Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention (2023)

Cat diarrhea can be recognized by frequent loose and watery stools. There’s a number of possible causes for diarrhea in cats ranging from simple to complex. In many cases, cat diarrhea can be treated at home but in others, you’ll need to see your vet in order to determine the cause of diarrhea and get appropriate treatment.

Here’s everything you need to know about diarrhea in cats.

Table of Contents:

  • Why does my cat have diarrhea?
  • What causes diarrhea in cats?
    • Parasites
    • Foreign objects
    • Medications
    • Toxins
    • Food and diet
    • Certain health conditions
  • How long can a cat have diarrhea?
  • What to give a cat with diarrhea?
  • What home remedy can I give my cat for diarrhea?
  • Diarrhea in kittens
  • Can you prevent cat diarrhea?
  • Key Takeaways

Pro Tip: Vet bills can be costly but keeping your kitty healthy isn’t always possible without assistance from the vet. Having the right pet insurance plan will protect your budget and give you peace of mind knowing your cat’s health is secure.

Why does my cat have diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined as stool that’s softer/more liquid than usual. There are two main types of diarrhea in cats: acute, which occurs suddenly and lasts for less than two weeks, and chronic diarrhea, which persists or recurs over a period of three weeks or more.

Normal cat poop is generally firm, dark brown, and shaped like nuggets or logs. However, if your feline friend has liquid or soft bowel movements for more than two days, it is important to determine the cause, since diarrhea might be an indication of a serious or even life-threatening disease.

Symptoms of cat diarrhea

In addition to loose and watery stools, if your cat has diarrhea, it might also display the following symptoms:

  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Defecating outside the litter box
  • Straining to defecate
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Worms in the stool
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention (1)

(Video) Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

What causes diarrhea in cats?

Diarrhea in cats can be caused by many things but some of the most common causes include:


Parasites like hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, and coccidia can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause diarrhea, as well as other symptoms, like vomiting, dehydration, and a dull coat.

Foreign objects

Many kitties like chewing on non-food items like toys and cardboard but if these get accidentally swallowed, they can irritate the GI tract or even get lodged in the intestine, creating an obstruction.


Some vet-prescribed meds can cause diarrhea as a side effect. The list includes NSAIDs, steroids, bronchodilators, anti-anxiety drugs, and heart medications.


Ingestion of poisonous substances can cause diarrhea, as well as other symptoms like vomiting, sluggishness, an unsteady gait, and seizures. Many substances found around the home can be toxic to your cat, including cleaning agents, antifreeze, rodenticides, and insecticides.

Human drugs can also be toxic to cats, as can some plants like tulips, lilies, philodendron, foxglove, and poinsettias.

Food and diet

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they get their required nutrients from a diet that is high in protein and low in carbs. High carbohydrate intake in cats can increase colonic and fecal organic acid concentrations and encourage the growth of certain types of bad gut bacteria, resulting in diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, and even inflammatory bowel disease.

A food allergy or intolerance can also trigger diarrhea. The most common symptoms are digestive upset or skin irritation, but you may also notice vomiting.

(Video) How to stop your cat's diarrhea || cat diarrhea treatment

Another thing that can cause diarrhea is a sudden change in your pet’s diet. Even if your feline companion doesn’t have a sensitive stomach, new foods can upset the GI system at first. For this reason, you should always introduce new types or brands of food gradually, preferably over a period of one to two weeks.

Many human foods can cause diarrhea if consumed in large amounts, and some are even toxic to cats. The list of foods that are toxic to cats includes grapes, raisins, avocado, chocolate, garlic, onions, alcohol, and xylitol. Milk and other dairy products can also be problematic because most adult cats are lactose intolerant.

Certain health conditions

A number of medical conditions in cats can cause chronic diarrhea in cats. Many of them are infections caused by bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, whereas others are viral infections such as feline parvo, leukemia, infectious peritonitis, and immunodeficiency virus.

Other conditions that commonly cause cat diarrhea include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Pancreatitis
  • Lymphoma

Chronic (long-lasting or reccurring) diarrhea can cause serious complications. These cases are often resistant to treatment and can require multiple diagnostic tests before it can be completely resolved, if possible.

How long can a cat have diarrhea?

Contact your vet for their earliest appointment if cat diarrhea persists for more than three dayse --- especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, decreased appetite, bloody, mucous, or discolored stools. These could be clinical signs of an underlying disease that should be promptly addressed.

Occasional loose stools should not be a cause for concern. If your cat has diarrhea but seems fine and does not present other symptoms of illness, it’s advisable to wait a day or two to see if the condition resolves itself. A one-off bout of diarrhea in cats is not a reason to go to the pet emergency room.

However, if you think your pet may have swallowed a foreign object or ingested something toxic, get in touch with your veterinarian or a nearby vet clinic immediately.

(Video) 5 Remedies for Cat Diarrhea

Diarrhea in Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention (2)

Identifying the cause of cat diarrhea

Your vet will likely perform fecal tests that include cytology, fecal flotation, culturing, and antigen testing to check for inflammatory and infectious diseases.

Bloodwork is used to screen for systemic or metabolic causes and check whether the diarrhea has caused anemia or dehydration.

They might also order abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, or X-rays to check for cancer or possible ingestion of a foreign body.

Other methods to determine the cause of cat diarrhea include gastrointestinal function tests, colonoscopy, biopsy, medication trials, and food trials to assess response to dietary changes.

What to give a cat with diarrhea?

Treatment will depend on what’s causing diarrhea.

In the past, veterinarians would recommend a period of fasting in order to rest the cat’s bowels. However, today we know that the intestines need nutrition to heal themselves, and withholding food is only recommended in case your pet is vomiting.

Dehydrated cats will be given subcutaneous or I.V. fluids. If the diarrhea is caused by parasites, your vet will prescribe a dewormer and other medications. If bacteria is present, the vet will prescribe antibiotics. In some cases, drugs may be given to decrease intestinal motility.

(Video) VetPronto - Cats and diarrhea

Never give your cat human anti-diarrheal medication, as many of them are toxic to cats.

What home remedy can I give my cat for diarrhea?

Your vet might recommend increasing the intake of fiber as it can lessen or prevent diarrhea by solidifying watery and loose stools. Canned pumpkin and psyllium are two easily available fiber supplements. Although there are no hard rules for how to dose these in cats, it’s best to start with one or two teaspoons of each per day, mixed into your pet's food.

For some cases of diarrhea, permanent diet changes might be necessary to help maintain proper digestion. Your veterinarian could recommend specially-formulated therapeutic cat food or prescribe a highly digestible diet with added prebiotic fibers.

Why does my kitten have diarrhea?

In kittens, diarrhea is usually caused by a parasite or ingested foods they’re not supposed to eat. Kittens love to explore and discover new foods but their digestive system isn’t yet capable of digesting some of these foods. In addition, kittens can dehydrate much quicker than adult cats, which can cause serious issues.

If your kitten has only one instance of diarrhea and seems as lively as usual, there’s probably no reason for concern. However, if diarrhea persists or you notice other symptoms, you should call your vet. The immune system of kittens and senior cats is much weaker than adults, therefore diarrhea can be more dangerous.

Pro Tip: Signing up your kittens for pet insurance as early as possible will make sure they’re fully protected while their immune system is still developing.

Can you prevent cat diarrhea?

Yes, it’s possible to prevent cat diarrhea.

Avoid making abrupt diet changes or feeding your feline friend human foods to prevent cases of stomach upset. Be sure to keep underlying diseases --- like hyperthyroidism, IBD, pancreatitis, and food allergies --- under control with appropriate medications and/or diet, according to your vet’s instructions.

(Video) Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats - Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Key Takeaways

  • Diarrhea in cats is defined as more frequent bowel movements that are unusually fluid or soft. While diarrhea itself is not a disease, it is an indication that something isn’t right. There are two types of feline diarrhea: acute and chronic.
  • There are many possible causes of diarrhea in cats, including parasites, bacterial or viral infections, food allergies, antibiotics, and other medications, etc.
  • If diarrhea lasts for several days or is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite, be sure to call your vet. Your vet will determine the cause and recommend an appropriate treatment.


What are the causes of diarrhea in cats? ›

Cat Diarrhea: When is it Serious and How Do I Stop It?
  • Parasites – Parasites can definitely irritate your cat's gastrointestinal, causing all kinds of diarrhea involving the small and/or large bowels. ...
  • Infections– Viral or bacterial infections can also cause diarrhea and also occur more frequently in younger cats.

What is the treatment for cat diarrhea? ›

Generally, you will keep your cat on a bland diet for one or two weeks. During that time, continue feeding small amounts every 3 to 4 hours. If the diarrhea goes away, then over another one to two weeks, you will slowly transition them back to their regular cat food diet.

What prevents diarrhea in cats? ›

Unflavored psyllium (e.g., Metamucil) and canned pumpkin are two easily available fiber supplements. No hard and fast rules for how to dose psyllium or pumpkin in cats exist, but starting with 1-2 teaspoons of either mixed into your cat's food over the course of the day is a reasonable place to start.

How can diarrhea be prevented and treated? ›

Interventions to prevent diarrhoea, including safe drinking-water, use of improved sanitation and hand washing with soap can reduce disease risk. Diarrhoea should be treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS), a solution of clean water, sugar and salt.

What infections cause diarrhea in cats? ›

Rotavirus Infections in Cats. The rotavirus is a double-stranded, wheel-shaped RNA virus which causes inflammation of the intestines and in severe cases, dysfunction in the intestinal walls. This virus is the leading cause of diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset in cats.

What medication can you give a cat for diarrhea? ›

Metronidazole (Flagyl) is an antibiotic that veterinarians prescribe to treat diarrhea or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats.

How long do cats recover from diarrhea? ›

Mild diarrhea generally resolves itself in one or two days' time. However, severe cases of feline diarrhea typically lasts longer than two days and can be accompanied by symptoms that include: Fever.

Is rice good for cats with diarrhea? ›

Although you may be used to reaching for bland foods when you have digestive woes, rice isn't the best option to help cats with diarrhea. "Because cats are carnivores, it's unlikely that a sick cat would willingly eat boiled rice," explains Wortinger.

Does dry cat food cause diarrhea? ›

Treats or new foods (canned or dry) can cause diarrhea if they are contaminated, are suddenly introduced, contain ingredients that are toxic to cats, or contain ingredients that cats are allergic to.

What is the best medicine to prevent diarrhea? ›

In most cases, over-the-counter medication can be helpful in stopping an occasional bout of diarrhea — especially traveler's diarrhea, which may result from ingesting contaminated food or water while abroad. Over-the-counter options include Imodium (loperamide) and Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate (bismuth subsalicylate).

What is the fastest way to cure diarrhea? ›

Fast relief methods for adults
  1. Loperamide (Imodium): This medication slows down digestion so that the body can draw more water from the intestines. ...
  2. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol): This medication helps to coat and kill some of the diarrhea-causing bacteria that a person may have in their gut.
30 Sept 2020

What are 3 causes of diarrhea? ›

  • Viruses. Viruses that can cause diarrhea include Norwalk virus (also known as norovirus), enteric adenoviruses, astrovirus, cytomegalovirus and viral hepatitis. ...
  • Bacteria and parasites. ...
  • Medications. ...
  • Lactose intolerance. ...
  • Fructose. ...
  • Artificial sweeteners. ...
  • Surgery. ...
  • Other digestive disorders.
18 Aug 2021

Can cats live with diarrhea? ›

Many cases of diarrhoea are mild, short-lived (last for only a few days), and spontaneously resolve. In many of these cases a specific underlying disease is never diagnosed and cats may get better by themselves or respond to symptomatic and supportive treatment (see later).

What are the signs of a bacterial infection in cats? ›

Symptoms typically observed in cat bacterial infections involve: fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, indigestion and lack of appetite, skin abscesses, lesions and wounds, coughing, runny nose and eyes and problems with urinary and respiratory tract.

Why is my cats diarrhea not going away? ›

Find Out What's Causing Your Cat's Diarrhea

Viruses. Bacteria. Parasites in the intestines, like Coccidia and intestinal worms. Conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, pancreatic disease, cancer or hypothyroidism.

Can wet food cause diarrhea in cats? ›

While your choice of cat food can potentially give your friend a tummy upset it's not down to the food being wet. In fact wet food is likely to be much better for your cat than dry.

Does boiled chicken help cat diarrhea? ›

Step 2: If blood appears or if diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours, contact the veterinarian. Step 3: After 12 to 24 hours, feed the cat a mixture of small quantities of boiled chicken breasts, skinned and boned, with rice (a 50:50 mixture). Alternately, chicken baby food may be substituted.

Is milk good for cats with diarrhea? ›

If your cat drinks milk and suffers from regular bouts of diarrhea, the result could be fatal. This is most commonly found in kittens because it causes dehydration. Instead of milk, simply give your cat what it really needs: clean water.

Is rice poisonous to cats? ›

Although not a necessary part of their diet, a little bit of white rice won't harm your cat. In fact, it might be helpful if she's having some digestive issues.

Which foods cause diarrhea? ›

Common foods that cause diarrhea include spicy foods, fried or greasy foods, dairy, and sugar substitutes. If you suspect that a certain food is causing diarrhea, try eliminating it from the diet to see if your digestive symptoms clear up.

Can eating too much food cause diarrhea in cats? ›

Food allergies, overfeeding, or eating inedible items can also cause diarrhea in kittens. Items like bones, fabrics, or kitty litter can create intestinal blockages if swallowed.

Can some cat food cause diarrhea? ›

Cats' stomachs can be sensitive to certain types of food, and some ingredients may not agree with them. Examples of diets that may cause your cat to have diarrhoea include raw cat food or a BARF diet, or a diet higher in fibre. Cats can also be sensitive to cow's milk, which in some cases causes diarrhoea.

What is the best antibiotic for diarrhea? ›

Rifaximin (Xifaxan) is an antibiotic that works on certain bacteria in your gut. You'd likely only take it for 2 weeks. It's sometimes used to treat traveler's diarrhea.

What liquid can stop diarrhea? ›

Water, Pedialyte, fruit juices, caffeine-free soda, and salty broths are some good choices. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salt helps slow down the fluid loss, and sugar will help your body absorb the salt.

What are the 4 types of diarrhea? ›

The three types of diarrhea are: short duration watery diarrhea, short duration bloody diarrhea, and persistent diarrhea (lasting more than two weeks, which can be either watery or bloody). The short duration watery diarrhea may be due to cholera, although this is rare in the developed world.

What home remedy helps with diarrhea? ›

Consuming sugar and salt with water helps the intestines to absorb fluids more efficiently. This solution more effectively rehydrates the body after a bout of diarrhea than water alone. Other drinks can also be beneficial. For example, drinking sports drinks can help rehydrate the body and restore potassium and sodium.

Can diarrhea be cured by itself? ›

When you have loose or watery stool, it's called diarrhea. This is a very common condition and usually resolves without intervention. Diarrhea can happen for a wide variety of reasons and it usually goes away on its own in one to three days.

What causes diarrhea fast? ›

Share on Pinterest Causes of explosive diarrhea can include viral infections, bacterial infections, and food allergies. The viruses most often responsible for diarrhea include norovirus, rotavirus, or any number of the viruses that cause viral gastroenteritis. This condition is what many people call the “stomach flu.”

What are the five causes of diarrhoea? ›

What causes diarrhoea?
  • viral gastroenteritis — for example, caused by rotavirus or norovirus-infection.
  • waterborne parasites, such as cryptosporidium and giardia.
  • bacteria that cause food poisoning, such as clostridium, salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter bacteria.

Why is my cat's poop runny and smelly? ›

If your cat's diet is not well-balanced or it is hard to digest, she may have foul smelling poop. Inflammatory bowel disease. This is often caused by allergies to food. The most common allergies are to beef, fish, and chicken [1].

How long does a cat's diarrhea last? ›

Mild diarrhea generally resolves itself in one or two days' time. However, severe cases of feline diarrhea typically lasts longer than two days and can be accompanied by symptoms that include: Fever.

Why does my cat have diarrhea but no other symptoms? ›

A bacterial or viral infection.

There are many infections that cause diarrhea including Coronavirus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, FIV, FeLV, Salmonella and E. coli.

Can diarrhea in cats be normal? ›

Diarrhea in Cats is NOT NORMAL

While the occasional tummy upset from a food change or dietary indiscretion may lead to a one-time soft stool, if there is no obvious, simple cause for diarrhea, or if the soft stool occurs more than once, you should speak with your veterinarian.

What probiotics are good for cats? ›

Fortiflora from Purina is one of the most widely recommended pet probiotics by veterinarians. You can use this liver-flavored powder on both kittens and adult cats who suffer from diarrhea and other digestive issues.

What causes diarrhea? ›

The most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects your bowel (“viral gastroenteritis”). The infection usually lasts a couple of days and is sometimes called “intestinal flu.” Other possible causes of diarrhea can include: Infection by bacteria.

How long does it take for stool to go back to normal after diarrhea? ›

Typically, diarrhea starts to get better after about 2 days. If your diarrhea persists, or you notice the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away: dehydration, which includes symptoms like: little to no urination.


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