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Gut Health in United Kingdom Cats

German AC, Cunliffe NA, Morgan KI. Fecal consistency and risk factors for diarrhea and constipation in cats in UK rehoming shelters.  J Feline Med Surg. 2017 Jan;19(1):57-65.

Stool consistency (i.e. normal, diarrhea, severe diarrhea, or constipation) is an important indicator of gut health.  Only a few previous studies have quantitated fecal consistency in cats.  From these previous studies, diarrhea was found to account from ~ 1-3% of the reasons for veterinary visits and no similar data has been published for constipation.

In this study, researchers from University of Liverpool, UK report on the distribution of fecal consistency in cat populations from 25 rehoming centers or shelters in the UK, and on fecal consistency correlation with age, season (winter or summer), and multi-cat housing.  One thousand eighty-six cat’s feces were included in this study and had a fecal score assignment based on a 6 point scale (1, 2 = severe diarrhea; 3 = diarrhea; 4, 5 = normal; 6 = constipation).  Overall, estimated prevalence was 11.9% for cats with diarrhea (score 1-3), 2.4% for cats with severe diarrhea (score 1-2), and 5.6% for cats with constipation (score 6).

Diarrhea was associated with age and multi-cat housing; however, severe diarrhea was not associated with age, being a kitten, multi-cat housing, or season.  But surprisingly, being a senior cat (> 11 years) was associated with severe diarrhea.  Constipation risk factors included winter months and increasing age.

This study suggests that prevalence was greater for constipation (4.2%) than severe diarrhea (2.4%) in this population of cats.  This is at odds with previous studies and what persons working in animal shelters commonly state; namely, diarrhea is considered to be more common than constipation.  Also, surprisingly, senior cats were more likely to have severe diarrhea.    Understanding the risk factors for diarrhea and constipation in shelter cat populations will further facilitate improvements in feeding and management. [GO]

See also:
German AC, et al. Molecular epidemiology of rotavirus in cats in the United Kingdom. J Clin Microbiol.  2015 Feb;53(2):455-64