Q: My 14-year-old orange tabby has never had any problems, but lately, when she goes into the litterbox and tries to move her bowels, she just urinates. Nothing in her diet has changed. Is she constipated? How do your treat that?
A: Sometimes when a cat is straining in the litterbox, it can be hard to determine whether the cat is straining to urinate or defecate. Because you’ve observed that she is urinating, it sounds like a constipation problem. Take your cat to the veterinarian to make sure that this is simple constipation, and not a more serious condition called megacolon, in which the colon loses the ability to contract and propel the feces.
Sometimes cats become constipated from swallowing excessive hair during grooming. Other times, they become constipated for no apparent reason. Try administering one of the hairball remedies, such as Laxatone or Petromalt to your cat. When given two or three times a week, these products are effective at hairball prevention. When given every day, they work well as stool softeners. If these products do not help, a change in diet might be warranted. Your veterinarian can advise you in this regard. I’ve had excellent success using the Low Residue diet made by the Iams Company. If constipation continues to be a problem, more potent medications, such as lactulose and cisapride, might be best.
Arnold Plotnick, DVM