July/August 2014

Constipation and cats

by Evelien van der Waa

Just as with humans, cats can also suffer from constipation, a very problematic condition which, in serious cases, can lead to obstruction of the intestines.

What are the causes of this problem? One of the most common causes is ‘hair’. Cats wash themselves very conscientiously.  If a cat cleans itself to an extreme degree, or if it is moulting, this can result in swallowing great amounts of hair. Usually, cats try to expel these hairballs by vomiting them out, but sometimes the amount it too much and the hairball lodges in the intestines, leading to constipation.

Another cause of constipation in cats is dirty litter trays – some cats will absolutely not make use of a dirty tray. If it is not regularly cleaned, they will retain their stools, and if that continues too long, it can lead to constipation.

Lastly, slow digestion can be a problem. If stools are retained too long in the intestines, water is drawn from them and the stools become hard and dry, making them more difficult to expel. Here, we have a vicious circle.

The most common veterinary therapy for cats with constipation is to give laxative or water-retaining food supplementation. These supplements stimulate the intestinal function and help to retain the fluid in the intestines. In some cases, though, the animal continues to have problems defecating. If there are no obvious anatomical problems and it is more a question of a slow digestion, homeopathy can support a good intestinal function.

The following is a typical case of the homeopathic treatment of constipation in a cat.

Frances is a thirteen year old castrated male cat. Ever since he has been with his present owner, from his sixth month, he has had hard stools. He does not have a bowel movement every day, but often only every three or four days. In August 2003, this problem became even more serious: he had no stools at all. He stopped eating and was vomiting; his belly was apparently also painful. A laparotomy was performed, whereby a hard piece of stool was removed from the intestines. Nothing special was noted in the intestines. After the operation, he was given laxatives in order to prevent further constipation. Two weeks after the operation, however, Frances had no stools, then just one stool, and again nothing. His owner resorted to giving him a clysma, upon which he produced a stool immediately, then again nothing. Frances’ owner then brought him for homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathic case-taking

Now, one month after the operation, Frances is finally back to his old self. He is a friendly, good-natured cat but he does not tolerate everything.

When he was about five or six weeks old, he was brought to Holland from France, where he had been rather badly neglected in a multi-cat family. He is the only cat in his new home. At first, he and his owner lived in a flat, but for the last five years, they live in a house with a garden. Here, Frances is the boss, chasing the other cats away. He is very friendly with his owner – she can pick him up easily. When his owner is away at work during the day, he stays inside, but as soon as she comes home, he is allowed out. He is very attached to her and gladly stays near her. If she is not around for a while, he becomes very upset. Once, when she was in hospital for a while, Frances remained outside the door.

He seems to prefer women to men, finding men too rough. At first, he used to be frightened if someone snapped their fingers – he would startle. In the home he originated from, he was not allowed to do anything; he was not allowed to sit on the window-sill or to go outside. These days, he has the free reign of the house. If there are several people in the house, for instance at a birthday party, he likes to stay in the room, though he does not like to be patted by everyone. He only wants to sit on his owner’s lap, and he likes to lie on her while she sleeps. He is never harmful to children: if children want to play with him but he does not want to, he will warn them, then will give them a slap, without putting out his claws.

At first, he was very frightened. He does not like people to be playing wildly, as that startles him. He also does not like strangers. He is alright on his own, but is happy when his owner comes home. He loves to play, and loves distraction and change.

He likes to drink water from the tap. He is very sensitive to what he eats. He will vomit on eating soft food or fish. He is also quite fussy: he will never eat the same thing two days in a row. He likes to eat hard biscuits, and sometimes he eats grass, which he vomits up. Although there are sometimes some hairs in the vomit, there are never any hairballs in it. He prefers to go outdoors beside the house for peeing and pooing, though when it is raining, he stays indoors and uses the litter tray. He likes to be brushed, though not on his bottom; if he is touched there, he can bite.

He is always cleaning himself. If one teases him and ruffles up his fur, he tidies it up again immediately. If he has used the litter tray, he cleans up the edges afterwards. He likes to lie on the heater, in the sun, and on the bed, but not under the covers.

From all this information, the clue is to now select the most important symptoms, that which can lead us to the right remedy. For me, the most important symptoms were:
- hard stools  and  irregular defecation pattern (missing days) ever since he was young
- strict discipline in his first months; not allowed to do anything
- very clean concerning himself and his litter tray
- very fussy about eating; will not eat the same thing for two days in a row
- likes change
- very sensitive to those around him

The remedy that best suits this pattern is Carcinosinum. Characteristic of this remedy are the constipation with sluggishness of the intestines, a strict upbringing, and the tendency to be very clean and tidy.

Prescription: Carcinosinum LM6, one pilule per day, with the advice to give him fresh meat regularly in order to stimulate the intestinal function. He was also given laxative/fluid retaining supplements in order to keep the stools soft.

The reaction to Carcinosinum was remarkable. He started to feel better, becoming livelier, playing and sitting on the lap instead of isolating himself. His stools improved as well, becoming softer and coming once every two days instead of once per week.

Other important remedies for constipation in cats are:
- Alumina: here, we see constipation without urging. This can be so severe that the stools need to be mechanically removed. Everything is dry, the stools, the skin, and the mucous membranes. The mental picture is that of dullness and confusion.
- Nux vomica: characterised by constant unsuccessful urging. On the other hand, there can be diarrhoea as well. The mental picture is that of extreme sensitivity to external stimuli – the animal can become very quickly irritated.
- Opium: characterised by constipation without urging, combined with an accumulation of stool in the intestine. The mental picture is that of dullness, as though drugged. In the history of a patient needing Opium, one can usually find a severe shock, after which the complaints have started.

I hope that this article will give an idea of what can be done for animals with a complaint such as constipation. This is a complaint that one should not treat on one’s own without a good physical examination of the animal – it is better to consult a homeopathic veterinarian.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Cats eye; Guylaine Brunet; CC BY 2.0

Keywords: feline constipation, bowel obstruction, easily startled, sensitive cat, fastidious
Remedies: Alumina, Carcinosinum, Nux vomica, Opium


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