Going for Days Without Pooping? The Surprising Science Behind Your Cat’s Bathroom Habits

Normal Cat Pooping Habits

Healthy cats will typically pass a bowel movement at least once per day, but this can vary depending on the individual cat. According to Dutch Pet Tags, a healthy cat “should be pooping at least once per day, but some cats may only poop every other day”

Some key factors that can affect normal pooping frequency in cats include:

  • Age – Kittens may poop more frequently, while senior cats tend to poop less often.
  • Diet – The type of food, amount eaten, etc. can impact pooping habits.
  • Activity Level – More active cats tend to poop more often.
  • Stress Level – Stress can disrupt normal pooping patterns.
  • Underlying Health Issues – Diseases may affect pooping frequency.

According to Litter-Robot, “there’s no one-frequency-fits-all solution” when it comes to how often a cat should poop. As long as the cat is pooping at least once daily and their poop looks normal, the frequency is likely fine for that individual (https://www.litter-robot.com/blog/cat-poop-normal/). However, significant or sudden changes in pooping habits could signal a potential health issue.

Signs of Constipation

There are several signs that may indicate a cat is constipated:

Straining to poop – Constipated cats will often spend prolonged time straining and pushing in the litter box without producing anything. They may frequently visit the litter box and meow while straining. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, this straining is called tenesmus and is a common sign of constipation in cats.

Small, hard stools – Stools that are small, dry, and hard are indicative of constipation. The cat may pass occasional tiny feces that are difficult to pass. According to International Cat Care,constipated cats often pass small amounts of liquid feces or blood due to the straining.

Irregular pooping schedule – Healthy cats typically poop once or twice a day. Constipated cats will often go longer between bowel movements, sometimes not pooping for several days. This irregular schedule can indicate an obstruction.

Changes in litter box habits – Constipated cats frequently visit the litter box without producing anything. They may also defecate outside the box due to discomfort. Some cats associate the pain of straining with the litter box and develop an aversion.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation in cats can be caused by a variety of factors including diet, dehydration, lack of exercise, and medical conditions.

Many cats suffer from constipation due to a lack of fiber in their diet. Dry food diets in particular can predispose cats to constipation and dehydration according to Mooresville Animal Hospital (source). Cats that do not get enough fiber from foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are at a higher risk of becoming constipated.

Dehydration is another common cause of constipation in cats. Cats that do not drink enough water can develop hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. It is important to provide cats with fresh, clean water at all times and feed wet food to increase their fluid intake.

Lack of exercise can also lead to constipation. Cats that are not active enough can have slower moving bowels and difficulty passing stools. Allowing your cat to play and exercise regularly can help prevent constipation issues.

Certain medical conditions like kidney disease, hypothyroidism, and gastrointestinal issues can also cause constipation according to VCA Hospitals (source). Cats with these underlying problems may need additional treatment to address the constipation.

Dangers of Constipation

Constipation can be concerning when left untreated. Here are some of the dangers and risks:

Pain and Discomfort – If a cat is constipated, they may experience pain and discomfort when trying to pass stool. In severe cases, they may cry or meow when trying to defecate and even avoid using the litter box due to the pain. This can occur due to the hardened stool stretching the rectum and colon.

Megacolon – Prolonged constipation can stretch out the colon, causing it to dilate and enlarge abnormally. This condition is called megacolon, and it further impairs the cat’s ability to pass stool normally. Megacolon is more common in cats compared to other animals and can be fatal if left untreated (Source).

Bowel Obstruction – In severe cases, the enlarged colon and accumulation of hardened feces can completely obstruct the bowel. This can be life-threatening and requires emergency veterinary care.

Reduced Appetite – Some constipated cats may experience nausea and appetite loss if the obstruction triggers vomiting. This can make the problem worse since eating is important for healthy digestion.

When to Seek Help

If your cat has not had a bowel movement for over 3-4 days, it’s time to seek veterinary help (1). Constipation lasting more than a few days can lead to serious health issues, so don’t delay. According to veterinarians, cats should have at least one bowel movement every 1-2 days (2).

You should also bring your cat to the vet promptly if they are showing any signs of distress from constipation. Symptoms like crying in pain while trying to poop, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and straining indicate your cat needs urgent medical care (3). Don’t wait longer than 24 hours if your cat is clearly uncomfortable.

For cats with recurring constipation, veterinary assistance is recommended to determine the underlying cause. Frequency treatment with laxatives or enemas can lead to dependence. Your vet can provide guidance on diet, exercise, and medication to keep your cat regular long-term.

Home Remedies

There are several natural home remedies cat owners can try to help relieve constipation in cats:1

  • Increase water intake – Making sure your cat is drinking enough water is key for healthy digestion. Try adding more water bowls around the house or switching to wet food.
  • Add moisture to food – Adding warm water, broth, or canned pumpkin to your cat’s regular food can help soften stool.
  • Exercise – Encouraging your cat to be more active through playtime and exercise can help get the bowels moving.
  • Gentle tummy massage – Lightly massaging your cat’s tummy in a clockwise motion can help stimulate the bowels.

While most constipation resolves on its own, home remedies can help provide relief and prevent repeated episodes of constipation in cats.

Medical Treatments

For severe cases of constipation in cats, veterinarians may recommend medical treatments such as:

Laxatives – Laxatives work by increasing the water content of stool or lubricating the stool to allow it to pass more easily. They can be given orally or as suppositories. Some common laxatives used in cats include lactulose, bisacodyl, and magnesium hydroxide. According to Cornell University, laxatives should be used cautiously in cats as they can potentially cause diarrhea if overused. Enemas may be preferred in some cases.

Enemas – Enemas involve flushing out the lower bowel with a saline solution. This can help stimulate bowel movements and clear out impacted feces. Enemas are often used when oral laxatives have failed. They provide quicker relief than oral laxatives but may need to be repeated. Potential complications include fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Proper technique is important to prevent perforation of the colon (VCAAnimal Hospitals).

IV Fluids – Severely constipated cats are often dehydrated and may need intravenous fluids to rehydrate them and soften the stool. IV fluids help restore fluid and electrolyte balance. Hospitalization for several days may be required in severe cases to administer IV fluids and closely monitor the cat.


There are several ways cat owners can help prevent constipation in their pets:

Hydration is key. Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Cats with kidney disease may benefit from cat foods with added moisture. Some cats enjoy drinking from a dripping faucet or fountain, which encourages them to drink more. You can also add a little warm water to your cat’s wet food to increase moisture intake.

Feeding your cat a high-fiber diet helps promote regular bowel movements. Look for cat foods with listed ingredients like cellulose, beet pulp, and dried peas. Ask your veterinarian for diet recommendations. Avoid sudden food changes, which can disrupt your cat’s digestive system.

Bring your cat in for regular vet visits to monitor health and address any issues early. Senior cats may need blood work and urinalysis more frequently. Stay alert to changes in litter box habits, appetite, or behavior, which could indicate a problem.

When Constipation is Normal

Constipation is actually fairly common in cats and not always a major concern. There are certain situations where a cat may become constipated temporarily, but it resolves on its own.

After surgery or anesthesia, it’s common for cats to not have a bowel movement for a day or two. The medications used for anesthesia often slow down the intestinal tract. As long as the cat is acting normal otherwise, this temporary constipation after a procedure is not unusual. The veterinarian will likely recommend stimulating bowel movements with a special diet for a few days after surgery.

When transitioning to a new food, some cats may get constipated, especially if switching from a wet food to a dry kibble diet. It can take a few days for their digestive system to adjust to the new food. As long as the cat is still eating, drinking, and acting normal, the constipation should resolve on its own within a few days. Slowly transitioning to the new food over 5-7 days can help reduce constipation issues.

In both cases, the constipation is temporary and typically resolves on its own within a couple days. Unless it persists more than 2-3 days or the cat shows signs of distress, constipation after surgery or food changes is usually not an emergency. However, if the constipation lasts longer than expected, veterinary advice may be needed.

Key Takeaways

Most cats poop at least once a day. Going 2-3 days without pooping is cause for concern. Constipation is often caused by dehydration, diet, lack of exercise, or gastrointestinal issues. Mild constipation can be treated at home with more water, canned food, exercise, and gentle massage. Severe or chronic constipation requires veterinary attention. Left untreated, constipation can be painful and even fatal. To keep your cat regular, ensure access to fresh water, feed wet and high-fiber food, provide daily playtime, and monitor litterbox habits. With prompt care for constipation, cats can live long and healthy lives.

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