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Home > Cats > Normal vs Concerning Cat Poop: Variations Approved by a Vet (With Pictures)

Normal vs Concerning Cat Poop: Variations Approved by a Vet (With Pictures)

cat pooping in litter box

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Dr. Maja Platisa

Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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How often do you really pay attention to your cat’s litter box when you’re scooping? If they have noticeable diarrhea or their bathroom habits change, it might be pretty clear that something is wrong. However, monitoring bathroom health is an essential aspect of cat care because it can give a lot of indicators to specific health issues or problems your cat might be facing internally.

Our article is in no way meant to trump your vet’s advice, so ensure you’re getting in touch with them if your cat has diarrhea. Here we’re going to discuss what’s expected, what’s not, and the potential reasons behind a change in your cat’s poop. In addition, we are going to discuss a little bit about different health issues associated with bowel movements.

divider-catOverview of Normal Cat Poop

Normal cat poop might be stinky, but at least it’s healthy. Normal cat poop is usually a medium to darker brown, but not too dark, not too soft, and not too firm stool. All components of it should be thoroughly digested, and there shouldn’t be any abnormal color, texture, or atypical foul smells.

Cat poop
Image Credit: topimages, Shutterstock


Normal cat poop will look like your cats put a little sausage in their litter box. It should be smooth and even.


Standard poop color ranges from light to dark brown most commonly. However, it can also be influenced by diet, especially if not changed gradually.


Normal poop should be somewhere between firm and soft. If you’re picking it up, it should maintain its shape.


Your cat should be pooping at least once a day, or have a routine that is regular for them. Some cats might poop more, but any more than three times could be a cause for concern.


Overview of Concerning Cat Poop

Your cat’s poop can tell you a lot about their overall health. If you noticed things in the litter box have been awful lately, you’d want to keep note of a few key aspects and consult your vet.

Consistency of Poop

What is the consistency of the poop? Is it too thin or loose? Is it hard and pebble-like? These questions can help you and your vet determine bathroom habits in order to analyze the issue better.

cat pooping
Image Credit: NeydtStock, Shutterstock

Diarrhea in Cats

If your cat has diarrhea, it could be a significant signal that something just isn’t right with their digestive system. Whether they might’ve eaten something bad or encountered an ongoing dietary issue, diarrhea is never normal.

If your cat ate something that caused a momentary upset, diarrhea will likely resolve itself with just a day or two passing. However, if the issue is a little more chronic, you might notice frequent diarrhea or what seems like normal stool followed by diarrhea. It’s always best to keep an eye on the color and texture to inform your veterinarian of the frequency.


Diarrhea often looks chunky or runny, consisting primarily of water. It may be any color, but it may also contain blood. All cases of diarrhea should be checked by your vet. Sometimes it contains mucus, throughout or at the very end of the stool, which may indicate a large intestinal issue.


Diarrhea can vary in color and be pretty much any on the spectrum. Each will be different depending on the underlying issue. Fresh blood in the stool is bright red, while dark and black tarry stools indicate the presence of already digested blood, also called melena. Both need prompt veterinary attention.


Have they had diarrhea regularly? Was it just for a day? Does it come and go, without completely resolving? Noting the length of signs is important to figure out if the issue is chronic or passing.

cat pooping outside
Image Credit: AjayTvm, Shutterstock


Common Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

There is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why your cat might be experiencing bouts of diarrhea. However, here are some potential common causes of diarrhea in cats. To get to the underlying cause of your pet-specific issue, getting to the vet is imperative.

  • Viruses
  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Allergies
  • Digestion issues
  • Food intolerances
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer


Constipation can alternate with diarrhea or standalone. Constipation sometimes results from a harmless, moderately irritating issue like hairballs and indigestion. Lifestyle can also play a role in this.


If your cat is constipated, their stool is likely pebble-like and hard. They are in the tray for longer than normal, straining to defecate, often passing some feces outside of the tray, which may contain fresh blood. It is important to differentiate defecation from urination, as straining to urinate without passing any urine or very little of it is a genuine emergency in cats, especially males. Cats with diarrhea may also strain towards the end of their pooping, but their stool will be very loose.

Smelly cat poop in litter box
Image Credit: catinsyrup, Shutterstock


If your cat is constipated, the color will usually be very dark, and the pieces of poop very hard.


A constipated cat will be very irregular in their bathroom schedule. They might go days without pooping. If that’s the case, you’ll have to contact your vet. They will give your cat appropriate treatment and get to the bottom of the constipation. They may also recommend that you try things at home, like adding in extra fiber until they regulate. They may also prescribe laxatives or specific medication that promotes gut motility, depending on the diagnosis.


Common Causes of Constipation in Cats

Just like diarrhea, there is no one-size-fits-all situation in which a cat has constipation. It can be several environmental factors and dietary triggers that play a role. But here are some pretty common reasons:

  • Lack of fiber
  • Spinal and/or pelvic issues
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Hairballs
  • Dehydration
  • Underlying kidney disease
  • Perineal hernia

Color of Poop

The color of your cat’s poop can change over time. Some days it might change hue. But it should pretty consistently stay in the brown range. If it starts getting very pale or too black, it could indicate a bigger issue and will need veterinary attention.


Brown is the color scene most often in cat poop. It usually signals a healthy stool, but if it’s extra runny or they’re having a hard time passing it, it might not be so typical.

cat poop on litter box
Image Credit: RJ22, Shuttterstock


If your cat consistently has green in their feces, it could signal that your cat is eating more plants and grass than usual or has a bacterial or viral intestinal infection, liver or gallbladder issue, inflammatory bowel disease, or many others.

Orange or Yellow

If your cat’s poop has an orange or yellow hue, it could signal a gallbladder and/or liver problem, or bacterial overgrowth, amongst other causes. Further testing is required if your veterinarian suspects it could be either of these issues.

Sometimes, slight changes in a cat’s poop color can be normal, depending on their diet and digestion. If the color has changed suddenly and your cat is on the same diet, it’s imperative to contact your vet straight away.

orange cat poop in the grass
Image Credit: CarlyZel, Shutterstock


Red stool indicates that there is bleeding inside of the intestines or rectum, or from the anus. This can be from bacterial infections, constipation, tumors, foreign bodies, or irritation from chronic diarrhea. This will be painful for your cat and indicates a serious underlying issue, so it’s best to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

Your vet will likely run a blood panel and possibly a stool sample to get to the underlying cause of bleeding. X-rays and an ultrasound may be required as well.


If a stool is black, it can signal that digested blood is being excreted in the system. Since it is black, if it is blood, it is coming from the upper part of the digestive tract, stomach, and small intestines, meaning there should not be anything in the lower part of the intestines or colon causing the bleeding itself. This can signify many upper G.I. issues, including ulcers, tumors, and other digestion problems.

Something as simple as infection can cause this, but other solutions are a bit more complicated depending on the underlying issue.

cat poop on plastic shovel
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock


Visual Signs and Behavior

There are visual cues that something just isn’t right. Your cat might be experiencing pain, or they might start exhibiting unusual bathroom behavior.

Struggling to Defecate

If your cat seems to be struggling to use the bathroom, this could be a sign of constipation, but it could also be something a little more sinister such as an intestinal or urinary blockage. That is why monitoring signs and your cat’s habits is important and never assuming that this is normal. Contact your vet right away if it seems like your cat is in any amount of pain.

Inability to Hold It

If your cat can’t seem to get to the litter box in time, this could indicate a more severe health issue. Some seniors can face problems like kidney disease, but this can also indicate that your cat might have a UTI or an infection.

Suppose your cat is pooping on the floor. In that case, it’s very important to pay attention to the texture and consistency to see if it is an issue with loose stool, pain when posturing to poop, or if it could even be a behavioral issue.

cat pooping in red litter box
Image Credit: nonzy, Shutterstock

Pain When Trying to Go

If your cat seems like they are obviously distressed when they’re trying to use the bathroom, it’s a signal of a much bigger problem that should never be ignored or overlooked. If they are experiencing pain while doing so, you will want to alleviate that by getting to the bottom of the issue as fast as possible.


When to Call the Vet

If your cat seems like they are in distress or if they are showing accompanying signs, it might be urgent that you get them to the vet straight away. Waiting can contribute to a hydration loss and potentially have worse consequences. If you feel like your cat is in dire need of help, you should get them somewhere right away.

Cat Poop Chart

Appearance Indication What to Do
Hotdog-shaped, smooth Normal, healthy No action needed
Mushy, porridge-like Can be normal Monitor for a few days
Watery, thin Diarrhea Monitor, call vet if it persists for more than 12-24 hours or cat becomes unwell
Red color Bleeding in intestinal tract Call vet
Orange color Possible gallbladder or liver problems Call vet
Yellow color Possible liver or gallbladder issue, bacterial overgrowth Call vet
Black Upper digestive tract bleeding Call vet
Green Possible bacterial infection, roughage, parasites, occasionally normal (if it resolves) Call vet
Pebble-like, small pieces Constipation Consult with the vet
Unable to pass stool at all Obstruction, severe constipation, or mistaken for a urinary blockage Call vet


If your cat stool looks normal, there’s no cause for concern. But if you’re noticing irregularities that don’t go back to normal, your cat becomes unwell in any way, or you have a kitten or a senior cat, it’s best to seek veterinary attention immediately to get to the underlying cause.

It could be something like a food allergy that requires a diet and lifestyle change. Or it could be something more complicated, contributing to the function of specific organs. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so always get a professional opinion.

Featured Image Credit: Stefano Garau, Shutterstock

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