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My Cat Can't Control Bowel Movements

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Question: "How can I stop bowel problems and relieve arthritis?"

Mike, an 80-year-young reader, sent a question about his outdoor spayed and declawed cat, Honey Babe. "I found Honey Babe on the street," he writes. "She came to my backyard to catch the birds that were feeding on seed that I had put out for them, and she tried to eat the seed. She was wet and very matted. Her left side had long curls of hair hanging from it. I thought she would die from exposure. It took at least a year before she would let me cut off the curls of hair. Her hair was long and coarse. It is now like rabbit-fur."

She's not visited the veterinarian since he's known her, and says right from the beginning he noticed that she can't control bowel movements, and that she… "has rheumatic problem in left hind leg. I tried different foods for the lack of colon control and I gave her Glucosamine for her leg."

Amy's Answer

Hi Mike. Before anything else, bless you for taking in Honey Babe when she needed you most. It sounds like she wouldn't have lived long without your help and intervention. You've made incredible progress by finally getting her to allow you to remove the matted fur. And if you've managed to give her glucosamine, a natural remedy to help with joint problems, you've done more than many others would have managed.

But from what you describe, Honey Babe's behavior is more of a physical problem than a behavioral one. Veterinarians and behavior specialists look at the cat's physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct to help figure out what's going on and find solutions. Think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.

Being unable to control bowel movements can be due to a variety of issues. I can only guess what might be the cause. Inflammatory bowel disease, allergic reactions to foods, stress, or even nerve damage may be involved. It may be that the same injury or physical ailment that's interfering with bowel control also may be impacting the rear leg function. Cats with shortened or no tails can develop spinal problems that interfere with rear limb mobility and may prompt fecal incontinence.

Honey Babe needs a veterinary exam. Without a diagnosis, we're only guessing and delaying proper treatment. Adding canned (unflavored) pumpkin to the cat's diet may help firm the stools but probably wouldn't be helpful if this truly is a physical continence issue. Since you're able to give Honey Babe the glucosamine pills, I hope you'll also be able to entice her into a carrier (or a live trap-shelters often loan these out) and get her the veterinary care she needs.

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