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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When Constipation Looks Like a Cat Behaviour Problem: A Senior Cat in Trouble

My friend Ben is a very handsome, black-furred senior - all of 14 years old. He's famous for being  the Delta Society's first certified therapy cat in Canada. Cats-in-the-know enjoyed the chapter about him called "Take One Cat, as Needed, for Pain" in the book More Great Cat Stories: Incredible Tales About Exceptional Cats. Now retired, he has settled down to a life a relative ease.

Purrhaps this has contributed to his most recent problem: constipation.

Constipation can rear its ugly head, especially if we become less active. And it MAY look like a behavioural problem.

From time to time I get an inquiry that goes like this: "Help! It hurts me to poop in the litter box. I strain and strain and so little comes out that it doesn't seem worth the trouble. I've tried pooping elsewhere but that doesn't help either. Still I'm leery of going back to the box. What's happening, Greyce?" When I ask for a description of said poop,  I get the final confession: small, round balls, usually very hard even when fresh.

It's NOT behavioural I want to yowl. It's constipation! You need to produce small-cigar-shaped stools that are easy to evacuate. And your purrsons should be enough in-the-know that they help make this possible.

Where are Themselves when you need them? Do they need glasses to see that you are in trouble?

Fellow felines, if you have the misfortune of living in a thick-headed household where your purrsons are blind as a bat when it comes to your poop-related needs, here are the steps you MUST take:

1. Keep depositing stool outside the box to alert your beloved (though misguided) purrson to the problem. In some cases, they still won't get it. So go to Step 2.

2. You may get to the point where nothing comes out. A few days later you will feel so stuffed that you will no longer want to eat. If your purrson has enough smarts, he or she will call the vet and at that point, help will be on the way.

But friends, why bother with an unnecessary trip to the vet? Take the following precautions and you can poop with pleasure.

A. Change Your Eating Habits

Increase the amount of wet food you eat, if you can. Wet food has a very large proportion of water - which is why many people don't like to feed it to us. Truth be told, they are cheap (the people, not the food). They figure that dry cat food is a better deal - economically. What they don't figure, is that dry food IS dry and that means that unless we are drinking a wine-glass of water with each meal, we are going to dehydrate.

It's one of those cases where what seems like good economic sense may be a poor health choice. And anyone who has seen the price of an x-ray and an enema at the vet will know that in the long-run, such a food choice isn't even economic.

Now am I against dry food? Absolutely NOT! I like a crunch of kibble too. But I also have a small can of wet food a day.

Not all of us like wet food. But if you are willing to try it, start with very small portions - purrhaps mixed in with your crunchies and slowly work up to a full serving. 

My wet food is specially prepared to help me poop because Herself added fibre in the form of ground psyllium (which she gets at the health food store). She started by adding 1/8 of a teaspoon to a can of food and slowly worked the amount up to 1/2 of a teaspoon per can. (She increased the amount by an extra 1/8 teaspoon every 3 or 4 days until she reached than 1/2 teaspoon, to give my system time to adapt.) While this is only one of several ways to add fibre, it works for me.

She simply empties the contents of the can into a small, glass preserving jar (kept specially for my food), then mixes in the psyllium really well and - get this, it IS important - adds water. You see psyllium absorbs water so you need to add more in order to balance that off. The resultant mixture is usually the texture of thick pudding - easy for me to lick up and most delicious. And the benefit? World-class stools!

If your folks are too stressed or forgetful to even do this for you, have them slowly switch you over to a food to which additional fibre has been added. 

Don't like wet food? Then try dry, fibre-added food.

B. Start To Drink More . . . Water

Don't forget to increase the amount of water you drink. Now I get a lot of mine from my wet food - along with sips at my favourite bowls which are spread throughout the house and my cat-fence enclosed backyard.

If you like moving water,  consider a cat water fountain. Check our your local pet supply store such as a Drinkwell Fountain or a Catit Fountain.

And if you prefurr it to be cold, insist that an ice cube or two be added to your water dish.

Having problems seeing the water in that dish? Then request one of heavy, coloured glass rather than a clear one. Somehow it just makes the water easier to see.

C. Workout Regularly

Meow your purrson off the couch, bring over your fishing-pole toy and insist on a regular workout. We all need to keep our metabolism revved up and this is a great way to do it. Just like for humans, regular workouts help keep us regular in other ways. And just like humans, we do better at this with a purrsonal trainer. Throwing us a toy mouse and telling us to keep ourselves occupied just won't do the trick.

As for what happened to Ben he was able to clear out the backlog(s) in his system and is now capable of producing world-class stools!

He acquired a taste for wet food that already had added fibre in it. Never having been one to enjoy it before, he now licks his lips in anticipation of a pudding-like meal.

He helps himself regularly to the water bowl and particularly enjoys it when there are several bowls of fresh water throughout the house - because you never know when you might get thirsty.

He's still working on his purrson to assist with his workout, but that's another story.

All I can say is: Four paws up for regularity!

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