It’s early and you’re in a hurry to get to work, but the litter box needs to be cleaned first. As you bend over to scoop the poop, you see stool covered in a yellowish slimy substance that looks like mucus.
Is this normal? You don’t really know because your cat usually buries their stool. Here’s what you need to know about this strange symptom.
What Does Mucus in Cat Stool Look Like?
To recognize abnormal cat poop, you first have to know what’s normal. As gross as it might seem, you can learn a lot about the health of your cat with a quick look in the litter pan each time you scoop.
Since each animal is unique, what’s considered “normal” will vary slightly. However, healthy cat stool is generally dark brown, squishy (like modeling clay—not mushy, but not hard), and shaped like an oversized Tootsie Roll®.
Cat poop frequently has a small amount of slimy-looking, clear to yellow mucus on it. This mucus is produced by the intestines to help the stool pass through the colon without causing much inflammation. So a small amount of mucus with otherwise normal-looking cat stool is nothing to worry about.
The situation becomes more concerning, however, when you see:
A lot of mucus
A strange stool color (particularly greenish or reddish) with mucus
Mucus with diarrhea or very firm stool
Blood in the mucus
What To Do if Your Cat Is Pooping Mucus
Keep an eye on the color of the mucus and consistency of the stool. If you aren’t sure how hard or soft the stool is, you can test it with the scooper or by using gloves. When in doubt, take a photo, bag up the sample, and take it to your veterinarian, who will quickly be able to tell you if there’s cause for concern or not.
Here’s a quick guide for triaging your cat’s mucus stool:
It’s time for an emergency vet visit if:
You see blood in or on the stool
Your cat is straining to poop and only producing blood or bloody mucus
This blood generally signals that capillaries in the colon have burst, which means there’s a lot of inflammation. The cause should be diagnosed quickly, even if your cat seems to be feeling otherwise OK.
Call or Go to the Vet as Soon as Possible:
If you see these signs, call your veterinarian for advice and ask for the first available appointment:
Your cat doesn’t seem to be well or is acting strange in any way
You see a small amount of blood in the stool but your cat seems fine otherwise
The stool is very hard or your cat is straining to poop
There’s a lot of diarrhea
The problem goes on for several days
Constipation is extremely common in cats and is often related to problems such as kidney disease and arthritis, so it’s best diagnosed and treated quickly. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and additional illness, and again is something best managed during the early stages.
Keep an Eye on It:
If the following apply, there is likely little cause for concern. Just keep an eye on your cat’s behavior and look for anything strange in the litter box for a few days:
There’s a large amount of mucus or it’s slightly discolored, but the stool seems normal or just a little bit firm or soft
Your kitty is still eating and drinking and has no other symptoms
The stool is completely normal and your kitty seems to be acting fine
Why Do Cats Poop Mucus?
Cats can have mucus in their stool for a variety of reasons, ranging from completely normal to cause for serious concern.
If the stool is very firm and you’re seeing mucus (often red-streaked or red-tinged), this is most commonly caused by constipation.
In older cats, constipation is often the result of kidney disease and arthritis. However, it can also be caused by diet (especially dry food diets), swallowing a large amount of fur, eating foreign material that is stuck in the intestinal tract, electrolyte disturbances, side effects of drugs, or a narrowing of the intestinal tract that prevents stool from passing.
Cats should pass stool daily or every other day. If you are on day three without seeing stool in the litter box, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
They Have Diarrhea
If the stool is very soft and you’re seeing mucus, this is likely caused by diarrhea. The most common reasons for diarrhea in cats tend to be diet or parasites. Other potential causes include an overactive thyroid gland, kidney or liver disease, viral infection, or inflammation or cancer in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Inflammation in or Near the Gastrointestinal Tract
If your cat is sick or there’s a lot of blood, this is an emergency situation. There are many reasons this can happen, and all of them generally relate to inflammation in or near the GI tract.
Some of the causes include intestinal parasites (particularly giardia), dietary changes, rectal polyps, toxin ingestion, constipation, anal gland abscess, inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, and trauma. Some of these conditions are fairly minor and benign, but others are very serious. Don’t chance it—get it checked out.
How Vets Diagnose Mucus in Cat Stool
In most instances of mucus in the stool, veterinarians will ask you to bring a fecal sample. They don’t need the entire litter pan—about a 2-inch sample is sufficient. If possible, bring a sample that looks abnormal so the veterinarian can see what you’re concerned about, or take photos of the litter pan for reference.
Your kitty will need a full physical exam to check for abnormalities and allow the veterinarian to feel their intestinal tract. The vet will likely want to know about your cat’s normal litter box habits, diet, recent eating habits, and other particulars about your cat’s health history, such as vaccines and dewormings.
Depending on the findings, the vet may prescribe a treatment right away. However, sometimes additional tests such as bloodwork and X-rays are needed to sort out a cause. Once the likely cause has been identified, your veterinarian will probably prescribe medication as well as a special diet or supplements to help address the problem at home.
Treatment for Mucus in Cat Stool
Most of the time, treatment for mucus in cat stool will depend on the underlying cause. For kitties with normal stools that seem to feel well, simple observation may be all that’s required.
If your cat has very hard stool or constipation, your veterinarian may do an enema to remove the stool. Please note that some human enemas can be very dangerous for cats—so you should never attempt to give your cat an enema at home unless your veterinarian has specifically prescribed an enema formula for your cat.
A stool softener such as canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin only—not pumpkin pie filling), MiraLAX®, or Metamucil® may be recommended. Many cats with constipation need to be changed long-term to a canned food formula. Any underlying disease, such as kidney disease or arthritis, needs to be treated as well.
Diarrhea can be harder to diagnose and treat. Some of the causes, like diet change and parasites, are easy to identify and treat, but other causes can be much more complicated. Treatment often involves dietary therapy and sometimes combinations of medications to slow down the motion of the GI tract, as well as specific antibiotics to help control any bacterial overgrowth.
GI Tract Inflammation
There are many causes for inflammation in the GI tract, and the treatment will be specific to the cause. Your veterinarian will need to run some tests to determine the underlying cause of the inflammation and then address the problem.
Rarely is blood in the stool itself an emergency, but the underlying cause may be. Treating the root of the problem will generally treat the bloody stool as well. For example, if your kitty has intestinal parasites, a deworming medication will be needed. But if they have kidney disease, that will need to be treated appropriately. If the source of the bleeding is from eating a chicken bone, surgery might be necessary.
The bottom line of treating mucus in the stool is that the underlying cause needs to be identified and addressed; otherwise, the problem tends to continue and potentially worsen with time. But with timely diagnosis and treatment, most cats will quickly return to their normal litter box habits!
Featured image: iStock.com/CasarsaGuru
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