Kittens have very sensitive little stomachs and simple changes to their environment or diet can easily lead to diarrhoea.
While it’s normal for their waste to be softer than that of an adult cat, if it’s shapeless or has a liquid or mushy consistency, it’s highly likely that the kitten has diarrhoea. The condition is relatively common and luckily, it tends to be very treatable.
Top causes of diarrhoea in kittens
When your kitten has diarrhoea it’s usually down to one of the following issues.
1. Feeding cow’s milk
This is one of the most common causes behind diarrhoea in kittens. It’s a misconception believed by many that cow’s milk is good for felines, however, the truth is the complete opposite. Cats can’t actually digest cow’s milk so instead of giving it to your kitten, get a kitten milk replacer which has been specially formulated for cats. This can be mixed with their food to help the transition onto a solid diet.
2. Feeding problems
Feeding issues such as allergies or intolerances, feeding too much, or the consumption of inedible items (such as fabric, bones, etc) can all be causes of vomiting and diarrhoea in kittens. If you suspect their tummy troubles are due to an allergy or if they’ve consumed something they’re not supposed to, book an appointment with your vet as soon as you can.
3. Diet changes
Sometimes when people buy kittens, they don’t follow the feeding advice provided by the previous home and instead suddenly change to a new diet. But when this happens, it can cause intestinal issues.
While it’s not always possible to know what your kitten was fed previously, if you can, stick with their current diet and change it gradually over a period of several days. If you’re unsure, consult your vet for advice on feeding your kitten.
4. Intestinal parasites
Intestinal parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms can cause diarrhoea in kittens and if left too long, they can even impact their growth rate. Kittens will need to be dewormed at 2 weeks old, then at 2-week intervals until they turn 12 weeks, and at monthly intervals thereafter. If you purchase your kitten from a reputable breeder or rescue centre, they’ll ensure that they’re up-to-date with flea and worm treatments when you collect them.
5. Infections and viruses
Bacterial infections such as salmonella and campylobacter can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in kittens. Viruses such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), panleukopenia, feline leukaemia virus, and rotaviruses can all cause intestinal issues too.
6. Environmental stress
Sometimes diarrhoea in kittens may be due to changes in their environment such as a house move, a new pet, or a baby. The event of leaving their mother and siblings is also stressful in itself! Make sure you give them plenty of time to settle and provide quiet spaces away from the hustle and bustle of the home.
When to see a vet about diarrhoea in your kitten
You should contact your vet if your kitten’s diarrhoea doesn’t seem to go away within a couple of days or if it’s paired with any of the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Stools that are red, black, or green in colour
- Behavioural changes
- Foul smelling stools
Diagnosing diarrhoea in kittens
In order to diagnose diarrhoea in your kitten, your vet may take a stool sample to look for intestinal parasites, worms, or any signs of infection. If they suspect a blockage is the cause, an X-ray may be necessary to see what and where it is. While not very pleasant, it can also be useful to take a photo of your kitten’s diarrhoea to show your vet.
Preventing diarrhoea in kittens
The treatment method for your kitten’s diarrhoea will depend on the cause. If it’s due to an allergy or intolerance, a diet change may be suggested. For parasites, a flea and worm treatment will be administered. Medications will likely be prescribed for bacterial infections.
In some cases, probiotics will be given for a couple of days afterwards to help them with digestion. If your vet suspects your kitten has suffered from severe dehydration, they may recommend a short hospital stay to restore fluids and to monitor them.
Preventing diarrhoea in kittens
Most of the causes of diarrhoea in kittens are very preventable and there’s a few steps you can take to avoid it happening in the future. Firstly, feed a consistent, kitten-specific diet that contains everything they need. If you want to change their food, make sure you do it slowly over a period of several days. Secondly, always make sure you’re keeping on top of their regular deworming and flea treatments. Lastly, stay up-to-date with their cat vaccinations and boosters as this can prevent certain infections and viruses that can be deadly to your feline.
That’s our guide to diarrhoea in kittens, the common causes, and treatment methods! If you want to find out more about keeping your kitten healthy read our guide on cat puberty, next.