Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS
- available on Amazon, but this is also one that you’re likely to find locally in a store like Whole Foods in the refrigerated probiotic section
- Saccharomyces Boulardii without MOS
- not likely to find it locally, but is available at Amazon, Swanson Health, and iHerb
- available in most grocery stores in the dairy section with the yogurt options
- L. acidophilus
- available on Amazon, but you should be able to find lots of options for this probiotic locally in stores like Whole Foods
- Probiotic Blends
- available on Amazon and can usually be found locally in stores like Whole Foods
- often recommended by vets, but most of the time is useless as a probiotic, though there are a few cats who do respond to treatment with it
- available through your vet, Amazon, Chewy, or any Petsmart that has a Banfield Clinic inside (in the Purina prescription food section, but does not require a prescription to purchase)
- Proviable is a probiotic often recommended by veterinarians and comes in 2 forms
- Forte has an ingredient similar to “immodium” that is used for stopping diarrhea in humans.
- DC does not contain the “immodium” ingredient.
If your cat has diarrhea due to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) then probiotics will not resolve their diarrhea. In this case you need to treat with pancreatic enzymes.
With Cat, who has been treated presumptively for EPI, Thomas Labs Bio Case Pancreatic Support Dog & Cat Supplement has been a miracle in a bottle for clearing up his diarrhea. You can find these enzymes on Amazon or Chewy.
There are a lot of other possible enzyme blends on the market that you could use, but they’re often not formulated for the type of food cats eat. If you decide not to use the prescription enzyme options ( PanaKare and PancurePlus ) or Bio Case, then you’ll want to carefully review your options and pick a blend that contains mostly protease and lipase and very little of the other enzymes.
|Protease||Protein||Cats typically get 40-60% of their calories from protein, so this enzyme is very important|
|Lipase||Fat||Cats typically get 20-40% of their calories from fats, so this enzyme is important|
|Amylase||Starch||Cats don’t get many starches in their diets unless they’re eating foods containing potatoes or corn. This enzyme is helpful, but should be in a lower quantity than protease and lipase|
|Cellulase||Cellulose / leafy plant fiber||Cats generally don’t get much, if any, cellulose in their diets, so this enzyme is usually not necessary. If it’s in the blend you find it should be in a lower quantity than protease and lipase|
Vitamin B12 Supplements
Cats with IBD or intestinal lymphoma commonly have low vitamin B12 levels. Supplementing with vitamin B12 can correct diarrhea if it was caused by B12 deficiency.
Tanya’s CKD website has a comprehensive write up on B12 including dosing information. The site itself is devoted to chronic kidney disease, but the information regarding B vitamins can apply to any cat, whether they have CKD or not.
Diet Changes or Restriction
Diet-related diarrhea can be the easiest or the hardest to correct.
Offer a Single Food
If your cat is eating a wide variety of foods, the first thing to do is to put them on a single food for every meal. This is easy to do if your cat isn’t super picky about what they eat. For cats who refuse to eat if they don’t have a variety of food options this can be challenging or impossible.
It doesn’t really matter what food you start with when switching to feeding a single food. The goal is consistency in feeding.
Offer Hydrolyzed Protein Foods
If you’ve been feeding a single food to your cat and there’s no improvement your next step is probably to offer a hydrolyzed protein food. These foods should be available through your vet and are often marketed as prescription “gastrointestinal support” foods.
- Royal Canin HP
- Royal Canin Gastrointestinal
- Royal Canin Calm
- Purina HA
- Blue Buffalo HF
- Hill’s z/d
- Hill’s c/d (also treats certain urinary issues)
- Hill’s k/d (also treats kidney issues)
Some manufactures have non-prescription foods that contain hydrolyzed proteins. Royal Canin uses hydrolyzed proteins in many of their regular foods. But, be careful when trying to choose a non-prescription food, because most of them do not used a hydrolyzed version of every protein in them. Read the ingredients carefully. If there is any meat or meat by-product in the list that does not start with the word “hydrolyzed” then you don’t want to use that food.
There are a few over-the-counter medications and food additives that can be tried for treating diarrhea.
- Vetquinol’s ProPectalin
- Anti-Diarrhea Liquid is available from several manufacturers
- 21st Century Pet Products
- Firm Up! Powdered Pumpkin (marketed for dogs, but perfectly safe for cats)
You can also try adding a small amount of plain canned pumpkin or pumpkin baby food to your cat’s food. Do not use pumpkin pie filling. You want plain pumpkin. A can of pumpkin will last a long time. You’ll probably want to divide it into individual servings and freeze them that way so that it doesn’t go bad before you can use it up.
Some prescription medications can also be used to treat diarrhea.
Metronidazole (aka Flagyl) and Tylosin are two different kinds of antibiotics that are fairly commonly used to treat diarrhea.
Steroids are a “big gun” approach to treating diarrhea, and may be used in cases where a definitive cause for the diarrhea can’t be found, or when the diarrhea is known to be caused by either IBD or intestinal cancer.
The most common steroid used is prednisolone, but often cats can have a better response to Entocort. Both medicines are corticosteroids, but Entocort has formulations that are designed to activate at specific pH levels, so they’re able to be targeted to the intestines rather than being a systemic steroid.
Cats with diarrhea can easily develop litter box aversion. If your cat stops using the litter box, try putting puppy pee pads out in areas where you think they might be necessary. These can save you a lot of hassle and stress with cleanup.
Cats with intestinal incontinence (leaky/drippy diarrhea that they can’t control) may need to wear diapers until the diarrhea is controlled. Diapers will make your life easier by containing the mess, but they can also help your cat. If your cat has intestinal incontinence they can make themselves sick if they’re constantly trying to groom the mess away. Diapers will prevent them from eating too much of their own waste in the grooming process.
You can use grooming wipes to help keep your cat clean. Most of the “pet” options contain a lot of questionable chemicals and fragrances. Newer versions of “natural” baby wipes that are 99% water are often much safer and fragrance free. My favorite wipes to use are Huggies Natural Care. You can find the on Amazon, but they’re often on sale at local grocery stores for a lot less than Amazon charges.