Much like human babies, kittens are often sensitive to sudden changes in diet and can have food allergies. Another, often frustrating, similarity is the fact that they will put just about anything in their mouths, all too often resulting in eating something indigestible or potentially toxic. When it comes to kitten diarrhea you should keep in mind that watery stool can be a sign of an underlying illness. While diarrhea can be common in kittens, it is important to monitor his or her stool in order to ensure that the condition is not chronic or a sign of a serious problem.
Dietary Causes and Other Common Causes
When adopting a kitten, it is a good idea to ask about his or her current eating habits. You can continue to either feed your kitten the same diet or gradually introduce your preferred food over several days, mixing a little more of the new food in with the old food each time. This will allow your kitten’s sensitive stomach to slowly adapt to the new food. (When bringing a new kitten into your home, you should bring them to you family veterinarian within 48-72 hours of ownership for an examination, fecal examination and prophylactic de-worming if needed. There are some infections like roundworms that can be potentially passed onto immune-compromised people in the household such as children and the elderly.) Watery stool may be caused by food allergies and intolerances, overfeeding, or trying to eat something inedible. Items like bones, wool and fabrics, or kitty litter can cause intestinal blockage if swallowed. Keep in mind that you should not offer your kitten cow’s milk, since they cannot digest bovine lactose. Kitten milk replacer is sometimes still being mixed with kitten food at weaning (4-6 weeks). By 6 weeks of age, kittens can be fed dry and canned kitten food. Other common causes of diarrhea include:
- Parasitic Worms: Your kitten should have been dewormed at two weeks of age and again at each two-week interval until he or she reached 12 weeks. After that, cats should be placed on a monthly anti-parasite product that is prescribed by a family veterinarian. These products help to control intestinal parasites and fleas, which cause tapeworms.
- Infection: Common bacterial infections include salmonella and campylobacter. Cats can also contract viruses such as feline immunodeficiency virus, panleukopenia, feline leukemia virus and rotavirus.
- Environmental Stress: Moving to a new home, getting new housemates (animal or human), and other environmental factors can cause diarrhea in kittens.
Since diarrhea itself is a symptom rather than a disease, it can be difficult to determine whether your pet’s condition is serious or passing. If your kitten has diarrhea that continues for more than 24 hours but has no other symptoms, it is important that you get him/her to your family veterinarian as soon as possible. Like human babies, kittens can quickly become dehydrated. However, in cases where watery stool is combined with other symptoms listed below, you should seek immediate veterinary care:
- Blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Frothy/foul smelling stool
Veterinary Treatment of Diarrhea In cases where the cause is unclear, your veterinarian can perform a number of tests in order to determine the source of your pet’s condition, including fecal examinations, blood tests, urinalysis and X-rays that can reveal intestinal blockages. While a simple fasting period may be enough to treat some cases, pets suffering from severe dehydration may need to a short hospital stay. If you suspect that your kitten has anything other than passing diarrhea, contact your family veterinarian. If your family veterinarian’s office is closed, you can visit one of our 24/7 hospitals.