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Caring for a pet means occasionally dealing with illnesses and symptoms like diarrhea. Kitten diarrhea can be a symptom of other health conditions, and it’s essential to take action for your new cat as quickly as you can. Tiny kittens can be overwhelmed by illness if you don't start treatment immediately.
In this article, we’ll cover symptoms that may accompany kitten diarrhea
Other Symptoms To Watch For If Your Kitten Has Diarrhea
Diarrhea itself is a symptom, so if you notice your kitten has loose, watery stool, monitor for other signs and symptoms of illness. The causes of diarrhea can be simple or complicated, and recognizing other symptoms will help you and your veterinarian determine exactly what’s wrong.
Some additional symptoms do merit emergency attention, so keep an eye out for these. If you spot them, contact a vet immediately:
- Blood in stool/bloody diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Signs of pain
- Foul-smelling or frothy stool
Kitten Diarrhea: Common Causes
Sometimes, diarrhea is the result of dietary change. If you just adopted the kitten, your choice of food might be vastly different from what the kitten was eating before the adoption. If the diarrhea is due to this change in diet, it should go away in a couple of days. However, if you keep introducing new foods to the kitten or start feeding it bits of human food, the diarrhea may come back. Kittens can have sensitive stomachs, some more than others. Also, if you have a dog and the kitten gets into the dog food, that can be a cause, too. Transitioning gradually between an old and new food can help avoid the problem. Cats can have food allergies, so it's always possible your kitten is allergic to something in the food you're feeding. Speak with your veterinarian about dietary changes that may help your kitten digest properly.
An unfortunate cause of kitten diarrhea is intestinal parasites. It's not pretty to think about, but your vet can prescribe anti-parasite medication to clear up the problem. Common parasites found to cause diarrhea in cats include Cryptosporidium felis and Tritrichomonas foetus. Symptoms of intestinal worms in cats can include a foul odor, bloated abdomen, bloody stool, and potentially a loss of appetite, among other signs. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Bacterial and viral infections can also cause diarrhea in kittens. If you suspect your kitten has an infection, it's essential that you get a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian to ensure appropriate treatment. Misuse of home remedies can cause your kitten’s health to deteriorate even further.
Panleukopenia can cause diarrhea in kittens, and this is a highly contagious virus. Humans can actually transmit this virus through hand contact and even by dragging the virus into the home via their shoes. If your kitten is sharing food bowls or grooming tools, such as brushes, they may also potentially pick up the virus.
Cats with panleukopenia need treatment immediately, and the areas where the kittens have gone should be treated as contaminated. Symptoms of panleukopenia can include diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, and seizures. Shelter and rescue cats are most at risk for contraction of this illness, but all cats, especially kittens, can catch this virus, and it can be fatal. If possible, get healthy kittens vaccinated against panleukopenia as soon as you can.
Feline enteric coronavirus can cause diarrhea and can be a chronic condition because of the viral component.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is another threat. It is similar to HIV in that it can be present without showing any symptoms for a while. Cats can pick this up through scratches and bites from other cats (the virus is spread through saliva, and fights mean excessive exposure risk), so reducing the urge in your cats to fight is essential. Spaying and neutering is the best way to do this.
This is a permanent infection, so once the kitten contracts FIV, it will always have it. If your kitten has FIV, you may notice excessive sneezing and a runny nose. You may also feel swollen lymph nodes under the kitten's skin. As the kitten turns into an adult cat, it may be more susceptible to other diseases including cancer.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can also have diarrhea as a symptom. This virus unfortunately has a high fatality rate, and the chances that a cat with FeLV will die within three years is very high, almost 85 percent. The virus is transmitted through contact with saliva, which means that mere grooming between cats can spread the disease. However, fighting can also spread it, and kittens may actually pick it up while nursing from an infected mom cat.
Additional symptoms include pale gums, breathing difficulty, and weakness. Both FeLV and FIV need monitoring by a vet. Luckily, there is an FeLV vaccine, so if FeLV turns out to not be the cause of your kitten's diarrhea, when the kitten is healthy enough, you need to get it vaccinated. There's no cure for FeLV, although vigilant monitoring and vet assistance can help keep the cat comfortable.
Rotavirus is an intestinal infection that is fortunately curable. However, since it's a virus, you have to let it run its course while helping the cat to recover, while also ensuring the infected kitten/cat doesn't have contact with other pets (even dogs can get rotavirus). Your vet can help modify the kitten's diet, including adding fluids with electrolytes so that the diarrhea doesn't lead to dehydration.
All kittens and cats can get rotavirus, so if your kitten has diarrhea but acts normal, this may be the culprit. However, cats and kittens are more susceptible to the virus if they're in stressed, crowded environments or have weakened immune systems. If your kitten has repeated bouts of diarrhea from rotavirus, is not in a stressful situation, and not constantly exposed to infected cats, ask your vet to further examine the kitten for additional health issues.
Speaking of stressful environments, stress can also be a cause of diarrhea itself. When there is crowding, conflict, or a change in the environment, a kitten can get stressed out. If you notice a lot of fighting, if the kitten was separated from its mom too early, if the kitten just came from an overcrowded shelter, or you rescued it yourself from stressful conditions – all of this stress can manifest as a physical ailment, sometimes in the form of diarrhea.
Kitten Diarrhea: Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for kittens to have diarrhea?
No, it's not normal for kittens to have diarrhea. Diarrhea may be a common response to stress or changes in diet, and it may be a symptom of common illnesses, but that does not mean it's normal. It’s always worth checking with your veterinarian if you notice any sign of illness in your new kitten.
How long does kitten diarrhea last?
How long this lasts depends on the cause. If it's rotavirus or a change in diet, it could be a few days. If it's a persistent intestinal infection that has become severe, it could be longer. You'll need a vet to diagnose the cause and discuss what kitten poop looks like, and then you can ask about how long the kitten might continue to have the problem.
Why does my indoor kitten have diarrhea?
Indoor kittens might be less susceptible to some illnesses that cause diarrhea, but they can still suffer from others. It depends on their exposure to infected cats and materials, transmission by humans (such as panleukopenia transmission through hand contact), conditions in which the kittens live, and diet.
Can kitten diarrhea go away on its own?
Depending on the cause, yes. If you change their diet to something that doesn't upset their stomach or doesn't aggravate an allergy, eventually food-caused diarrhea will stop. If the cause is a virus like rotavirus or feline enteric coronavirus, the diarrhea should stop when the virus runs its course.
If your kitten has diarrhea, contact a vet immediately so you can get a diagnosis, find out what to feed a kitten with diarrhea, and start your furry family member on a treatment plan.
If you need to speak to a vet now but can't get in to see one in person, look to Dutch.com as a telehealth source for your kitten. You'll be able to discuss symptoms with a vet through Dutch to get a clearer initial path to follow.
Feline Panleukopenia, Merck Animal Health USA, https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/nobivac/feline-panleukopenia
Feline Enteric Coronavirus, Merck Vet Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-small-animals/feline-enteric-coronavirus
Diarrhea in Kittens and Young Cats, https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11343&catId=34567&id=5124223