The Scoop on Cat Poop

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on March 31, 2023
5 min read

You can learn a lot about your cat's health from their poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, watch for a few key signs when you scoop the litter box.

Most cats will poop at least once a day. If they’re healthy, their poop should:

  • Be deep brown in color
  • Feel not too hard or too soft or mushy
  • Not smell too foul, though some odor is normal

Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might have it. Sometimes, it comes and goes quickly. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or come back on a regular basis.

Diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem unless you have an older cat or a kitten. But if it lasts longer, your cat can get dehydrated, which can be dangerous.

Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:

  • Changes to their diet
  • Food allergies or food intolerances
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Worms (intestinal parasites)
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism

If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.

The treatment your cat will need depends on what’s causing their diarrhea. Some will need prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisolone, to control inflammation. Your vet may recommend a special diet if they think a food allergy or intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or colitis is the problem. For some cats, deworming medication or probiotics may also be needed. 

To prevent diarrhea, don’t give your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt -- many cats can’t digest them properly. Also, if you switch the brand or type of food you give them, be sure to introduce it over several days by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until they are eating only the new food.

When a cat is constipated, they’ll strain a lot when they try to poop or won’t be able to produce anything for the litter box. You don’t need to worry if it only happens sometimes. But if it’s more common for your pet, you should contact your vet.

Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:

  • Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
  • Kidney problems
  • Feline megacolon -- when the colon gets very large and its muscles no longer squeeze, making hard, dry stool build up inside
  • Something blocking their colon, such as string or bones
  • Diets that don’t have enough fiber
  • Problems inside the colon, such as tumors or narrow places
  • Spine problems or pain

To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give them more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to their regular food. Or they might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest. Hairball medications might also help.

It also helps to make sure they get more exercise and drink more water so that waste will move through their system more readily.

You should talk to your vet about any poop problems your cat has, but this chart may help you figure out what may be causing them:

SymptomAppearanceFrequencyPossible causes
ConstipationSmall, hard, dry poopLess than once a dayDehydration, megacolon, dietary issues
ConstipationSmall, hard, dry poop that has a lot of hairLess than once a dayHairballs, over-grooming
ConstipationThin, ribbon-like poopLess than once a dayColon problems, like a tumor
DiarrheaBlack, tarry, runny poopIt variesStomach or intestinal bleeding. Call the vet right away.
DiarrheaSmelly, pudding-like poop2-3 times dailyFood intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease
DiarrheaGooey poop filled with mucusIt variesToo little fiber; colitis
DiarrheaCan vary, sometimes soft, frothy, greasy poop with mucus and/or bloodIt variesParasites


Cat Urine 

Cats don't always aim straight for the litter box. When your cat leaves a "present" on the carpet, they could be spraying to mark their territory or objecting to the litter box’s location or cleanliness. They also might have a bladder infection.

Whatever your cat's reason for peeing on the carpet, it's going to stink if you don't clean it up quickly. Cats can sniff out areas they've marked and target them again.

  • Blot up as much urine as you can with paper towels.
  • Don't use any ammonia-based cleaning products. They smell like cat pee, which may entice kitty to re-mark the spot.
  • Soak the area with carpet cleaner or a few drops of dish detergent mixed with water. Let it sit for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Rinse with a wet sponge.
  • The next day, spray the area with an enzymatic cleaner such as A.O.E. (Animal Odor Eliminator).
  • Keep your cat away until the area dries.

To stop your cat from spraying, try a pheromone product. It smells like your cat's natural scent and may ease their urge to mark their territory. 

Cat Vomit 

Like humans, cats vomit. Unlike humans, they don't do it in the toilet. Try to clean the mess before it sets to avoid odors and stubborn stains.

  • If the vomit is solid, pick it up with a paper towel. Then scrub the area with a pet-safe deodorizing cleaner.
  • If the vomit is loose, scrape it into one pile with a plastic spoon. Blot the area with paper towels. Then use a deodorizer or pet stain-and-odor remover.
  • You may need to clean stubborn stains or odors more than once.

Cat Hair

Whether their hair is long or short, cats shed -- especially in the spring and fall.

  • Brush your long-haired cat several times a week to remove loose hairs so they don't end up on your couch. Your short-hair cat may need to be groomed less frequently.
  • Vacuum carpets, upholstery, and anywhere else hairballs fly.
  • Use a sticky fabric cleaner for pet hair, or a strip of masking tape, to clean cat fur off furniture and other surfaces before it gets on your clothes.

Most cat messes only happen every now and then and are easy to clean. If your cat soils your carpets and never did this before, or they constantly soil the carpets, call your vet. It could be a sign of a health problem that needs attention.