The Scoop About Cat Poop

cat-litter-box

Sometimes a headline just writes itself… but seriously, your cat’s feces can tell you a lot about her health. And while it may not be the world’s most pleasant topic to discuss, it is a part of sharing your life with cats. It’s important to know what normal stools look and smell like, and what any deviations from normal might mean.

Healthy bowel habits

Even though bowel habits may vary slightly, a healthy cat will generally defecate once a day. Normal stool will be well formed and easy to scoop. The size will depend on the cat’s diet. Cats who eat a grain-free diet will have a lower volume of stools and stools will generally be less smelly than cats who are fed a diet with lots of fillers. The reason for this difference is that nutrients in better quality diets are better absorbed by the body. Healthy stools are usually dark brown in color, although there will also be some variation depending on the type of diet fed.

It is interesting to note that cats who are fed a raw diet will have very small and hard stools that have virtually no odor – a testament to how well the nutrient content of these diets is absorbed. Raw fed cats may only eliminate stool every other day. Very dry, hard stools in cats who are not eating raw food may be an indicator of constipation.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea occurs when indigestible portions of food pass through the intestines too fast, or when excess fluid is added to the stool by the large intestines. It can be the result of a dietary indiscretion, a change in diet, parasites, viruses, exposure to toxins, ingestion of a foreign body, or systemic illness such as kidney or liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal cancers.

It is sadly very common in cats, and comes in various degrees. Stool may be formed, but soft, or it may be shaped like a cow patty. Diarrhea may also be completely liquid and mixed with mucous. If a cat has one or two soft stools, but is otherwise alert and eating and drinking normally, diarrhea of 24-48 hours is most likely not going to be a problem. However, if your cat is lethargic, refuses to eat, and has multiple episodes of diarrhea a day, or if vomiting occurs at the same time, dehydration is a concern, and your cat will need veterinary attention.

Constipation

Constipation occurs when feces are retained in the colon. Feces become hard and firm, and the longer they stay in the colon, the more water is resorbed out of the colon. Constipated cats may strain while using the litter box, and any stools they produce may be very small, hard and dry. (As mentioned above, small dry stools that are produced without straining are normal for raw fed cats.) Constipation can be life-threatening if not treated.

Defecating outside the litter box

Diarrhea and constipation may both cause cats to defecate outside the litter box, but some healthy cats regularly pass stool outside the box. The first step is to take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out medical issues. If the problem is behavioral, some detective work will be necessary so you can take the necessary steps to correct and prevent the behavior.

Grossly abnormal stools

If your cat’s stool is black, pale white, grey, or green, your cat may require immediate veterinary care. Black stool usually indicates internal bleeding. Pale, white, grey or green stools may be indicators of liver disease or intestinal bacterial infections.

152 Comments on The Scoop About Cat Poop

  1. Ariana
    May 14, 2019 at 1:08 am (3 months ago)

    I have two cats that share one large litter box. I’ve never really paid much attention to how much they poop before until I’ve had to clean it myself more often (the husband took over while I was pregnant).
    I changed the box Thursday night and by today ( may 13th) I was able to fill a whole grocery bag with both pee clumps and poop clumps.
    There were A LOT of poop clumps. We feed them the kirkland salmon and sweet potato cat food. I wasn’t sure if that would factor in how much they are pooping? They are both a healthy weight and have a fresh filtered water fountain available to them (which I read also helps keep a healthy digestive tract). And their poops are normal. ITS JUST SO MUCH. Is THAT normal?! Do I have two crazy poop machines or does their food have too much filler?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 14, 2019 at 5:17 am (3 months ago)

      If you’re feeding dry food, it’s common for stools to be rather voluminous, Ariana – especially lower quality dry food. You may want to consider switching to a canned diet, or at least, high protein grain-free dry. Here’s more information on what to feed: https://consciouscat.net/2012/03/22/the-best-food-for-your-cat/

      Reply
  2. Heather
    April 21, 2019 at 9:08 pm (4 months ago)

    Hey, I don’t knoe if this thread is still open or monitored but here goes.
    Came home to some severly runny, liquid poop today, with splatter marks. There was also softer more curd-like stools on the edge of the litter box and one softly formed one outside the littler box.
    I have two cats and I found which one it was. It was my 18 year old boy. He has had no health issues in the past. He used to be an outdoors cat but I have kept him as an indoor cat for the past three years.
    I don’t want to immediately take him to the vet as their normal response to a cat of his age is just to ‘put him down, he’s too old’. (I had this exact reaponse when I took him to the vets about a respiratory issue he was having. Either pay £1000 in vet bills for just the tests, no treatments, or putting to sleep was the only other option.) Has anyone experienced anything similar with a cat of his age?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 22, 2019 at 5:12 am (4 months ago)

      The concern with a cat with diarrhea, especially a senior kitty like yours, is dehydration, especially if it occurs over several days, and especially if he’s not eating and drinking normally. And FWIW, if your vet’s normal response to a cat his age is “put him down,” you need to find a new vet!

      Reply
    • Kat
      June 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm (2 months ago)

      How is your cat? I also have an 18-year-old male cat who consistently has black tar colored poo. For two weeks, he seemed constipated and vomited when trying, but vet said he didn’t have stool build-up. Vet set him for ultrasound at emergency vet tomorrow as black tar poo means blood from mouth, esophagus, or stomach. My cat did finally get 4 giant rock hard clogging poos out this weekend along with liquid black poo, but had a normal sized and nearly normal colored poo this a.m. Vet was wrong about clog plus he obviously has a lot of back up in there. He’s still a baby to us, so no vet better suggest otherwise! Don’t know if ultrasound will tell what’s going on in there, but it’s only $, and he’s family. We lost our 20-yr-old this spring and our just-shy-of-20 black Felix the Cat 3 years ago, and I’ve wished I’d gotten 2nd or even 3rd opinions for them.

      Reply
      • Heather
        June 30, 2019 at 6:25 pm (2 months ago)

        My boy is better thank you, he must’ve just had a tummy upset and it seemed to clear up on its own!
        It’s still a good idea to continue with the ultrasound. Your baby does sound like he was very backed up! I’d just keep an eye on his poops and see if they ‘normalise’.
        I had another cat with almost anxiety when pooping. She would always hang her bum outside the box and if she was disturbed with a noise, even from another room, or just couldnt go for whatever reason, she would run away and vomit; then panic poop later. I had to leave her in the room alone and in silence to do her business!
        I’m sorry to read about your other babies 🙁 very good ages though! Xx

        Reply

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