Pet Health
ultimate guide to cat diarrhoea

The Ultimate Guide to Cat Diarrhoea: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Steph McCulloch


Cat diarrhoea can be distressing for both you and your cat and can result in dehydration, weight loss, and other complications if left untreated.
cat sitting amongst pastel toilet rolls


As a cat owner, it is essential to understand your feline's health and be aware of any clinical signs of illness. One of the most common health problems experienced by cats is diarrhoea, also known as loose stools. Cat diarrhoea can be caused by various factors, including dietary changes, stress, infections, or underlying medical conditions like intestinal disease.

Cat diarrhoea can be distressing for both you and your cat and can result in dehydration, weight loss, and other complications if left untreated. Because of this, it’s crucial to understand the causes, symptoms, and symptomatic treatment for cat diarrhoea to ensure your feline's well-being.

In this article, we explore the definition of cat diarrhoea, the reasons behind its onset, and the importance of taking appropriate measures to manage this health issue, like providing a special diet or ensuring access to fresh water.

What is cat diarrhoea?

cat stood in hooded litter box

Cat diarrhoea is a condition in which a feline passes loose or watery stools frequently, often leading to discomfort and frequent trips to the litter tray. It can be a symptom of various underlying health problems, including dietary allergies, food intolerances, stress, infections, or more severe medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. The stool's appearance and frequency may vary depending on the cause of the diarrhoea and can range from mild diarrhoea to severe diarrhoea.

There are two main types of cat diarrhoea: acute and chronic. Acute diarrhoea lasts for a short duration, typically less than a couple of days, and can be caused by factors such as dietary indiscretion, ingestion of poisonous plants or foreign bodies, or viral infections like feline parvovirus. On the other hand, chronic diarrhoea lasts for more than three weeks and can be a sign of more severe health problems such as inflammatory bowel disease or metabolic diseases.

Some cats may experience intermittent or recurring episodes of diarrhoea, which can indicate an ongoing health issue that requires further investigation. The frequency of cat diarrhoea varies depending on various factors such as:

  • Your cat's age

  • Their diet

  • Their health status 

However, it is essential to address any diarrhoea symptoms promptly to prevent potential complications and improve the cat's quality of life. If you’re a Waggel member, you can speak to a registered vet anytime with Joii. Joii is an online vet care provider completely free of charge to all Waggel members.

Symptoms of cat diarrhoea

cat stood on toilet

Cat diarrhoea can manifest itself in various physical symptoms that can be distressing for your cat. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Loose or watery stools

  • Increased frequency of defecation

  • Straining during bowel movements

  • An urgency to poop

In severe cases, blood or mucus may be present in the stool, and your cat may experience vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and other complications. Therefore, it’s super important to keep a close eye on your cat's bowel movements and contact your vet if you notice any changes in their poop or behaviour. 

In addition to physical symptoms, cat diarrhoea can also cause behavioural changes in cats. The discomfort caused by diarrhoea can make cats feel irritable, lethargic, and uninterested in activities that they usually enjoy. They may also experience a decreased appetite and avoid eating or drinking, which can further the dehydration caused by diarrhoea. 

Cats often show signs of anxiety and stress due to the discomfort and frequent need to defecate. Additionally, if their litter box is associated with pain or discomfort, they may start avoiding it and poop outside of the box instead. As always, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms and prevent further health issues.

Causes of cat diarrhoea

cat playing with toilet roll

Various factors, including dietary, medical, and environmental causes can cause cat diarrhoea.

Dietary causes 

Dietary causes of cat diarrhoea can result from changes in a cat’s diet or the consumption of spoiled or contaminated food. Cats may also have food allergies or intolerances to specific ingredients in their food, such as lactose or gluten, which can also lead to bouts of diarrhoea.

Medical causes

Medical causes of cat diarrhoea can include:

  • Intestinal parasites

  • Viral infections

  • Bacterial infections

  • Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Cancer

Certain medications, such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also cause diarrhoea in cats.

Environmental causes

Environmental causes of cat diarrhoea include stress, anxiety, and changes in routine or environment (such as moving house). These factors can lead to behavioural changes and trigger diarrhoea in cats. Exposure to toxins such as household cleaners can also cause diarrhoea so it’s important to keep them out of reach at all times.

It is crucial to identify the underlying cause of cat diarrhoea to ensure proper treatment and management. If your cat experiences persistent diarrhoea or shows other symptoms, it is essential to seek veterinary advice promptly to prevent potential complications and improve their overall health. For a free and quick consultation, why not try Joii?

Diagnosis of cat diarrhoea

cat with toilet roll on head

Diagnosing the underlying cause of diarrhoea in cats requires a thorough physical examination, medical history review, and diagnostic tests.

During the physical examination, your veterinarian will check for signs of dehydration, abdominal pain, and other symptoms associated with diarrhoea. They will also review the cat's medical history, including any recent dietary or environmental changes.

Diagnostic tests for cat diarrhoea often include faecal examinations, blood tests, and imaging studies. A faecal examination involves analysing a sample of a cat's stool for parasites, bacteria, or other pathogens that may be causing diarrhoea. Blood tests can help identify underlying medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease. X-rays or ultrasounds can detect structural abnormalities or tumours that may be contributing to diarrhoea.

In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests, such as a biopsy or endoscopy to examine the intestinal lining or collect tissue samples for analysis.

During this time, it is crucial to work closely with your vet to determine the underlying cause of your cat’s diarrhoea and to develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Treatment of cat diarrhoea

tiny kitten sitting by litter box

Treating cat diarrhoea depends on the underlying causes and severity of the condition. Treatment may involve a combination of home remedies, medications, and dietary changes.

Home remedies

Home remedies for mild cases of cat diarrhoea often include increasing your cat's water intake to prevent dehydration and feeding a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice to help settle the stomach. Probiotics and digestive enzymes may also help improve gut health and promote regular bowel movements. Your vet may also recommend a period of fasting.


Medications such as antibiotics, antiparasitics, or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to treat underlying infections or inflammation. In severe cases, hospitalisation may be required to provide intravenous fluids, electrolytes, and nutrition support to manage dehydration and malnourishment.

Dietary changes

Dietary changes can also be a crucial component of treating cat diarrhoea. Switching to a highly digestible, hypoallergenic, or prescription diet can help manage food allergies or intolerances that may be causing diarrhoea. A high-fibre diet may also help regulate bowel movements and improve gut health.

When it comes to cat diarrhoea, it’s not recommended to administer over-the-counter medications without consulting with a veterinarian as these can be toxic to cats.

It’s essential to monitor your cat's stool and overall health during and after treatment. If the diarrhoea persists or worsens, seek veterinary advice promptly to prevent potential complications.

Prevention of cat diarrhoea

Maintaining good hygiene practices is essential in preventing the spread of infectious diseases that may cause diarrhoea in cats. It is, therefore, crucial to keep your cat's litter box clean, wash your hands thoroughly after handling the litter box, and keep food and water bowls clean to prevent the spread of bacteria or parasites. Regular bathing and grooming can also help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria on your cat's skin and fur.

Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify underlying health conditions that can lead to diarrhoea. It’s recommended to take your cat for a wellness exam every year whereby you can discuss any changes in their behaviour or diet with your veterinarian. Vaccinations against common viral and bacterial infections, such as feline distemper and viral respiratory infections, can also help prevent diarrhoea caused by these pathogens.

Maintaining a healthy diet and managing stress can also help prevent cat diarrhoea. Feeding a balanced diet and avoiding sudden dietary changes can help prevent dietary-related diarrhoea. Providing mental stimulation, environmental enrichment, and reducing stressors such as changes in routine or environment can help reduce the risk of stress-related diarrhoea.


Diarrhoea is a very unpleasant condition that can be caused by a wide range of triggers. Though you might think it’ll pass, prolonged cat diarrhoea can lead to serious illnesses. 

If your cat has been suffering from feline diarrhoea for more than 2 days, it’s best to seek professional veterinary advice at your earliest convenience. Whether it’s stress, diet, or environment-related, a chat with your vet can help to put your mind at ease and get your cat back on the road to recovery.

Though some home remedies may be effective at relieving symptoms, it’s always best to get an official diagnosis. With a combination of good hygiene practices, regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and stress management you can prevent cat diarrhoea and improve your cat's overall health and well-being!

Taking out a cat insurance policy is also the best way to protect your pet from the unexpected. Interested in finding out more? Check out our cat insurance guide 

If you’re looking for additional blogs on cat health, why not read our article on cat pregnancywhat to do if your cat isn’t eating, and how to treat ringworm?

cat sleeping laying down


Is cat diarrhoea always a cause for concern?

Though most cases of diarrhoea usually resolve in a matter of hours, some cats can develop serious cases of diarrhoea which can lead to dehydration. If you’ve noticed severe symptoms, it’s always best to speak to a vet.

Can cat diarrhoea be transmitted to humans?

Cat diarrhoea can potentially be transmitted to humans, although it is not very common. The most common way humans can contract diarrhoea from cats is through direct contact with contaminated faeces or surfaces. 

This can happen if you come into contact with litter box waste, soil or sand contaminated with cat faeces, or if a cat with diarrhoea accidentally scratches or bites you.

How long does cat diarrhoea usually last?

Cat diarrhoea usually lasts a few hours but it isn’t uncommon for it to last 1 to 2 days. Anything longer than this is viewed as cause for concern and can cause dangerous conditions to develop.

Can I give my cat over-the-counter medications for diarrhoea?

Though over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications exist, they shouldn’t be administered to cats without veterinary supervision. 

How can I prevent my cat from getting diarrhoea?

A combination of good hygiene practices, regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and stress management can help prevent cat diarrhoea and improve your cat's overall health and well-being.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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