How to detect illness in cat feces

Written by cate burnette
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How to detect illness in cat feces
Fat in cat faeces can be a sign of liver disease. (Cat image by Allyson Ricketts from

Veterinarians typically examine a cat's faeces as a diagnostic tool in determining certain illnesses. Because the body removes toxins, minerals and nutrients out of the body in stool, veterinary professionals use a series of tests to detect problems in the faeces, according to veterinarians Dennis McCurnin and Joanna Bassert in "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." Learning what to look for in your litter box at home enables you to get prompt veterinary treatment if your cat becomes ill.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Check the faeces for consistency. Gastrointestinal illnesses typically show in extremely soft or runny diarrhoea. Hard faeces could indicate dehydration or megacolon, conditions that need veterinary treatment to overcome, says Dr. Holly Nash of

  2. 2

    Note the colour of your cat's faeces. Red blood in the stool points toward lower intestinal disease, while dark brown or black faeces may be a sign of internal bleeding or liver disease.

  3. 3

    Look in the hair around your cat's anus and in the faeces for tapeworm segments, which resemble small, rice-like pellets that move if they are still alive, advises Dr. Nash. Kittens heavily infested with roundworms may pass whole worms in their stool.

  4. 4

    Smell the stool. Some pancreatic diseases cause fats not to be absorbed by the body, creating particularly malodorous faeces, reports Ohio's Seville Animal Hospital. Intestinal infections generated by bacteria, viruses or parasites can also result in smelly stool.

Tips and warnings

  • Collect samples of the faeces in plastic bags or a throwaway container to transport to your veterinarian. Vets typically need to manually examine problematic stools and run certain diagnostic tests before making a diagnosis and starting treatment.
  • Take your cat to your veterinarian with diarrhoea that lasts more than 24 hours or stool with extreme changes in colour. These signs indicate serious disorders that need immediate veterinary treatment to preserve the health and life of your pet.

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