Checking out your kitty’s litter tray might not be the most glamorous task, but it’s a quick and easy way to keep an eye on their digestive health. Changes in frequency, consistency, color and odor can indicate a problem, and act as a surprisingly effective health indicator.
One common problem you might see is blood in the stool. Although this might seem worrying, the symptom can be triggered by a variety of health conditions, many of which are easily treatable.
To help you work out why there might be blood in your cat’s stool, and what you should do about it, read on. Below, we run through some regular causes of bloody stool, different variations of the symptom, and what owners should do about it.
Different Types of Bloody Stool
Depending on the health conditions at play, bloody stool can actually take a variety of forms. The nature of your cat’s stool can be a key diagnostic tool for veterinary professionals, so be sure to take note of the color, consistency, and order when you see blood.
Here are a few types of bloody stool you might encounter:
- Normal stool with red blood on the outside
- Soft stool mixed with red blood
- Soft or normal stool with dark or black blood
Generally speaking, dark or black blood indicates a more severe condition, whereas a little red blood on an otherwise regular piece of feces is often no cause for concern.
Working out which of these three categories your cat’s stool falls into will help your vet work out what is happening in your pet’s digestive tract.
Other Signs your Cat has Digestive Issues
Seeing a little blood on a well-formed stool is usually nothing to worry about. Like humans, cats can suffer occasional bouts of digestive irritation and recover without on their own.
If the blood is accompanied by other symptoms, though, this could be a sign that your cat is suffering from a digestive problem that requires some medical attention. If you spot some blood in your cat’s stool, look out for the following accompanying symptoms:
- Changes in appetite
Loss of appetite is one of the most common signs that your cat is having some digestive difficulties. Refusing to eat is a broad symptom of cats, which can be triggered by a variety of different health conditions.
- Weight loss
Cats lose weight for a number of reasons, some of which are associated with digestive difficulties. If your cat loses weight over a short period of time, this is a strong indication that something isn’t right, and you should visit your vet as soon as possible.
If your cat’s energy levels are lower than usual, they are likely unwell. Bear in mind that most cats will have different activity levels throughout their life, and be less active as they get older. If you notice a dramatic change in your cat’s energy levels in a short space of time, seeking help is advised, as this is a good indicator that something is wrong.
As every owner knows, cats will vomit from time to time. This is usually nothing to worry about, but if it begins to happen regularly, it’s a strong sign that your cat is unwell. If your cat starts to vomit, keep track of when this happens. If they throw up directly after eating, for instance, this could be a sign that they suffer from a food allergy or intolerance.
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Different cats express pain in different ways. Many hide themselves away, and yowl, while others become aggressive. Whatever your cat’s symptoms, get to know them. Pain is another sign that something is wrong in your cat’s digestive tract.
- Irritated skin
Itchy or red skin and hair loss suggest that your cat is suffering from a food intolerance of one kind or another – especially when accompanied by digestive symptoms.
Common Reasons for Bloody Stool in Cats
Blood in your cat’s stool can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common:
- Food intolerances
Food intolerances might seem like a peculiarly human concern, but they can also affect our feline friends. Common intolerances include specific proteins, like beef, fish, or chicken, dairy, grains, or soy. These intolerances can irritate the lining of your cat’s digestive tract, causing minor bleeding.
If your cat has ingested something they shouldn’t have, this can also cause bloody stool. This is more likely to be a problem for outdoor cats.
Parasites in your cat’s digestive tract can also cause bloody stool. Common parasites include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and certain protozoa. Luckily, parasites are easily treated. Bear in mind that kittens are more vulnerable to parasites. Outdoor cats are also at a greater risk because they are more likely to come into contact with parasite carriers.
- Liver disease
Because your cat’s liver is involved in the digestion process, when it becomes damaged digestion can be affected. The condition has a few different causes, from ingesting something toxic, to infections, to fat accumulation, to tumors. The condition can affect any cat, but is much more common in older animals.
- Kidney disease
Like liver disease, kidney disease is more common in senior cats, and has a few different causes, such as infection, fat accumulation, cysts and tumors. Bloody stool is not an especially common symptom, but it can occur. More obvious symptoms include bad breath, poor coat condition, vomiting, weight loss, and increased urination.
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- Bacterial infection
Bacterial infections of the lower digestive tract can also cause your cat to have blood in their stool, due to irritation in their bowel. Other signs of infection in this area include loss of appetite, pain while passing feces, and loss of appetite. Fortunately, these infections are treatable with a course of antibiotics. Outdoor cats are more likely to come into contact with the bacteria that causes these infections.
- Inflammatory bowel disease
As the name suggests, this condition occurs when your cat’s digestive tract becomes irritated and inflamed. This seems to be an abnormal immune response, triggered by an unknown cause. The condition causes the digestive tract to thicken, reducing its ability to absorb nutrients. Along with bloody stool, symptoms include vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, reduced activity, and decreased appetite. Treatment usually means a change in diet, and routine treatment for intestinal parasites in case they were the trigger. Hypoallergenic diets are often recommended. Inflammatory bowel disease is most common in middle aged cats.
- Trapped foreign object
Despite their intelligence, cats sometimes swallow items that are damaging to their digestive tracts. Sharp or solid objects can cause an obstruction as they work their way through your cat’s digestive system, irritating the intestinal lining, and triggering bloody stool. Other symptoms include pain and loss of appetite. The foreign body will need to be removed, whether surgically or with the help of laxatives. Younger cats and those who like to chew are at the highest risk of ingesting a foreign object. If you think your pet has swallowed something they shouldn’t have, seek veterinary attention immediately. The object could damage their internal organs or be toxic when partially digested.
Much like foreign objects, tumors can obstruct your cat’s digestive tract. How tumors are treated will depend upon their cause, but they will most likely require surgical removal.
- Abnormal blood clotting
In some rare cases, abnormal blood clotting can cause blood to appear in your cat’s stool. With this condition, blood doesn’t clot as it should, so small tears in the intestines can lead to blood appearing in the stool. This condition has a number of different causes, and is usually characterized by nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding from injection sites (during vaccines, etc.) Blood transfusions are the most common course of treatment.
When to See a Vet
If you notice blood in your cat’s stool, there are a few things you can try at home to boost their digestive health:
- Switch to a hypoallergenic diet
- Try a pet probiotic
- Reduce your cat’s stress levels as much as possible
- Help your cat stay active with regular playtime
- Try a cat calming spray or diffuser
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If their bloody stool is accompanied by other symptoms, or shows no sign of improvement after a few days, though, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.
When you take your cat to the vet for bloody stool, they will most likely use the following tests to get to the root cause of the problem:
- Fecal tests, especially for parasites
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound imaging of the digestive tract
- In some cases, exploratory surgery in the abdominal area
The treatment prescribed will depend upon the results of these tests. Fortunately, many feline digestive problems, like parasites and allergies, are very easy to treat.