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Cat owners are no strangers to their feline friend’s bowel movements. Since most cats use litter boxes that are frequently cleaned by their owners, we get a front-row seat to exactly what’s happening with our cat’s gastrointestinal health. While there is a lot of information available on how to interpret the consistency, color, and other variations of feline feces, you may be wondering how often do cats poop? 

Furthermore, how long can a cat go without pooping? In this article we will explore this delightful topic, and you will learn how to interpret your cat’s defecation habits, what is normal, what is not normal, when to see a vet, and how to help your cat if they are either pooping too frequently or not often enough.

How Often Do Cats Poop?

Every cat will be different, but for the most part, healthy cats normally poop once or twice a day. The more important thing is that whatever the normal number is for your cat, “the number of times they poop a day should be consistent,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, veterinarian at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital. 

The size and breed of your cat won’t really play into how often they poop. However, there are other factors that can lead to variation in pooping frequency. The age of your cat, the overall health of your cat, how well hydrated your cat is, your cat’s stress level, litter box hygiene and accessibility, and what you are feeding your cat can all affect the frequency of bowel movements in cats.

How Often Do Kittens Poop?

Kittens may poop a little more frequently than once or twice a day, but they’re also usually eating a little more often than older cats. “As your kitten gets older, they also decrease the frequency that they are pooping,” Dr. Ochoa explains. Kittens may vary the frequency of defecation as they transition from formula/nursing to solid food, and they may poop more often if they have intestinal parasites, such as coccidia or intestinal worms. 

Kittens can easily be constipated due to several causes, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Changes in diet
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Inadequate stimulation (licking/wiping) in very young kittens less than 2-3 weeks of age who are unable to defecate on their own
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Gastrointestinal or neurological birth defects
  • Eating something they shouldn’t

Constipation can be a life-threatening problem in kittens. If your kitten has gone longer than one day without pooping, call your veterinarian for advice. 

How Long Can a Cat Go Without Pooping?

Believe it or not, adult cats can go two days without pooping without any problems. In fact, Dr. Ochoa often sees cats go a day or two without pooping if they aren’t eating regularly, if they were recently stressed or sick, are recovering from diarrhea, or if they were fasted to prepare for surgery. If your cat is eating normally, drinking and urinating normally, and not acting sick in any way but hasn’t pooped in two days, they are probably fine. However, if it has been longer than two days, or if you are noticing any of the following:

  • Straining or trying to poop in the litter box but nothing is coming out
  • More frequent visits to the litter box than normal
  • Vocalization while in litter box (can indicate pain)
  • Feces is hard, dry, or looks like little pebbles
  • Loss of appetite more than one day
  • Loss of energy more than one day
  • Increased irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (which can happen even with constipation)
  • Swollen or red anus
  • Bloody stool
  • Swollen belly

…then it is time to get your veterinarian involved. 

Cat Not Pooping: Common Causes

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Constipation — difficult, incomplete, or infrequent evacuation of dry hardened feces from the bowels — can be caused by several factors. Some common ones include:

Diet. High-fiber diets or abrupt diet changes can cause constipation in some cats, says small animal veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten.

Dehydration. Cats can easily become dehydrated if they aren’t drinking enough water or if they have kidney disease. This in turn can cause them to become constipated.

Blockage. Mischievous cats may eat things that they shouldn’t, like string or their cat toys. “This can cause an obstruction, causing them to not be able to poop,” Dr. Ochoa says. “Consuming bones or hair can also cause constipation,” Dr. Wooten adds. 

Other causes of constipation can include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Dirty litter box causing them to ‘hold it’
  • Stress from a hospital visit
  • Certain medications
  • Neurological conditions like sacral nerve trauma or spinal cord disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hormonal or electrolyte imbalances
  • Narrowed pelvic canal due to incorrectly healed pelvic fracture
  • Tumors of the rectum or colon
  • Rectal diverticulum
  • Anal sac disease
  • Bite wounds or trauma to anus
  • Previous history of constipation, which can predispose cats to repeated incidences of constipation, obstipation, or megacolon.
  • Opioids (pain medication) 

What to Do if Your Cat Isn’t Pooping

Cat resting on couch

If you’ve noticed a change in your cat’s fecal movements, or if they haven’t pooped in several days, there are some things you can do to try to help. 

Sometimes the litter box is the cause of cat constipation. Maybe it isn’t cleaned enough, your cat doesn’t like the location, the type of box or litter, or there are too many cats using the same box. Utilize best litter box practices, including having one more box than the number of cats, locate them in warm, quiet, low traffic areas, and keep litter boxes pristine to encourage your cat to use them regularly. 

You can try giving your cat a laxative. “You can get this at the pet store, and it’s often sold as hairball medications,” Dr. Ochoa says. 

Another option is to give your cat MiraLAX. “MiraLAX works by increasing the water in your cat’s colon, helping the poop become softer,” Dr. Ochoa says. “Adding a small amount [generally ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon] to their food will help them poop more easily.” However, before giving your cat laxatives, it is always a good idea to talk to your vet first. 

Over-the-counter laxatives, such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly, are not recommended to be used in cats. 

If your cat hasn’t pooped for more than two days, it’s best to pay your veterinarian a visit. “Your veterinarian will want to take X-rays to see if they are constipated, and what their intestines look like,” Dr. Ochoa says. “They may also give your cat an enema to help alleviate this constipation, prescribe a prescription strength laxative, and recommend a diet change.”

Products to Help Cat Poop Problems

Remember to always consult with your veterinarian if you’re worried about a change in your cat’s pooping consistency or frequency, as over-the-counter products won’t help when a more serious issue is at play. If you’re interested in trying out some products at home to help your cat poop more regularly, ask your veterinarian about the following items that may help your cat:

  • Increasing/decreasing soluble/insoluble fiber in the diet, which will increase the volume of feces
  • Feeding a low-residue diet, which will decrease the volume of feces
  • Adding canned pumpkin to your cat’s diet: 1-3 teaspoons
  • Supplementing with probiotics, which help to normalize gut flora
  • Supplementing with prebiotics, which feed intestinal cells
  • Products that can increase your cat’s physical activity, such as cat trees and scratching posts