Colitis in Cats

Key Takeaways

The colon or large intestine is the last part of the digestive tract. Colitis occurs when there is inflammation of the colon. 

• The main symptom of colitis is chronic diarrhea; the stool may contain mucus or blood

• Colitis can be either chronic (long term and ongoing) or acute (sudden onset and isolated in occurrence)

• The inflammation can be caused by an array of different conditions

• Typical diagnostics include physical examination, blood work, and stool analysis

• Treatment is focused on the underlying cause of the inflammation

A Closer Look: What is Colitis in Cats?

When inflamed, the colon's ability to absorb fluids and nutrients is disrupted. Other symptoms of colitis include vomiting, dehydration, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Symptoms of colitis vary depending on the underlying medical condition causing the inflammation. 

Veterinarian treatment is always advised if a cat is showing symptoms since even in its mild form, colitis is painful and causes distress to the animal. In the case of chronic colitis, the cat may need lifelong treatment to manage the symptoms. 

Acute colitis is commonly caused by stress or dietary indiscretion. In the case of acute colitis symptoms are oftentimes mild and self-limiting or resolve with dietary therapy or a short course of medication.   Chronic colitis (symptoms present for a month or longer, or recurrent episodes) can be caused by an array of underlying conditions, and as such proper diagnosis is vital in identifying the proper course of treatment.

Risk Factors

Colitis is a common condition in cats requiring non-urgent veterinary attention as the inflammation may be caused by an array of underlying conditions, some of which can be life-threatening. Chronic colitis is more common in older cats.

The prognosis for colitis varies widely depending on the underlying cause. Some mild cases are self-limiting or require only minor intervention like dietary changes. More severe conditions require lifelong treatment.

Possible Causes

In most cases the underlying cause of colitis is unknown.   Potential causes of colitis:

Bacterial infection • Parasitic infection • Fungal infection • Kidney disease • Food allergies

Inflammatory bowel disease • Dietary indiscretionCancer • Viral infections: FeLV, FIV, and FIP 

Pancreatitis  • Stress • Hyperthyroidism

Main Symptoms

Common symptoms of colitis:

DiarrheaBlood or mucus in the feces • Loss of appetite  • Dehydration

Lethargy • Straining to defecate 

Less common symptoms of colitis include vomiting and weight loss. While rare, weight loss can be associated with colitis in the case of viral infections or cancer.

Testing and Diagnosis

Diagnosis of colitis is complex as it can be brought on by an array of underlying conditions.

The following diagnostics are performed to identify the underlying cause:

• Physical examination • Rectal palpation • Fecal analysis • Blood work • Diagnostic imaging

• Test for FeLV and FIV

Steps to Recovery

The first step in treatment is the identification of the underlying cause of the inflammation. 

Initial treatment is generally focused on restoring normal bowel function and reducing the animal's discomfort. Therapeutic plans may include a combination of:

• Dietary changes • Withholding of food • Antibiotics • Fluid therapy • Probiotics

• Anti-inflammatory medication • Anti-parasitic medication • Fiber supplements

• Immunosuppressive drugs 

The prognosis for feline colitis varies greatly depending on the cause of the inflammation. A number of causes of colitis are treatable with high rates of recovery.  In the case of chronic colitis, frequent veterinarian attention is needed for proper treatment as both medication and dietary needs may change over time. Chronic colitis may require lifelong treatment to manage the symptoms.


Colitis can be caused by a number of different underlying conditions some of which are contagious (e.g. parasites, viral infections).

The most effective way to prevent colitis is to take steps to ensure the general health of the cat. General strategies to maximize health outcomes for all adult cats include:

• Avoiding contact with other cats whose health condition is unknown  • Keeping vaccinations up to date

• Annual veterinary check ups, or more frequently if health status indicates

• Diligent storage and disposal of human food and food waste • Nutritious, veterinary-approved diet

Is Colitis Common in Cats?

Colitis is a common condition in felines.

Typical Treatment

Treatment strategies for colitis are dependent on the underlying cause. Common approaches include a combination of:

• Dietary changes • Withholding of food• Antibiotics • Fluid therapy • Anti-parasitic medication

• Anti-inflammatory medication • Immunosuppressive drugs

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