The best cat food for constipation promotes a healthy stool consistency and supports the digestive system.
Signs that your cat is constipated:
- Their bowel movements are infrequent – Cats should have one or two bowel movements every day. Constipated cats may move their bowels 3-4 times per week. Their waste is small, dry, and hard.
- They’re straining in the litter box – Constipation is sometimes characterized by straining and pain in the litter box.
- They aren’t passing any stool at all – Some constipated cats don’t pass any stool for 2 days or more. If your cat is experiencing acute constipation and cannot pass any stool, please bring them to the veterinarian.
Visualize your cat’s digestive system. It’s more than a tube running from mouth to anus—it’s a complex system, like a municipal sewage processing plant. When your cat is constipated, we want to both do the plumbing work—clearing the pipe—but we must also cooperate with the processing plant’s workers and infrastructure.
Quick Look at Our Top Picks:
Weruva Cats in the Kitchen
Nulo Grain Free
Wellness CORE Natural
Before you choose the best cat food for constipation, you need an understanding of the digestive system and how motility issues begin.
The GI tract is governed by the enteric nervous system, populated by billions of bacteria, contains a maze of intestines several feet long, connects to the rest of the body via the capillary transit routes, and contains many other intricate structures. These parts cooperate to extract nourishment from food and move the remaining waste out of your cat’s body.
When waste arrives in the large intestine, it has a sludgy consistency. It’s the colon’s job to draw water out of this chyme, turning the sludge to stool.
Once the waste firms up, it should move down the small intestine and signal to the central nervous system that it’s time to squat in the litter box and go.
But if there’s anything wrong—if the process went too slowly, the body absorbed too much water, or there’s something blocking the way, the stool won’t move out smoothly.
Stool turns to stone and bowel movements become increasingly frustrating. All the while, the digestive system continues merrily on, creating more waste to fill up the small intestine and double your cat’s discomfort.
Causes of Constipation in Cats
Although well-hydrated cats can be constipated, dehydration is a contributing factor in feline constipation.
Jean Hofve, DVM, says that “In more than 18 years of experience as a feline veterinarian, I have not personally seen constipation problems in cats who do not eat dry food.”
Consider that dry food is 10-12% moisture and that your cat’s natural prey is at least 70% water. Combined with your cat’s low thirst drive, this is a recipe for chronic dehydration and all its ripple effects throughout the body, including constipation.
Inadequate Fiber Intake
You might feel that cats don’t require fiber—after all, cats are obligate carnivores and we’re most familiar with fiber as the indigestible component of plants.
Remember that cats consume herbivorous prey. Each of these animals contains a pocket of partially-digested plant matter in their own tiny GI tract. And while we think of natural prey as an ultra-efficient form of nutrition for cats, they’re not completely digestible. They have hair, skin, teeth, and claws.
Commercially-sold diets include substitutes for these natural sources of fiber and indigestible matter, but raw cat food or homemade diets seldom do. By missing these subtle details, we skip an essential part of the feline digestive process.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is primarily used in the treatment of constipation as a bulking agent.
Soluble fiber is a prebiotic, fueling probiotic activity in the gut. As gut bacteria consumes the indigestible matter in the intestine, short chain fatty acids are produced as by-products, creating a slightly acidic environment and helping the stool to retain water.
Fiber supplements for cats:
- Pumpkin puree
- Psyllium husks
- Chia seeds
- Ground flaxseeds
- Powdered cellulose
- Green beans
- Cat grass
Obesity or Inactivity
When your cat exercises—playing, walking, hunting, and jumping—the movement stimulates rhythmic intestinal contractions, which help propel waste towards the rectum. If your cat is overweight and inactive, they experience less of these contractions and waste tends to build up in the intestine.
Remember that the small intestine is a convoluted tube designed to move sludge. Solid objects can block the intestinal tract and obstruct the flow of waste. These include tumors, hairballs, twists in the intestine, or ingested foreign bodies.
Litter Box Avoidance
Like litter box martyrs, some cats hold in their bowel movements in protest against a dirty litter box or an uncomfortable new litter. What starts out as a temporary protest can become a real health issue when the stool remains in the large intestine for too long.
If your cat has litter box problems, these articles may help:
- Best Cat Litter Box
- Best Cat Litter
- Best Cat Litter for Multiple Cats
- Best Litter Box for Multiple Cats
- Best Cat Litter for Kittens
Constipation may stem from inflammatory bowel disease, stress, reactions to pharmaceutical drugs, joint problems that make squatting uncomfortable, or nerve damage that impedes their ability to pass waste. Observe your cat’s symptoms and behavior closely and bring these observations to your vet’s office.
Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Constipation
The following cat foods are both moisture-rich and encourage water retention in the stool, targeting the most common causes of constipation.
Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Funk In The Trunk Chicken in Pumpkin Consomme Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken (Boneless, Skinless, White Breast), Tuna, Pumpkin, Sunflower Seed Oil
While any dietary change can have a positive effect on constipation, this food has a particularly good reputation. One reviewer said that it cleared their elderly cat’s constipation after 2 weeks of blockage.
It’s a chicken-based canned food that features pumpkin, which is almost universally recommended for cats with constipation.
It contains locust bean gum, xanthan gum, and guar gum as binders. Gums are controversial, so let’s discuss the pros and cons of these inclusions in your cat’s food.
Fiber-rich guar gum is extracted from guar beans and has widespread use as a laxative. Some people give it directly to their constipated cats. Although it’s a plant ingredient and has little nutrient value for cats, it appears to be completely safe.
Xanthan gum, however, should be approached with caution. As a product of simple sugar fermentation, xanthan gum may carry traces of the fermentation medium. If your cat has allergies to the corn, soy, wheat, or dairy used to create the xanthan gum, they may have an adverse reaction to the gum.
Locust bean gum, like guar gum, isn’t associated with any negative effects in cats. It’s extracted from the seeds of the carob tree and may have benefits for digestive health.
- Moisture-rich canned food ideal for constipated cats
- Made with pumpkin
- Contains fiber from guar gum
- If your cat prefers pate-style canned food, they might not like the texture
Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat & Kitten Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Liver, Turkey Broth, Tuna
While it’s unclear if added probiotics help with constipation, this food contains the patented BC30 probiotic, which contributes to the natural bacteria population in your cat’s gut. You can read more about the effects of probiotic for cats here
The food is meat-based with multiple sources of animal protein and contains guar gum and agar-agar as binders. These fibrous binders can help to reduce constipation.
Along with several other trace amounts of fruits and vegetables, the food contains pumpkin, which can help to encourage bowel movement in constipated cats.
- Hydrating canned food
- Popular among cats with digestive issues
- Contains pumpkin
- Made with guar gum
- Some reviewers say their cats disliked the food
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Duck Pate Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Pork Liver, Turkey Broth, Duck, Cranberries
This food has the foundations of a good meal for your cat. It’s meat-based and moisture-rich to promote healthy bowel function. While it contains more plant matter than some other canned foods and might not be a great choice for everyday feeding, this food contains several additions that can benefit constipated cats.
It’s made with multiple high-fiber binders, along with ground flaxseed, another fiber-rich ingredient that can increase gut motility. It also includes chicory root extract, which is a prebiotic that encourages probiotic activity.
- Contains chicory root as a prebiotic
- Contains guar gum
- Contains ground flaxseed for fiber
- Primarily made from nourishing meat ingredients
- Contains more plant ingredients than some other cat foods
Lotus Duck Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Duck, Duck Broth, Pork Liver, White Fish, Peas
While this food’s variety of plant ingredients might make it a less-than-ideal choice for most cats, it has several benefits for those suffering from constipation.
It’s made with whole flaxseed and olive oil, both of which are commonly-recommended food additives for constipated cats.
The food also includes several other ingredients that you might not find in other cat foods, like New Zealand Green Mussel for glucosamine and chondroitin and salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Moisture-rich food is ideal for constipated cats
- Contains olive oil for constipation
- Made with fiber-rich flaxseed
- Contains numerous fruits and vegetables
Nature’s Variety Pride by Instinct Grain-Free Flaked Champ’s Chicken Recipe Wet Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Egg Whites, Spinach
Essentially, this is a high-moisture, meat-based cat food. It highlights flaked chicken in gravy and contains a variety of ingredients that can benefit your constipated cat.
These include ground flaxseed, guar gum, and a trace amount of pumpkin, all of which are fiber-rich and can help to promote gut motility.
- Hydrating canned food
- Made with fiber-rich ground flaxseed
- Contains pumpkin
- A plant-heavy recipe not ideal for long-term feeding
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.