If you find blood in your cat’s stool, a veterinary visit is in order. There are numerous causes, some are serious, some are minor. Either way, a veterinary appointment and thorough physical examination are essential if you observe blood in your cat’s stool.
In This Article
1. Know What Is Normal
Dyschezia, meaning painful or difficult defecation, may or may not be associated with blood in the stool. Hematochezia refers to the passage of fresh blood from the anus, usually associated with stool. The appearance may vary from red or pink streaks or specks on the feces to blood throughout the stool or passed alone. Black or tarry stools, called melena, indicate bleeding in the upper portion of the GI tract.1
Cat feces should be malleable, formed, and tube-shaped. Feces should not be so soft that it does not hold form; it should not be too hard or in numerous small balls or pellets. Feces should be a medium to dark brown.2 Keep in mind that food dyes may discolor the stool.
2. Pay Attention to What Your Cat Is Doing in the Litter Box
The frequency of defecation and the appearance of stools may vary from cat to cat, pay attention to any change in frequency or appearance of stools.
Blood in the feces can occur if your cat is straining, either due to diarrhea or constipation, resulting in rupturing rectal blood vessels. This usually looks like a normal stool with streaks of blood on the surface.3 In this case, the streaks of blood aren’t problematic, but the causes of the staining may be.
Remember that straining in the litterbox is often assumed to be due to constipation, but can be due to other problems including a urinary blockage, which is a life-threatening emergency.4 Therefore, veterinary care should be sought immediately if your cat is straining in the litter box.
3. Collect a Stool Sample
About a teaspoon of stool is usually required for testing, but the more stool, the better. It is okay if there is cat litter on the stool sample. Wear gloves and double bag the feces in zippered storage bags. If the sample is collected overnight, place the baggie in the refrigerator away from food.5 Stool cannot be processed if it has dried out, or if it has soaked into a cloth or paper towel.
4. Is This an Emergency?
Your cat should be examined by your veterinarian if you are seeing blood in the stool, but this is usually not an emergency.
- Excessive bleeding from the rectum.
- Straining in the litter box.
- Your cat seems also seems to act sick, for example not eating, not drinking, or lethargy.
- Blood is coming from more than one source. For example, you see blood in the stool and vomitus or urine, or your cat is coughing or sneezing blood.
- Unexplained contusions (bruising) or petechia, which looks like pinpoint blood spots on the skin.
- Any history of exposure to rodent control products.
If you are seeing small amounts of blood in the stool and your cat otherwise seems normal, call your veterinarian for an appointment. Keep your cat isolated from sources of stress. If you have multiple cats, keep this cat separated in a room with an individual cat box. This may help to reduce stress and allow you to closely monitor stool and overall behavior. Keep your cat away from other pets in case this is contagious. Always wash your hands after contact with your cat, or cat feces.
5. What to Expect at the Veterinarian
Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam, including an exam of the rectum, anal sacs, and anal area.
Your veterinarian may need to do blood work, fecal testing, and may send samples to a diagnostic laboratory. Imaging of the intestinal tract including radiographs or ultrasound may be recommended.
- Straining due to diarrhea or constipation causing ruptured blood vessels.
- Trauma to the anus or anal area, including bite wounds from other cats.
- Anal sac inflammation, impaction, infection, or cancer.8
- Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections in the GI tract.910
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Intestinal or rectal cancer, including intestinal lymphoma.
- Physical irritation to the inside of intestines causing bleeding from ingestion of foreign objects such as string, plastic, or excessive amounts of hair.11
- Stress may be due to a change in the household including a new person or pet.
- Anticoagulants contained in some rat poisons inhibit vitamin K, which is required for blood clotting. Rodenticide ingestion can occur directly from eating rat bait. In cats, exposure can also be secondary to the predation of a rodent who has ingested the product.12
6. What Can You Do to Prevent Blood in the Stool?
While some causes of blood in the stool cannot be avoided, there are certain things that you can do for the preventable causes.
Follow your veterinarian’s dietary recommendations, this may include a high-fiber, bland, hypoallergenic, or hairball control diet.
Pick up any items that your cat may potentially eat. Cats, especially kittens, may consume anything they find, including string, hair ties, ribbon, or plastic toys. Pick up any free items in the household and store them out of reach of your cat.
Many cats enjoy drinking running water. A recirculating water fountain can help increase water intake, this will help to reduce constipation, which can cause blood in the stool.
If stress is believed to be associated with blood in the stool, your veterinarian may recommend a pheromone product to help your kitty feel calm and relaxed. Feliway Spray and Feliway Diffusers are products that mimic the happy pheromones of cats and can reduce stress-associated behaviors and problems.13
While blood in the stool is alarming, it may or may not be a simple fix. Be sure to collect a representative stool sample and call your veterinarian if you see blood in your cat’s stool.
If you have other concerns about your cat’s stool, this is a great video overview about your cat’s poop from veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Here are some additional resources and sources:
- VCA Hospitals: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/blood-in-cats-stools-or-on-the-fur
- WebMD: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/bloody-stool-cats#1
We’ve created a series of posts here on Pet News Daily related to gastro intestinal issues for cats and cat health in general, including:
- Home remedies that will settle your cat’s stomach
- Home remedies for cat vomiting
- What to do when your cat is throwing up food?
- What to do if your cat is vomiting bile
- What to do if your cat is vomiting blood
- What to do if your cat is throwing up white foam
- Over the counter medicine for cat diarrhea
- Cat foaming at the mouth: reasons & what to do
- Home remedies for cat diarrhea
Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
- Tams TR. Gastrointestinal symptoms. In: Tams TR, ed. Handbook of Small Animal Gastroenterology. 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2003:1-50.
- O’Brien C. Cat poop: a comprehensive guide. Hillspet.com. Published July 1, 2020. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Defarges A, Blois S, Hall EJ, Gibson TWG, Mitchell KD. Disorders of the stomach and intestines in cats. Merckvetmanual.com. Updated October 2020. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Urinary obstruction in males cats. Acvs.org. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center. Fecal exams. Ksvhc.org. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- American Veterinary Medical Association. 13 Animal emergencies that require immediate veterinary consultation and/or care. Avma.org. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Ruotsalo K, Tant MS. Testing for unexplained bleeding. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Hunter T, Ward E. Anal sac disease in cats. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Tabor AE, Grünberg W, Swerczek TW. Disorders caused by bacteria of the digestive system in cats. Merckvetmanual.com Updated October 2020. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Peregrine AS. Gastrointestinal parasites of cats. Merckvetmanual.com. Updated October 2020. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Ward E, Panning A. Ingestion of foreign bodies in cats. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Schmid R, Brutlag A, Gollakner R. Anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning in cats. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed April 11, 2022.
- Pereira JS, Fragoso S, Beck A, Lavigne S, Varejão AS, da Graça Pereira G. Improving the feline veterinary consultation: the usefulness of Feliway spray in reducing cats’ stress. J Feline Med Surg. 2016;18(12):959-964. doi:10.1177/1098612X15599420