Every cat parent dreads the daily chore of cleaning the litter box. If your cat has a healthy gut, they will produce poop that is brown in color and formed like a log that keeps its shape when it is picked up. Even though poop is inherently gross, it is an important step for pet parents to recognize whether their cat’s poop is healthy in appearance. So, what does it mean if your cat’s poop is black? Read more to know what to watch for.
Black Cat Poop: Color, Consistency, and Other Characteristics
If your cat’s poop looks black, observe the poop to see if the color is uniform and if any red tint exists in any part of the stool. In addition to color, here are other characteristics you should pay attention to:
Consistency. One of the most important pieces of information is the consistency of the poop. The poop could be anywhere from very dry and hard to liquid with no shape whatsoever.
Amount. Pay attention to the amount as well—a couple droplets of runny poop is different than a large pile.
Frequency/Duration. Be sure to keep note of how often this type of stool has occurred, how frequent your cat poops, and for how long you have noticed this type of stool.
Contents. Look for unusual things inside the stool; for example, any parasites, mucus (gel-like material), or foreign bodies like string or pieces of toys.
Noting your cat’s poop’s color, consistency, amount, frequency, duration, and any foreign material are all very specific clues that will help your veterinarian narrow down the search for a cause. For example, specific characteristics such as consistency and frequency can determine if the issue is likely in the small intestine or large intestine. Your veterinarian will recommend different treatments and tests depending on this information.
Why Is My Cat’s Poop Black?
There are multiple reasons a cat’s poop could be black, including:
Old poop. Poop outside of the body that has dried out for a couple days will appear black in color. However, when broken open, the inside may appear browner in coloration since only the exterior of the poop would have dried out. This depends on how old the poop is.
Change in diet. Cats eating a raw diet or experiencing a change in their diet can have color change in their poop due to digestion of different nutrients, byproducts created based on current diet, or artificial colors. The poop could be formed or liquid.
Constipation. Cats who are constipated and have stool inside of their guts for an extended period of time will have very dry hard stool that may look black simply because it is dry.
Bleeding. Bleeding in the small intestines, or upper part of the guts, causes black stool because the body digests the blood leaving byproducts of blood in the poop. To see black stool due to this (it’s called melena) is a result of a significant amount of blood and requires veterinary care right away. Many times, the poop is runny and unformed if bleeding is causing the black coloration.
Examples of reasons for bleeding include:
- Ulcers in the stomach or intestines
- Inability to clot (e.g., exposure to rodenticide, a poison)
- Cancer in the gastrointestinal (GI) system
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Endoparasitism (e.g., hookworms)
Issues with bile excretion. In cats who have a blockage from the gallbladder to the intestines, bile—made of byproducts from blood—may be intermittently excreted into the intestines, creating an excessive amount of black color. Formed stool or runny stool can occur. A few different conditions could cause this, including:
- Pancreatic disease
- Stones in the gallbladder or tract leading out of the gallbladder
- Intestinal disease
What to Do if Your Cat’s Poop Is Black
If your cat has been experiencing any changes in behavior, decrease in activity, or decrease in appetite, all pet parents should be concerned. While the black stool may not be directly linked to the cause, your cat is not feeling well and should have a veterinary appointment right away.
If the stool is black and hard or dry, your cat likely does not need veterinary care immediately. Think back to whether your cat ate new food or treats, as that can affect the color. Keep your cat on their usual diet without any treats or diet changes. If the consistency is unformed or your cat has any behavior changes, call your veterinarian to discuss bland diets and find out if additional treatment is warranted.
If your cat does not consistently poop daily or inside the litter box, they are likely demonstrating to you that something is chronically wrong, and a veterinary appointment is warranted in the near future.
If your cat has liquid or runny diarrhea that is black, even if behavior changes are not occurring, you should call your veterinarian right away. Your cat will become dehydrated very quickly, and it is best to treat this type of diarrhea swiftly. If the stool is black and liquid due to melena, your cat will experience behavior changes and other symptoms shortly after the stool begins.