Common Cat Digestive Diseases

The cat digestive system performs four functions: digestion, absorption of nutrients, movement of food through the digestive tract and finally, elimination of waste. A digestive disease can affect any of these processes.

Signs of a digestive system disease or disorder include:

  • Cat vomiting or regurgitation
  • Feline diarrhea or constipation
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Dehydration

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition in which the body's own protective cells attack and inflame the intestinal wall. The cause is unknown but food allergens are a likely source. Switch to a hypoallergenic food, eliminating corn, soy and wheat from your cat's diet.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is often stress related. Provide a safe and supportive environment for your pet, and be sure he gets adequate exercise.


Whipworms and hookworms can irritate the intestine and cause diarrhea and digestive upset. Thoroughly test and treat your cat for parasites.

Bacterial Infections

Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella bacteria can cause bacterial infections. Bacterial infections can spread through contaminated food or water; a Salmonella contamination prompted a pet food recall in 2008.


Several feline viruses can cause vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite including feline panleukopenia, coronavirus and feline rotaviruses. Viral infections can be very contagious and require prompt veterinary attention.


Feline diabetes causes increased thirst and urination. Your cat's appetite may increase although he is losing weight. It is not a digestive disorder although food metabolism plays a role in its development and treatment. Your veterinarian will help you manage this condition.

Antibiotic Colitis

Antibiotics can cause a temporary bout of gastric distress in cats. Antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria in the gut as well as the infectious agents they were prescribed to attack. A probiotic supplement or a tablespoon of yogurt added to your cat's daily rations can restore the balance of "good" bacteria.

Hairballs and Dietary Indiscretion

If your cat consumes indigestible material such as grass, bone and hair, he may vomit or become constipated. Material accumulates in the cat's stomach and forms a dense mass. These masses may be regurgitated or cause constipation. A high fiber diet and laxative supplement such as Laxatone® can alleviate the symptoms of hairballs. If your cat preys on rodents and birds, consider adding a breakaway bell collar. These warning collars can reduce the number of animals your cat catches by as much as 50 percent.

The signs of a cat digestive problem should not be ignored, but usually an episode of vomiting or diarrhea is not serious. Monitor your cat's condition for 24 hours and be alert to more serious symptoms such as blood in the stool, obvious pain or severe dehydration. If symptoms do not improve within 24 to 48 hours, contact your veterinarian for further advice.