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Litter Box Lessons - Cat Feces

"You can learn a lot by paying attention to what you scoop"
Ideally you will find one "perfect poop" from each of your cats every 24-36 hours
  • Rich brown color.
  • formed, but moist enough that litter sticks to it.
  • won't smell "good", but should not drive you out of the room
Many things can influence the physical characteristics of feces.   Your cat's diet is a major factor.   High quality food generally produces high quality BMs.
  • Whenever you scoop, be aware of
    1. color
    2. shape
    3. consistency
    4. amount
    5. odor
  • Notice what "normal" looks like for your cat(s).
  • When more than one cat uses a litter pan, subltle differences can tell you a lot.
  • Cats are creatures of habit, if you pay attention you will soon have a pretty good idea what belongs to whom.
    • location in the pan? - individual cats often go in the same spot everytime
    • is it buried? - some cats cover some do not
    • if there is hair what color is it? - useful if you have diferenct color cats
    • size? - a big cat will probably have bigger BM

In the scoop are the feces from two cats. Can you see the differences?
When you want to take a closer look or when you need to bring a sample to your veterinarian, use a sealable plastic bag - turn it inside out and pick up a specimen.  (this bowel movement actually contains carpet fibers which string together balls of feces. The cat who produced it chews on the fringe of an area rug)
Constipation can be a problem for cats. It may begin with anything that causes painful or difficult defecation, and is often chronic and progressive.
  • Passing dry, hard BMs can be uncomfortable. Feces gets dry when:
    • it sits in the colon for too long - kitty may be unhappy with litter pan options?
    • a cat is not taking in enough water - kitty fed dry food and not happy with water sources?
    • a cat has kidney disease or diabetes - large volume of urine produced may cause the body to resorb too much water from feces in the colon.
  • Cats swallow hair when they groom.   Much of this hair will pass uneventfully and end up in the litter pan, but it can cause problems as it makes its way through the system.
  • A large amount of hair in the feces can contribute to a constipation problem
  • Hair in a bowel movement can also produce a "cling on" (feces that hangs from the anus and then drops off as your kitty exits the litter pan.

you can sometimes spot a "hairy poop" by its pointed end
  • Another notable finding is the "J poop"
    • These often end up on the floor close to the litter pan. the kitty tries to go in the pan, strains, things don't move, jumps out, still feels the urge, squats, strains some more -- ah! sweet success.
    • The interesting characteristic is the doubled over end.
    • This can be caused by a perianal hernia - a weakness that allows a bowel movement to get side tracked just inside the anal sphincter.
    • Passing a "doubled over" BM can be painful and may cause a kitty to avoid defecating.
It is worth noting dry, hard, hairy, misshapen and /or infrequent bowel movements because we can often manage these risk factors for constipation by changing diet, litter pan options, water resources, and possibly using a stool softener to avoid progressive irreversible changes in colon function.   "Regularity is the Key to Longevity" dmg
Diarrhea catches our attention much more easily than the subtle changes noted above. (especially if your kitty is not making it to the litterpan)
When you seek help from your veterinarian, you will want to be able to describe
  • what the diarrhea looks like
    • color
    • consistency
    • blood? mucus?
    • odor
  • when
  • where
  • how much
  • how often and for how long

It is easy to tell that this is not normal.
In addition to your report on the history of the problem your veterinarian will want to examine a sample of the feces for the presence of intestinal parasites.

These are roundworms that passed after treatment; now this kitty's diarrhea should resolve.
Debra M. Givin D.V.M. February 5, 2008
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