Why Does My Cat Have Diarrhea? Cat Diarrhea Causes & Treatment

cat looking at camera

Any time your cat isn’t feeling well, it’s natural to want to know why and what you can do to make her feel better. 

If your cat has diarrhea, you may be concerned. There are many potential causes of diarrhea, ranging from the simple to the complex. Your veterinarian can help you determine the cause of your cat’s diarrhea and recommend an appropriate treatment to help your cat feel better. 

What Causes Cat Diarrhea?

Diarrhea itself is not a disease or illness. It’s simply a description for more frequent bowel movements that are unusually soft or fluid. It is, however, a sign that something isn’t right. 

The cause of your cat's diarrhea dilemma can be simple, or more complicated. It could be a reaction to something your cat has eaten. 

Trying a new food or eating people food can cause diarrhea. Ingesting rodents, birds, foreign objects or toxic substances can also give cats diarrhea. 

Cats have sensitive stomachs. They may become ill or stop eating if their food changes abruptly. This can happen when a new food alters the intestinal environment, which may lead to diarrhea, vomiting and a refusal to eat.  

This is why Purina Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Kurt Venator, recommends it’s best to gradually wean your cat off the current food and onto the new one.  

"I recommend transitioning your cat's food over a seven- to ten-day period, gradually increasing the amount of her new food and reducing the amount of her old food each day."

Other potential cat diarrhea causes include: 

  • Environmental changes or stress
  • Antibiotics or other medications
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer

When Should You Call Your Veterinarian for Cat Diarrhea?

If you changed your cat’s diet in any way and she’s experiencing diarrhea, consider extending the transition to the new food over several more days. 

Monitor your cat for changes in behavior and demeanor. If there are other symptoms or your cat’s diarrhea does not resolve, there may be other issues your veterinarian will want to examine. 

If there have been no dietary changes, again, monitor your cat’s behavior and demeanor. If she’s lethargic, not eating well, not drinking well, has vomiting or any other unusual symptoms, call your veterinarian. 

Even with no other symptoms, if the diarrhea lasts several days, check with your veterinarian. In addition to tracking your cat’s symptoms for her appointment, also note the frequency of her bowel movements and appearance. 

How to Stop Diarrhea in Cats

Cat diarrhea treatment depends on the cause. For a bacterial infection, for example, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics. If parasites are to blame, they’ll prescribe a medication to eliminate the parasite. 

In some cases, such as with IBD, they may recommend a therapeutic diet to address your cat’s digestive upset. Following the advice and recommendations of your veterinarian is the quickest way to help your cat feel better. 

What Should You Give a Cat with Diarrhea?

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, and many cats struggle to drink enough water as it is, so ensure fresh water is readily available. Try a wide and shallow water bowl or even a cat water fountain to help prevent dehydration.

Don’t try any new foods, treats, medications or supplements without your veterinarian’s recommendation. Anything new or out of the ordinary could worsen your cat’s symptoms. 

What is the Best Cat Food for Diarrhea?

For ongoing struggles with digestive upset and diarrhea, many veterinarians recommend therapeutic diets. The best cat food for diarrhea is a food that’s gentle on the digestive system and promotes overall digestive and immune health.  

Are there Safe Probiotics for Cats with Diarrhea?

There are numerous safe probiotics for cats with diarrhea. Your veterinarian may recommend a cat food with probiotics as one of the ingredients. They may also recommend a probiotic supplement like Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora

Addressing Diarrhea in Cats

If your cat has diarrhea, the best course of action is to monitor her for other symptoms and call your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can diagnose the source of the problem and recommend an appropriate treatment to help your cat feel better. 

For more tips on cat health and behavior from our experts at Purina, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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