The quality of what goes in to your cat’s diet, affects the quantity and smell of what comes out in the litter box, writes Dr Mark Edwards, Veterinary Technical Consultant, Royal Canin.
Most owners of indoor cats have to deal with the daily cleaning of at least one litter box. This gives them a daily insight into the consistency, colour, quantity – and of course smell – of a cat’s poo. For many owners, this can be a “not-so-pleasant” daily occurrence, and the quantity and smell of poo is more than enough to make our stomachs churn.
Did You Know That You Are the Main Influencer of Your Cat’s Poo?
Yes! That’s right. What you feed your cat, directly impacts the quantity, consistency, and smell of what comes out.
Does your cat poo smell an awful lot? Does it makes your eyes water? Is the poo loose, or even liquid? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there could well be an issue with your beloved feline.
While many medical issues in cats can cause problems with poo – including intestinal worms, infection and bowel inflammation – often the cat’s diet is the primary cause. Having a better knowledge of the types of food that are good for your cat, can help you ensure he or she is getting all of the essential nutrients needed to stay healthy.
Ultimately, feeding a premium diet with all of the highly digestible protein and nutrients your cat needs in their day can help to reduce the quantity and smell of your cat’s poo.
The Right Nutrition
In the wild, cats are natural predators and typically consume birds, mice and insects – all primarily composed of protein. An ideal diet for cats should be high in protein, but the protein needs to be easy for your cat to digest.
Many diets have protein that is hard for your cat to digest and this is the most common cause of smelly poo. In fact, a high quantity of low quality protein can actually cause diarrhoea as well.
Specific carbohydrates in an ideal diet also help to maintain a firm consistency to the poo and help to keep your cat regular. All of these nutrients together help to decrease the quantity and smell of your cat’s poo.
Many owners will change their cat’s diet very regularly. This can also lead to smelly and often runny poo. It is important to make any changes in your cat’s dietvery gradually. The best way to do this is to slowly add the new diet to the old diet every day for seven days – using the image below as a guide.
Ultimately, once you find the right diet for your cat, there is no need to change it more than once every few years, as his or her needs change with age.
Have You Noticed a Change in Your Cat’s Poo?
Cat poo can be really quite smelly! If your cat’s poo has changed and is much more smelly than usual, or if the consistency, colour or quantity seems to have changed, then this could be a sign of a medical issue that needs to be followed up by your vet.
Many intestinal parasites such as worms and protozoa, as well as certain bacteria can cause a change in smell, colourand consistency of your cat’s poo. Likewise, certain diseases of the intestine can cause these changes. In most cases it is all down to your cat’s diet, however, be sure to follow up on any dramatic changes on your cat’s poo with his or her vet.
When you clean your cat’s litter box on a daily basis, always note the quality of their poo. A cat on an ideal diet should have a well formed poo with some odour, but it shouldn’t be extremely pungent. If you notice sudden changes and these continue for more than 12–24 hours, then collect a poo sample, and take this and your cat along to your vet.
Choosing a Diet for Your Cat
There are so many diets for cats available today; it can be really hard to know where to start when choosing a diet. Many owners will pick a diet that is on sale, or a diet with nice packaging, but it is a lot more complicated than that.
An ideal diet for your cat will contain the precise balance of highly digestible protein, fat, minerals, vitamins and certain carbohydrates in a quantity and ratio that meets your cat’s daily nutritional needs and that promotes proper nutrient absorption.
It is important to assess a diet for your cat very carefully. Whether you choose a wet diet, a dry diet or a combination of both will depend on what your cat will tolerate. Whatever the case, always look for a diet with a quality protein source and “LIP” – low indigestible proteins. This means the cat is able to digest and use the protein in the diet. Typically this means choosing a diet with a protein 'meal’ source that features in the first two ingredients on the back of the package.
The more protein that is digested and absorbed, the less undigested protein (and hence smell) there is in the poo! Having a full range of vitamins, minerals and certain carbohydrates including fibre and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) – a special carbohydrate that helps nourish the good bacteria in your cat’s digestive tract – are also very important components to look for in an ideal diet.
Ultimately, when it comes to sourcing and feeding an ideal diet with appropriate nutritional content for your cat, the proof of a quality diet might just be found in the litter box!