Diarrhoea in cats: Causes and tips

Help, my cat has diarrhoea

It is not uncommon for cats to get diarrhoea, which can occasionally be accompanied by vomiting. There are many different causes for diseases leading to diarrhoea. This is not uncommon, especially with outdoor cats who roam around a lot in nature. But what can you do if your cat suddenly becomes ill, gets diarrhoea and does not feel well? What are the causes of diarrhoea in cats, which diarrhoea remedies help and when should you go to the vet?

How do I know that my outdoor cat has diarrhoea?

In purely domestic cats, diarrhoea is easy to detect. A look in the litter tray is often enough to diagnose diarrhoea. But what about cats that have unrestricted outdoor access, for example using a cat flap? If the cat only does its business outside, it is difficult for the cat owner to inspect the droppings.

The following characteristics, in addition to liquid faeces, can indicate an illness with diarrhoea:
  • increased defecation, which makes the cat want to go out more often and in a hurry
  • Sometimes there may be residues of faeces near the place where the cat sleeps, on their way outside or to the litter tray
  • Residues of faeces around the cat's anus or on their fur
  • Tiredness and fatigue due to electrolyte and fluid loss
Another possibility is to observe the cat when it is outdoors, for example in the garden. You may also know your cat's ‘favourite place’ to do its business, so you might be able to check the droppings. If you do not catch your cat in the act, however, be aware that the faeces may also come from other cats in the neighbourhood and could therefore lead to a false diagnosis.
If you observe symptoms such as listlessness or conspicuous changes in your cat’s eating and drinking habits, it is advisable to visit the vet. Depending on the cause of the diarrhoea, the cat may need veterinary treatment.

Causes of diarrhoea in cats

There are many different causes of diarrhoea in cats. On the one hand, infections can trigger this illness, and on the other hand, diarrhoea can also be a symptom of acute or chronic diseases. 

Diarrhoea in cats due to infections

  • Due to viruses: e.g. typical diarrhoeal pathogens such as rota and coronaviruses, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline parvovirus
  • Due to bacteria: e.g. clostridia, salmonellae
  • Due to parasites: e.g. giardia, worms (roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms), cryptosporidia, etc.

Diseases that can lead to diarrhoea

  • Acute or chronic pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic hypofunction
  • Chronic intestinal inflammation
  • Liver disease or gallstones
  • Tumours

The wrong diet can cause diarrhoea

  • Cow's milk and dairy products 
  • Foods that cats do not tolerate
  • Switching the cat’s food
  • Food intolerances

Other causes of diarrhoea in cats

  • Medication
  • Poisoning
  • Stress
As you can see, the list of causes of diarrhoea in cats is quite long. Many causes can become dangerous for the cat in the long run if they are not treated by the vet. 

What can I do if my cat suffers from diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea, especially if it is very runny, causes a loss of electrolytes, just like in humans. The fluid absorbed is excreted again too quickly via the faeces, resulting in a lack of fluid. Since cats generally do not drink much, you should try to compensate for the resulting lack of fluids. As the gastrointestinal tract is irritated by diarrhoea, the absorption of nutrients is also reduced. Electrolyte solutions can be very helpful here. But a highly diluted meat broth is also a good thing to use to give the cat a little boost when suffering from diarrhoea.

One-off diarrhoea, for example caused by ingesting a small amount of cow's milk, is usually harmless. However, if the diarrhoea persists for several days, it is advisable to make an urgent visit to the vet. The vet can research the causes and treat them with a suitable diarrhoea remedy. Often cats suffering from acute diarrhoea are treated for intestinal parasites, such as worms. Not all pathogens are always excreted, meaning that it sometimes isn’t possible to find evidence of the worms. In any case, you should always keep in mind that diarrhoea is not an isolated condition, but could be a symptom of a more dangerous disease or infection that can only be diagnosed by the vet.

Diarrhoea in cats: The vet will look for causes such as worms, infections or poisoning and prescribe appropriate medication such as a diarrhoea remedy. Looking for causes of diarrhoea in cats

Can I give my cat a bland diet or diarrhoea medication?

A sick cat can also be given the tried-and-tested bland diet to relieve diarrhoea. A homemade diet consisting of easily digestible meat, such as chicken, is one way of offering your cat light meals. You can also add a high-quality mineral and vitamin mixture. If the cat accepts the food well, you can also add a highly digestible source of carbohydrate, such as mashed potato. Feed the cat its bland diet in small, warm portions.

You can put together a bland diet with the following foods:
  • Boiled chicken with a little salt (alternatively white fish)
  • Rice and potatoes, both well overcooked (carrots are also an option if the cat accepts them)
  • Serve with some low-fat quark or cottage cheese
A bland diet should never be fed for a particularly long time, as otherwise deficiencies may develop. To be on the safe side, or if your cat's condition does not improve quickly, you should see a vet as soon as possible. Depending on the cause, medical treatment with a special diarrhoea medication may be unavoidable. However, you should not administer this on your own without consulting a veterinarian.

Diarrhoea and vomiting in cats

Occasionally, diarrhoea may also be accompanied by vomiting. At first, this is nothing unusual, as both are common accompanying symptoms of indigestion or diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Many cats also vomit hairballs regularly. For these reasons, vomiting alone is not always automatically a cause for concern and must always be considered in the context of other symptoms such as diarrhoea and, of course, general well-being.

5 tips to prevent diarrhoea in cats

To prevent your cat from getting sick and suffering from symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting, there are a few things you can do as a preventive measure:

1. Frequent worm checks and regular worming treatments

An infestation of worms or infections with bacteria and viruses are among the most common causes of diarrhoea. It is therefore obvious that you can protect your cat from getting sick with a regular worming treatment. Not only should outdoor cats be regularly wormed, so should indoor cats occasionally. Small flies or larvae, for example, which enter the house unnoticed on our shoes, can also lead to worms in domestic cats. Your vet will provide you with the appropriate medication to combat worms in your furry friend.

2. Choosing the right cat food

The wrong food affects the stomach and can cause diarrhoea. In this respect, our pets are no different from we humans. You should therefore make sure that the cat food of your choice meets the needs of your furry friend and contains a high proportion of fresh meat. Cats can only have a healthy gastrointestinal flora if they are provided with the right nutrients. 

If you want to change your cat’s food, you will need to be a little patient. Read our helpful tips on changing your cat's diet.

3. Pay attention to fluid intake

Adequate hydration is important for any metabolism, including cats. Always provide your cat with enough fresh drinking water and change it regularly. If your house cat is a particularly bad drinker, a cat drinking fountain can also be useful. Observe your cat's drinking behaviour. If your cat does not drink at all or drinks a lot, this may indicate that the cat is ill. Talk to your vet about this too. You can also find more information on drinking behaviour in cats in our advice article on this topic.

4. Regular visits to the vet

Even if your cat appears to be healthy and lively, regular visits to the vet are very important. In addition to the annual booster vaccinations, the vet can check general health of your cat and diseases can be detected and treated at an early stage. 

5. Avoid stress

Stress can also have a direct impact on the health of cats and cause accompanying symptoms such as diarrhoea. You should therefore try to give your cat enough rest after stressful events, such as a move, the arrival of a new family member, visitors at home or events like New Year's Eve. In addition, your cat should always have a quiet place to retreat to in your home.

Diarrhoea in kittens

Diarrhoea in kittens

If kittens are sick and are suffering from diarrhoea, this is particularly dangerous. This is because the high fluid loss can be less well tolerated by kittens and young cats than by healthy adult cats. You should act especially quickly with young cats and visit the vet so that the cause and the right diarrhoea remedy can be found quickly. Especially in kittens, runny faeces can also indicate other diseases. The so-called feline epidemic (parvovirosis) occurs mainly in young cats or unvaccinated groups of cats, in cats from abroad or in feral cats. Other parasites such as coccidia and tritrochomonads or even worms are often a cause of diarrhoea in small kittens and must be treated by the vet.