My Cat's Stool Is Hard. How Can I Help Her?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, helps a cat owner who is concerned about her cat's constipation as she ages.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: August 12, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: In a previous article in CAT FANCY, you discussed cat constipation causes. Although our cat is healthy and normal, some comments you made about hard stool caught my attention.

Our cat is 8 years old, and we’ve had her for six years. She had been raised on dry food only. I have tried to introduce my cat to semi-hard or moist food, but she will have no part of it.

She does have a good a habit of drinking water two or three times each day. We feed dry food, and most mornings she will eat six or seven hairball control treats. She is a shorthaired cat and prone to shedding and so does pick up hairballs from self-grooming in spite of daily brushing. Most times she will throw up the hairballs every two or three days. To help her, every once in a while I give her some kind of hairball gel.

Her stool is always hard. Although she seems to be quite consistent on going to the litterbox every day, I wonder, is there some stool softener that I should feed her to help her on a daily basis? I am worried, as she gets older, will passing hard stool become a problem? Is there some symptom I need to look out for?

A: I admire your interest in being proactive about your cat’s health.  It sounds like you’re taking excellent care of her. As for stool softeners, I’m not convinced that your cat really needs them at the moment. Having firm or hard stool is not necessarily a predictor of future problems. If you see your cat straining to defecate, or if the frequency of defecation decreases, perhaps then would I consider a stool softener.  

The first thing I would try is cat hairball ointments. Given two or three times a week, they help prevent cat hairballs. Given every day, they will usually work as a laxative. If your cat does not like the taste of these cat hairball remedies (some cats love them, some cats despise them), try Miralax, a stool softener available at most pharmacies. Mixing a small amount (start with 1/8 teaspoon) into every meal may soften the stool a bit. Gradually increase the amount as needed, until the stool reaches the preferred consistency.
More potent cat stool softeners, such as lactulose, should be reserved for cats with true constipation problems. If you’re concerned about the consistency of the stool, the first thing you might want to do is simply change your cat’s diet. Try a different brand of canned cat food.  You may find that a different food produces a stool with a less firm consistency.  
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Reader Comments

amy    munford, TN

1/10/2015 10:31:17 PM

Miralax is not a stool softener, it is a LAXATIVE!

karen    onondaga, MI

11/15/2014 2:02:08 PM

My cat is about 19 years old. He has been having problems pooping. He seems to strain. Csn i give him small amounts of a human stool softener.

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

4/5/2013 9:37:21 AM

Christy -- Tell your vet what is going on. He or she might need to run tests to determine the exact cause of this problem and the proper treatment.

In the meantime, you can mix a little canned pumpkin in with your cat's wet food. This helps with constipation issues.

Christy    Searchlight, NV

4/3/2013 10:55:33 AM

My cat has been pooping all over the house. She runs through the house several times and then starts squatting and poops. Her stool is real hard and quite large. I have taken her to the vet and they gave her an enima but 2 days later she was doing the exact same thing. What do I do?

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