An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Pile of Poop - Part 9 of Litterbox Blues

Dear Greyce, I am an eight-year-old, very shy, longhair and for the last few months, I've had diarrhea. I poop just after I eat. My goldy-brown waste is liquid and very smelly - so smelly, in fact, that my purrson has put a room deodorizer in the room that houses my litterboxes. And sometimes I have gas when I poop.

I went to the vet (and I really don't like going there) who recommended I try some food for sensitive cats, sprinkled with Fortiflora. But that change in diet has made little difference.  

My male companion, Toby, and I share two big, open litterboxes located in the spare bedroom. While I poop in the litterboxes most of the time, every so often I also go outside the box - on the floor, the stairs, just elsewhere. To entice me back to using the box exclusively, my purrson has tried many different kinds of litter.

We don't know what to try next, Greyce. What do you suggest? Willow

Dear Willow, How awful for you to have 'the trots' - no matter what the cause. I had them once and it was all I could do to make it to the box in time, a situation with which you are probably more than familiar.

Well my dear, I have some good news and some bad news. First the good news. You do not have a behaviour problem because your behaviour is purrfectly natural under the circumstances. Therefore I am not going to recommend a behaviourally-based solution (like changing your litter, yet again; or getting a new box) because it won't make any difference.

(Readers please note: I usually don't get into medical issues at all, but I've received so very many inquiries about pooping outside the litterbox and several inquiries from cats with 'the trots'. Please view the sections which follow as general information only. In your own case, if you have a medical issue, you really need to consult with your vet.)

Now for what you might view as bad news: You (or possibly only your stools) need to see your vet. Something is playing havoc with your system and you need to find out what that is. Why? you might ask. So let me tell you.

Cats with chronic diarrhea may start pooping elsewhere than their litterboxes. One reason could be that you have 'leaky' stool so even after you use the box, some residual comes out after you leave (and wherever you are at that moment). Another reason could be that your anal area may be inflamed from pooping so many times; that would make it painful to poop out and if you associate that pain with the litterbox, it would only be natural to try and find another, hopefully pain-free, location. And yet another reason could be that your are stressed; and a cat who is stressed (even by illness or a condition like diarrhea) may, from time to time, stop using the litterbox.

And yes there can be behavioural reasons for pooping outside the box; but in your case I don't think so because most cats with behavioural pooping problems tend to have healthy stools. A healthy stool looks like a small, dark brown cigar. It may be smelly when it first comes out, but once you cover it, most of the smell soon goes away. And when you are in fine shape, you likely only poop once a day or so. Since your waste is far from this, you need to find out what is causing your runny stool and gas.

So far you have tried a sensitivity diet sprinkled with FortiFlora (which, for readers who want to know, is a probiotic/nutritional supplement available through veterinarians and used to help cats with gastrointestinal upsets). A common rule when prescribed a sensitivity diet is to try the new food for a month. If there is little or no change in your condition at that point, it means the food is not working for you. Then you either need to change the diet again (and sometimes you need to try more than one) or review your case to determine if there is another cause for your problem. And that's why you need to see your vet - because what you have tried is just not working!

Before you get upset at the possibility of another dreaded visit, let me explain a whole bunch about what might be going on and what your options are.

There are three possibilities of which I'm aware (and keep in mind I'm not a vet):

1.You could have a parasite or bacterial infection. Until recently, trying to figure out the cause of diarrhea was a real 'pain in the butt' because diarrhea is a symptom of many disorders; so getting to the root cause used to require multiple tests, not all of which are reliable. But there is cause for rejoicing. Earlier this year, IDEXX Laboratories announced a new test: IDEXX Real PCR Feline Diarrhea Panel (clicking on this link will get you to their press releases; scroll down to Press Release Archives; then select 2009 and scroll down that list to January 16th; of the releases from that date, click on the one about the canine and feline diarrhea panel). This link will provide you with lots of information. But basically the test is a breakthrough because a) you need only to give one sample; b) it can detect all of the common organisms that cause diarrhea; c) it is very accurate, very sensitive and capable of producing results fast (about three days). Some of my friends have had this test and it is very easy. If your vet agrees, you get your purrson to collect your sample (soon after you've made it in the litterbox or on the floor) and take it to the clinic. Your vet would provide the instructions for how to handle the sample properly.

2) You could have a food allergy or intolerance (sensitivity). If that is the case, you are either put on an elimination diet (eliminating the most likely culprits and slowly adding them in again to test reaction ) or on a hypoallergenic diet. Such diets are usually available only from your veterinarian (because they are like a prescription). Examples include Hill's Prescription z/d and Royal Canin Hyoallergenic. There are also special sensitivity diets (using duck, rabbit, venison and the like) and these are used more for felines with skin reactions to food. 

When you are given a special diet, the food must be changed slowly because we cats are sensitive to food changes - only eating what we trust. Some of us may adore the first serving of a new food, only then to reject it completely out of hand. The slow addition of a greater proportion of the new food to your daily diet, over the period of a week or two is called grading in. Your vet can provide your purrson more exact instructions.

Sometimes, some cats will require very special homemade diets. But let's not jump the gun here. If that ever came to pass, your vet would be your prime source of guidance and information.

Now if your vet has recently examined you and you've already been on one special diet, he or she may be comfortable with suggesting an alternate diet to try without you having to go to the clinic yourself. You could just send your purrson. Again this is up to your vet to decide.

3. You could have an illness of which diarrhea is a symptom and this really runs the gamut: liver disease, hyperthyroidism, feline heartworm disease, the list goes on and on. Depending on which is most likely, your vet would recommend one or more of a geriatric blood panel, an ultrasound or a biopsy. In this case, you'd have to show up to the clinic in the flesh, no matter how shy you are.

So now you know at least three POSSIBLE kinds of reasons for going back to see your veterinarian. And I do stress the word, possible, because I am NOT a veterinarian and I am in no position to make a diagnosis. I'm simply providing this to you as information so you understand why it is important to see your vet and have some idea of what you might expect.

So please have your purrson discuss this with your veterinarian and take it from there.

Once your medical problem has been solved and your system is back to normal, if you still have problems using your litterbox, contact me again and I will so what I can to help. I do hope your runny, smelly stools will soon be a thing of the past!

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