When you’re cleaning out the litter box and notice a bright red streak of blood in your cat’s stool, or a stool that’s black and “tarry” looking, it’s a shock. Questions pop into your head immediately: “What does this mean? Is my cat sick? Is it serious? Should I take him to the vet?”
Many situations where a cat has blood in his stool can be quickly resolved once the cause is determined, not all situations are life threatening; however, your cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian. The veterinarian can determine the seriousness of the issue and how to best treat your cat.
What Symptoms Should You Look Out For?
Take careful note of the color of the blood in your cat’s stool. If it’s bright red, that means the bleeding is most likely occurring in the rectum or lower intestines. If it looks dark or more like black tar, that means its older blood and comes from bleeding in the upper GI tract. Your vet will want to know this information.
In addition to the blood, you may see any of the following:
- Difficulty or crying while pooping
- Frequent urination or drinking
- Vomiting (if vomiting blood – this is a medical emergency)
- Constipation / straining to defecate
- Anorexia and weight loss
- Anal lumps
- Anus blocked by matted hair and fecal matter
- Bloody diarrhea, or mucus in the diarrhea
- Draining of pus from the anal area
- Hard feces
- Lethargy (combined with blood in the stool/rectal bleeding – this is a medical emergency)
Make good notes of all of the visible symptoms carefully so you can tell the vet when you visit. Your observations will be of tremendous help in the diagnosis since —your cat can’t talk! It’s also a really good idea to take a sample of the stool with you (a plastic bag works great to collect and transport the stool sample) to the veterinarian. The stool sample can assist in the diagnosis of your cat’s issue.
Try as best you can to differentiate between blood in the stool and blood in the urine. If your cat has blood in his urine, that’s a different set of issues.
What Causes Blood in Cat Stool?
Bright red blood in your cat’s poop is called hematochezia. When your cat has a difficult or painful time defecating, it’s called dyschezia. Both of these are symptoms that your cat may have an underlying condition that causes inflammation or irritation of the rectum or anus.
Since cats are stoic characters, they are generally slow to complain or exhibit symptoms so it’s entirely possible that this condition is worse than you might at first think.
There are many reasons your cat could have developed hematochezia. Below are a few.
Reasons Cats Develop Hematochezia
- Change in your cat’s diet / too much human food / too much food altogether
- Trauma to the digestive system – from the nose to the anal region (bites from a cat fight, fractured pelvis, etc.)
- Bowel disease that causes chronic irritation to your cat’s gastrointestinal tract
- Inflammation of the colon (colitis)
- Intestinal infection due to bacteria or parasites
- Anal sac abscess (these can get itchy, causing your cat to rub her hind end on the ground)
- Medications, especially NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or strong antibiotics
- Tumors (both malignant and benign can cause bleeding)
- Ingestion of mouse or rat poison (anti-coagulants that disable blood clotting – this would be a medical emergency)
How Will The Vet Treat The Problem?
Cats who are diagnosed with hematochezia (blood in cat feces) are usually treated on an outpatient basis. If the underlying condition is severe enough, such as dehydration or internal bleeding, the vet will need to get those under control before releasing your cat back into your care.
Depending on the underlying cause that is diagnosed, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or other medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and/or laxatives.
In many cases, where the problem was caused by changes or problems related to the cat’s food the vet may prescribe a change in diet (see below).
If the anal canal is restricted, the vet may do a balloon dilation to widen the canal gradually so that the blocked feces can be released.
Conditions like condyloma, fistulas, hemorrhoids and fissures are classified as anorectal diseases. Some anorectal diseases may require surgery to cure.
Tips For Changing Your Cat’s Diet
If the vet pinpoints your cat’s diet as a source of the blood in his stool, here are a few tips:
- Don’t change your cat’s diet suddenly. Slowly phase out one food and replace it with the new food.
- Your cat may have a food intolerance. An exclusion diet (eliminating certain ingredients to see if symptoms go away) may be the best way to find the food ingredients that are causing the irritation to his system. Your vet can recommend the best way to go about an exclusion diet.
- Don’t make any changes without your vet’s approval. Cats can not only be “finicky”, but they can also be sensitive to changes in their food. You don’t want to make the situation worse.
So, the bottom line is: If you see blood in your cat’s stool, take him to vet right away. It might or might not be a serious illness – but it’s definitely a sign that something is wrong and your cat needs help to heal!