Enema for Cats at Home

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. January 8, 2024
Enema for Cats at Home

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An enema is a procedure whereby liquid is inserted into the anus to treat various gastrointestinal problems. It is more common in human medicine, but it is also used by veterinarians. We can administer our own enemas at home, but this should only be done on the advice of a doctor. The same applies to our cats. If our feline has a problem defecating, we might think that we can try giving an enema to rectify the problem. However, we should never do so without veterinary consultation. Normally an enema is reserved for clinical application and it is not commonly a first aid treatment.

At AnimalWised, we discover all you need to know about an enema for cats at home. We look at the uses for feline enemas, how administration is carried out and in what situations are they contraindicated.

  1. What is an enema for cats?
  2. Enema for cats uses
  3. How to administer a cat enema at home
  4. Contraindications of enemas for cats

What is an enema for cats?

Administration of an enema to a cat consists of the introduction of a liquid into the anus and rectum. It is a procedure which is used to push water into the lower part of the bowel, causing a laxative effect. There are different forms of laxatives, many of them taken orally to help return gastrointestinal transit to normal levels. An enema is a mechanical form of a laxative which is usually used to have the same effect.

Many different types of laxatives for cats use active ingredients such as osmotic diuretics, emollients or other lubricants to reactive intestinal transit. Enemas are types of osmotic laxatives. This is because the introduction of water into the colon leads to increased water content in the material within the colon (stool). The aim is to liquefy the feces to facilitate its expulsion.

As we have stated, enemas for cats will most commonly be used in a veterinary clinical setting. The veterinarian will determine what type of enema they will need to use. This is because enemas may contain certain active ingredients. The main types of enema include:

  • Plain water: when the mechanical action is enough, plain clean water may be used to simply remove the impacted feces. It is often warmed to help break down the stool further.

  • Saline solution: this is a type of water with a very high salinity, i.e. salt content. This salt helps with the osmotic effect of drawing water into the colon and softening the stool. The salts can be in various forms such as sodium citrate or sodium lauryl sulfoacetate.

  • Glycerin: although glycerin can be used in laxatives which are taken orally by the cat, they can also be used in enemas. The glycerin acts as a lubricant and also increases the osmotic effect to draw water into the feces.

  • Mineral oils: these work similarly to glycerin as they lubricate the colon and reduce the friction which occurs between the impacted stool and the intestinal walls.

Sometimes the term ‘enema’ refers to the procedure of introducing liquid into the colon via the anus and rectum, but it is also used for the device used to carry out this procedure. This device can be in various forms. One of the most common is a bulb syringe. This is a rubber bulb which is attached to a nozzle. The bulb is filled with and the nozzle inserts into the rectum of the cat. Squeezing the bulb pushes the liquid into the colon via pressure.

Other types of enemas for cats include a bag with tubing. These are usually prepackaged enemas with saline solution or some other preparation. They function similarly to the bulb-type enema. A syringe may also be used to introduce the liquid, using the pressure on the plunger to cause movement.

Enemas for cats will be used in veterinary clinics and will be specially adapted to small animals. Using enemas intended for human use can be very dangerous, especially since the size and pressure can overwhelm the cat's digestive system. It can even cause significant tissue damage if used improperly.

Learn more about constipation in cats with our article on why my cat hasn't pooped in 4 days.

Enema for cats uses

As we have already stated, the main purpose of enemas is to return healthy intestinal transit. The reason intestinal transit is not working properly can be due to various reasons such as impaction or constipation. In turn, this have underlying causes which can also vary:

  • Diet: if the cat is not eating the right food, they might suffer constipation or impaction which requires an enema. The right food depends on the individual, but fiber is often an issue for cats. If they do not have enough of it in their diet, it can result in slowing of intestinal transit. Poor diet can also result in problems such as obesity which can have various effects on the cat's organism, including gastrointestinal health.

  • Exercise: similarly, if a cat does not get enough exercise it can lead to problems such as obesity. Exercise helps to keep a cat regular. If they are too sedentary, but still eat a lot of food, it can lead to constipation.

  • Drugs: constipation is a common side effect to various medications. Your veterinarian should advise you on side effects, but different cats will react differently to different drugs.

  • Blockages: if a foreign object enters the cat's digestive system, it can result in impaction. This is because the feces is unable to pass through the GI tract due to the blockage. A common problem in longhaired cats is the ingestion of hair when grooming. This can lead to hairballs. An enema is only useful if the blockage is in the lower part of the colon.

  • Dehydration: if the cat does not intake enough water, it can lead to drying out of the stool. This makes impaction and constipation more likely.

  • Disease: various diseases can result in constipation or impaction as a symptom. These include anal sac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), hypothyroidism or even tumors which cause blockages. Neurological diseases can cause signals from the brain to the colon to work improperly, resulting in constipation.

Other health problems can result in constipation or impaction of the colon and the requirement of an enema. Repeated cases of constipation can result in something known as megacolon in cats. This is a condition in which we see improper dilation of the colon, resulting in the impediment of intestinal transit. This can be chronic, necessitating regular enemas. In this case, the veterinarian may require you to carry out the enema at home.

Enema for Cats at Home - Enema for cats uses

How to administer a cat enema at home

As we have already stipulated, it is important you only give an enema to a cat under veterinary instruction. They will not only choose the right solution for the cat's needs, but they will determine the type of enema to use and explain how to administer the enema yourself at home. It is a delicate procedure, so we will only usually provide an enema when the cat has a chronic problem or if they need multiple enemas over a short period of time.

When preparing an enema for a cat, you will need:

  • Gloves (usually nitrile or latex)
  • Solution determined by your veterinarian
  • Water-based lubricant
  • Mild soap

You will need gloves both to protect your hands and to avoid the introduction of bacteria into the cat's anus. The lubricant needs to be suitable for cats and is used to help insert the enema into the rectum. Mild soap may not be required, but it is possible the cat will need cleaned afterwards.

How to give a cat enema at home

  1. Prepare the equipment by ensuring the enema is clean.
  2. Warm the solution to body temperature as cold liquid can be harmful to the cat.
  3. Lay down a towel and, ideally, have someone help you restrain the cat. If the cat is disturbed, they may move too much to carry out the procedure.
  4. Lubricate the nozzle or the end of the syringe.
  5. Insert the nozzle into the rectum of the cat gently, usually to around 1" depth.
  6. Slowly squeeze the bulb or push down on the syringe. You cannot introduce the liquid too fast or it may cause harm.
  7. Gently massage the abdomen to help ensure transit of the liquid.
  8. Take the cat to the litter box as they will feel the need to use it.
  9. Clean the cat's anus and rectum, using mild soap and water if necessary.

Learn more about an alternative to cat enemas at home with our article on uses and dosage of lactulose for cats.

Enema for Cats at Home - How to administer a cat enema at home

Contraindications of enemas for cats

Due to its route of administration, there is the possibility of trauma to the anal or rectal tissue. This means that cats which already have damage to this tissue may not be able to have an enema. Some examples of contraindications for enemas in cats include:

  • Rectal prolapse
  • Severe anal injury
  • Sever abdominal pain
  • Advanced heart disease
  • Systemic infections

Physical trauma is not the only reason. Sometimes a cat can have other health issues such as advanced heart failure in cats or systemic infections which mean they should not be given enemas. Cats with high levels of anxiety may also not be good candidates for enemas, although some veterinarians may choose to do so with the cat under sedation.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Enema for Cats at Home, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

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Enema for Cats at Home