Let’s talk poop. Did you know your cat’s poop can tell you a whole lot about his overall health? It’s true. That’s why you should scoop the litter box regularly. Working at multiple veterinarian’s offices, I can tell you they have a fecal score chart with seven (7!!!!) different forms of fecal samples. (If you are interested, you can check the chart out here) Each one tells your vet something different about your cat’s health. Which why your vet asks for a fecal sample when you bring your cat in for an annual exam. Since your vet isn’t going to be scooping your cat’s litter box on a daily basis, it is also important for you to know what is “regular” for your cat and what isn’t. Does your cat usually have a bowel movement once a day? Twice a day? What time of day? What does it look like? Too hard could be a sign of constipation, too soft and your cat could be telling you he’s unwell.
Working at a vet’s office, I am constantly telling people to bring a fecal sample in with their cat. The doctor wants to test for parasites and worms, which your cat can get even if he doesn’t go outside. Indoor cats can catch parasites from dogs in the house, from insects that get into the house or even from the mud on the bottom of your shoes.
Despite telling clients to bring fecal samples in for testing, and knowing the importance of a yearly sample, I didn’t bring one in for my own cat. A few weeks after Sneaker’s annual exam he developed diarrhea. It started with some slightly softer than normal looking stools. The next day his stool was completely soft, what we call “pudding like” at work. He has never had a bought of diarrhea, so this was slightly concerning. I watched for a few days and when it didn’t get better I took a sample in for testing. Test came back as positive for giardia, a relatively common parasite in shelters and areas with lots of cats. Giardia is transmitted when a cat ingests the cysts present in contaminated feces. Since Sneakers was never from a shelter and has no contact with cats other than Crash, I was a bit surprised by this. Most likely someone brought mud in the house that was contaminated with the cysts. Mud is great way to track parasites around. We did a week of treatment, which he did not approve of, and he seems to be all better.
There are many other causes of diarrhea besides parasites. Some cats get diarrhea when you change their food without doing a transition. You generally want to start with 3/4 old food and 1/4 new food for a day or two, then 1/2 and 1/2, then 1/4 old food and 3/4 new food before straight out starting the new food. If you cat develops vomiting or diarrhea during this time, you can always back track to the previous stage of the food. Of course you always want to speak with your cat’s veterinarian if your cat develops any GI upset, whether it is while transitioning food or not.
Sneakers follow up fecal test came back negative for giardia. His stool had firmed up for a little bit. Unfortunately he is now back to having diarrhea. Thankfully for both him and me, he is only have diarrhea during his normal bowel movements. If he were having explosive diarrhea (yes, it is as horrible as it sounds) or having multiple instances during a day, he would be in to the vet right away. As it is now we are trying to treat him with probiotics to help firm up his stool. We will also run a third fecal test to see if he still has parasites of some sort.