What Is Your Cat’s Poo Telling You?
For any cat parent, taking care of the litter box is not the most pleasant chore. Some cats are particular about the specific placement, conditions, and type of litter used in the box, which can be a hassle to handle. Taking the time to peek at your cat’s stool, however, is crucial. Changes and characteristics seen in feces can be a great measure of your cat’s health1–3.
Cats typically have at least one bowel movement a day—but this varies depending on age, diet, and health1.
While normal stools are a deep brown, reminiscent of a chocolate bar, the appearance of different colors can be symptoms of various health issues4,5. Yellow stool, for instance, while normal for some diets, can suggest liver or gallbladder disease, while red or black stool could indicate gastrointestinal bleeds1. A black, tarry color (melena) is usually seen when blood has been digested, meaning that it likely comes from the upper digestive tract, such as a stomach ulcer or a sharp foreign object causing damage1. Red stools generally signify that the damage is coming from the lower gastrointestinal
Normal cat poop should feel firm but not too hard and be shaped like a sausage. For those who also own dogs, cat stool is generally firmer. While the ancestors of dogs inhabited more temperate climates, cats arose from a desert-dweller6 and
Inflammatory bowel disease is common in
Researchers hope to better understand this relationship to identify potential targets for treatments. If they discover which bacteria are responsible for the imbalance, they could develop ways to manipulate the microbiome, such as with cat probiotics.
While occasional undigested food may appear in your cat’s stool, unusual patterns that arise can raise red flags.
The most common element found in cat feces is hair1. Since cats are well-known groomers, seeing
Cats also love to play with string, so finding dental floss in your cat’s poop might be a sign that you need to hide the bathroom trash can. Bits of toys or plastic can may sometimes appear in
On the side of
Cat poop has a distinctive smell and any distinct changes, usually for the worse, could indicate that your cat might have a health problem8. Microbial infections, such as bacteria or parasites, can also be the root cause of a stinky litter box. Monitoring whether your cat is behaving normally or has other symptoms, such as lack of appetite or vomiting, may help you gauge whether a trip to the vet for treatment is imperative. That being said, smelly stool can be linked to a simple change in diet—such as a switch between food brands or from dry to wet food.
Of course, handling cat stool is not without claimed risks. Cat feces have gotten a bad reputation over the last decade due to its association with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii9. Previous research found links to a range of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Pregnant women were also usually urged to stay away from litter boxes to prevent infection, as the parasite can cause health defects in infants. However more recent research has found no evidence of any psychiatric problems10. In any case, the parasite is not infectious for a few days, so cleaning the litter box daily will keep T. gondii from being a problem—it should be just fine to check your cat’s poop to ensure they are healthy and happy.
1. What Should My Cat’s Poop Look Like? | petMD. Available at: https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/what-should-my-cats-poop-look. (Accessed: 5th December 2018)
2. Parker, H. The Scoop on Cat Poop. WebMD (2009). Available at: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/the-scoop-on-cat-poop. (Accessed: 5th December 2018)
3. The Scoop On Poop - What Your Cat’s Stool Is Telling You - Cat World. (2017). Available at: https://www.cat-world.com.au/the-scoop-on-poop.html. (Accessed: 5th December 2018)
5. Heather, M. Inside Scoop on Cat Poop. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/blog/2016/june/27/inside-scoop-on-cat-poop/. (Accessed: 5th December 2018)
6. Handwerk, B. House Cat Origin Traced to Middle Eastern Wildcat Ancestor. National Geographic (2007).
7. Deng, P. & Swanson, K. S. Gut microbiota of humans, dogs and cats: current knowledge and future opportunities and challenges. Br. J. Nutr. 113 Suppl, S6–17 (2015).
8. Why do My Cat’s Stools Smell so Bad? Pet Health Network Available
9. Rage Disorder Linked with Parasite Found in Cat Feces. Scientific American
10. Solmi, F., Hayes, J. F., Lewis, G. & Kirkbride, J. B. Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort. Psychol. Med. 47, 1659–1667 (2017).