- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Newborn kittens don’t start pooping on their own right away. For the first three weeks of life, they’ll need their mother—or a human parent—to stimulate their pooping activity, generally after every feeding. Once kittens can manage the pooping process, they’ll generally poop (without help) one to four times per day.
Even though it takes about 3 weeks for a kitten’s body to learn how to poop, kittens still produce poop from birth. So, if you have a litter of very young kittens to take care of, you may have plenty of questions about what you need to do to help your kitten start pooping—and we’ve got answers.
Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about safely stimulating kitten poops, plus a few signs your kittens may need veterinary care.
Why Don’t Kittens Start Pooping Right Away?
“Most neonate animals won’t have the ability to control their own bowels right off the bat,” says Alysper M. Cormanes, DVM at Veterinarians.org.
Since kittens don’t have this experience, they rely on their mothers to help them start pooping before they can pass waste. The mother does this by “toileting,” which involves licking the area to stimulate the nerves, Dr. Cormanes says.
The toileting process helps teach the kitten’s muscles what to do and how to handle defecation. Eventually, their brain eventually realizes when it’s time to poop and establishes a familiar pattern. That’s when kittens learn to start pooping on their own, which usually happens around the three-week mark, according to Dr. Cormanes.
How to Help Your Kitten Start Pooping
If your newborn kitten doesn’t have a mother, you’ll need to take on the role of “mother cat” and stimulate their poops.
- After you’ve fed the kitten, grab a clean, soft cloth.
- Gently rub the kitten’s belly, genital, and anal area in circular motions.
- Keep massaging—gently—until the kitten poops.
- Catch the poop in the cloth.
- Take note of the poop’s color, consistency, texture, etc. before disposing of it.
- Gently wash the kitten with a warm cloth and pat them dry.
Some additional tips to ensure the pooping process goes as smoothly as possible include:
- Make sure your equipment is clean: Dr. Cormanes emphasizes the importance of only using clean equipment for toileting kittens. Only using clean cloths or sterile cotton balls and pads can help prevent infections and other complications.
- Be gentle: “You’re coming into contact with their lower belly, which includes their navel, anus, and genitals. These areas can be extra sensitive. Be mindful of the amount of pressure you apply during the rubbing motion,” Dr. Cormanes says. Using too much force could break their thin skin, which can also lead to infection.
- Keep the kitten dry and warm: “Kittens are not able to regulate their temperature—and keeping them in a wet state will definitely make them sick,” Dr. Cormanes says. So, once your kitten poops and you clean them up, make sure you dry them carefully.
The stimulation process may seem like a lot of work, but don’t worry! It’s only temporary. Before you know it, your kitten will be using their litter box and pooping all on their own—and quite possibly, zooming around afterward.
How to know when there’s a problem
If your new kitten doesn’t poop after meals even when you stimulate them, they could be constipated.
Increasing the time you spend gently massaging their belly and anal area after they eat could help them poop. But if they don’t poop for a day, despite stimulation, you’ll want to check in with your vet in case they need treatment for constipation.
“If your kitten isn’t pooping after a day, despite stimulation, consult with a veterinarian to determine if any treatment is needed for constipation,” says Megan Conrad, an Oregon-based licensed veterinarian and member of telehealth veterinary platform Hello Ralphie.
You’ll also want to seek vet attention if your kitten has persistent diarrhea. “Very young kittens can dehydrate easily from diarrhea, so if loose stool continues beyond a day, they should be evaluated by a vet,” Dr. Conrad says.
Other signs it’s time to call a vet include:
- Bloody or watery diarrhea
What Does Healthy Kitten Poop Look Like?
When you stimulate a kitten to help them defecate, you’ll want to make sure those poops have a healthy appearance.
Your kitten’s poop should be solid and brown, with one exception. Their first poop, made up of a substance called meconium, may have a very dark, or even green appearance. Your kitten will usually pass this poop within a day or two after birth.
If you notice any of the following colors or textures in your kitten’s poop, it’s best to call your vet as soon as possible.
- Mucus: Slimy, whitish, or yellow stools can suggest a parasite or bowel infection.
- Red and bloody: Bloody stool often suggests an infection.
- Black: Stools with a tarry or black appearance can suggest bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
- Orange: This color can point to liver or gallbladder issues.
- Yellow: This color can suggest bacterial overgrowth.
- Green: Kittens with green poop may have a bacterial infection.
- Gray: A kitten with gray stool may be eating too much. They may also have an imbalance in probiotics or bile. Your vet can offer more guidance on how much to feed your kitten and whether it’s safe to introduce probiotics to their diet.
- White: White stool often points to a digestive imbalance, which can be serious, even life-threatening.
Can Any Diseases Affect Kitten Poops?
Certain health conditions can affect the appearance of a kitten’s poop, including:
- Portosystemic shunt: This liver defect prevents toxins from being removed from the bloodstream. Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of this condition.
- Malabsorption: Kittens whose bodies don’t absorb enough nutrients into their bloodstream may develop various health issues, including vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea.
- Parasites and infections: Bacterial infections, viral infections like panleukopenia, and intestinal parasites can all lead to issues with your kitten’s poop. “All of these can irritate, inflame, or otherwise attack the digestive system of young kittens and cause diarrhea and other GI symptoms,” Dr. Conrad says.
Once your kitten is old enough to start pooping on their own, putting their litter box in an easily accessible, visible place can help you monitor their bowel movements for any signs of possible health issues.
If you have any concerns or questions about kitten health or development, don’t hesitate to consult your vet. They can always offer more guidance on giving your new kitten the best care possible.