The Scoop on Cat Poop


In this Article

  • Cat Poop: What’s Normal?
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

You can learn a lot about your cat’s health from their poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, watch for a few key signs when you scoop out the litter box.

Cat Poop: What’s Normal?

Most cats will poop at least once a day. If they’re healthy, their poop should:

  • Be deep brown in color
  • Feel not too hard or too soft or mushy
  • Not smell too foul, though some odor is normal


Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might have it. Sometimes, it comes and goes quickly. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or come back on a regular basis.

Diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem unless you have an older cat or a kitten. But if it lasts longer, your cat can get dehydrated, which can be dangerous.

Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:

  • Changes to their diet or food allergies or intolerances
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Worms (intestinal parasites)
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.

The treatment your cat will need depends on what’s causing their diarrhea. Some will need prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisolone, to control inflammation. Your vet may recommend a special diet if they think a food allergy or intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or colitis is the problem. For some cats, deworming medication or probiotics may also be needed. 

To prevent diarrhea, don’t give your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt — many cats can’t digest them properly. Also, if you switch the brand or type of food you give them, be sure to introduce it over several days by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until they are eating only the new stuff.


When a cat is constipated, they’ll strain a lot when they try to poop or won’t be able to produce anything for the litter box. You don’t need to worry if it only happens sometimes. But if it’s more common for your pet, you should contact your vet.

Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:

  • Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
  • Kidney problems
  • Feline megacolon — when the colon gets very large and its muscles no longer squeeze, making hard, dry stool build up inside
  • Something blocking their colon, such as string or bones
  • Diets that don’t have enough fiber
  • Problems inside the colon, such as tumors or narrow places
  • Spine problems or pain

To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give them more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to their regular food. Or they might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest. HAirball medications might also help.

It also helps to make sure they gets more exercise and drinks more water so that waste will move through their system more readily.

You should talk to your vet about any poop problems your cat has, but this chart may help you figure out what may be causing them:


Symptom Appearance Frequency Possible causes
Constipation Small, hard, dry poop Less than once a day Dehydration, megacolon, dietary issues
Constipation Small, hard, dry poop that has a lot of hair Less than once a day Hairballs, over-grooming
Constipation Thin, ribbon-like poop Less than once a day Colon problems, like a tumor
Diarrhea Black, tarry, runny poop It varies Stomach or intestinal bleeding. Call the vet right away
Diarrhea Smelly, pudding-like poop 2-3 times daily Food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease
Diarrhea Gooey poop filled with mucus It varies Too little fiber; colitis
Diarrhea Can vary, sometimes soft, frothy, greasy poop with mucus and/or blood It varies Parasites


Show Sources


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): “Diarrhea,” “Constipation.”

Veterinary Information Network: “Constipation and Megacolon,” “Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” “Tapeworms,” “Irritable bowel syndrome.”

American Animal Hospital Association: “Intestinal parasites.”

Merck Veterinary Manual: “Constipation and Obstipation.”

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