Impacted Bowel Symptoms in Cats

Impacted bowel in cats occurs when a mass of hardened fecal matter gets stuck in the rectum. Symptoms of fecal impaction are similar to symptoms of constipation. Fecal impaction can be among the causes of chronic constipation.

Impacted Bowel and Feline Constipation

Feline impacted bowel and constipation are not the same thing. Constipation occurs when stool moves too slowly through the intestines. You can treat constipation by making sure your cat is adequately hydrated and gets enough exercise. You can also add some fiber to your cat's diet to treat and prevent constipation.

Feline impacted bowel occurs when hardened fecal matter gets stuck in the rectum. These hardened lumps of stool can be quite large. Fecal impaction is a serious condition that can be deadly if it isn't treated.

Causes of Feline Impacted Bowel

Cats can suffer from bowel impaction if they become chronically constipated. Constipation means that fecal matter moves unusually slowly through the bowels and this can cause your cat to experience difficulty and discomfort when moving his bowels. Symptoms of feline constipation include:

  • Difficulty moving the bowels or inability to move the bowels
  • Loss of appetite and upset stomach
  • Increase of trips to the  litter box, but lack of stool production. A constipated cat may have a small amount of diarrhea and this diarrhea may be bloody
  • Lethargy

If your cat's constipation becomes serious and chronic, it could lead to an impacted bowel. Feline bowel impaction is a serious condition that could lead to death if not appropriately treated. Signs that your cat's constipation is becoming serious include:

  • Failure to groom
  • Lethargy, lack of interest in play and social contact
  • Crouching or hunching behaviors
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea

Consequences of Feline Bowel Impaction

If your cat develops an impacted bowel, the consequences are serious. Feline bowel impaction can lead to a condition known as megacolon, in which the muscles of the colon become stretched and can no longer move properly. Once this happens, constipation and impaction only becomes more severe, as the injured muscles of the colon can no longer move fecal matter properly. This means that fecal matter continues to build up and harden in the intestines, worsening the impaction and stretching the muscles of the colon more and more.

If your cat is suffering from fecal impaction in the bowels, he won't be able to eliminate waste at all, and any waste he does eliminate will be in the form of bloody diarrhea. If your cat can no longer eliminate solid waste properly, toxins will build up in his body, placing undue strain on organs such as the liver and kidneys and leading, eventually, to sepsis and death.

Preventing and Treating Feline Bowel Impaction

You can prevent feline bowel impaction by managing any constipation your cat may suffer. Prevent feline constipation by making sure your cat drinks plenty of water and gets plenty of exercise. If your cat does become constipated, add some fiber to his diet by feeding him a spoon of canned pumpkin each day or adding Metamucil to his food. If your cat will eat a teaspoon of vegetable oil, this can relieve constipation.

If your cat's constipation worsens and you suspect fecal impaction, your vet may be able to remove the impaction with his fingers. If the impaction is severe or particularly high in the colon, surgery may be required.