Most of us don’t pay too much attention to what goes on in our cat’s litterbox. We clean it, put in fresh litter, and carry on with other tasks. But what if you notice white poop in the litter? Should you be concerned? While it seems trivial, seeing these changes in your cat’s poop can be critical in keeping them healthy.
While not often seen in cats, there are a few different things that can cause their poop to be white.
The standard brown color of your cat’s poop is due to the presence of bile pigments. But what are bile pigments, and why do they make your cat’s poop a specific color? Bile is a digestive liquid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder that aids in fat and vitamin absorption. As bile travels through your cat’s digestive system, it changes from a green color to brown.
Normal cat poop should be tan to brown (not black or red). It should have a solid form, not liquid or very hard. Mostly, it should be easy to clean out of the litterbox.
But what if you see white poop amongst the litter? Acholic stools, or light-colored poop from lack of bile, are not common in cats but are possible. The poop may have a soft or semi-formed consistency.
If you notice mostly brown poop with specks of white, this is usually related to intestinal parasites. Pay particular attention to your cat’s bedding and the fur around his anus.
1. Biliary obstruction or cholestasis
Biliary obstruction is when one of the passageways that connect the gallbladder, the liver, and the small intestine becomes blocked. This blockage means that bile, which helps with fat absorption, cannot pass. It also means that bile is not broken down into smaller molecules that cause the stool to turn brown.
With cholestasis, your cat would likely not feel well – lethargic, vomiting, lack of appetite, and pale-colored stool. You may even notice that your cat is jaundiced, a yellow discoloration most noticeable in areas like the eyes and gums.
2. Intestinal parasites
If you see white specks in otherwise normal brown poop, your cat may have tapeworms. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that pass into the cat’s poop as small segments. These segments are white and look like sesame seeds or rice grains. They are often found on the cat’s bedding while he is sleeping.
Your cat typically develops a tapeworm infection by eating an infected flea, and then the tapeworms take up residence in your cat’s intestinal tract. Tapeworms don’t always appear on a routine fecal test but are reasonably easy to diagnose on visual inspection by your veterinarian.
3. Other less common causes
- Mold: This can be seen in poop left multiple days or in humid conditions.
- Raw diet: Not necessarily seen with all raw diets, but can be more common in diets higher in calcium.
- Fish or other bones: In both raw and certain canned diets, bones can cause the poop to take on a whiter color.
You are your cat’s best advocate when it comes to his health. If you notice changes in his energy or appetite, loose stool or diarrhea, or yellow areas like the eyes or gums, then it is best to have him examined by your veterinarian.
Some variation in stool is expected on a day-to-day basis. Any sudden diet changes can alter your cat’s stool, though. If you recently switched cat foods and your cat has some softer stool or a slight color change, this may be due to the food transition. If you haven’t changed the food, it is best to check in with your vet.
If you notice your cat has white poop (whether it is entirely white or has white specks), it is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian since some causes are more severe than others.
If your cat has white rice grain segments typical of tapeworms, this is often a straightforward diagnosis. Your cat will be prescribed a dewormer; these can be either oral or an injection given by your vet.
But what about when your cat isn’t feeling well? If your cat has white or pale poop and is lethargic, not eating, vomiting, or otherwise sick, this could indicate a blockage in one of the bile ducts and may be more of an emergency. Your veterinarian will need to perform several diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, a urine analysis, and abdominal x-rays or ultrasound.
What if your cat’s poop is brown and formed but has white spots or specks? These specks may indicate that your cat has intestinal parasites. The most common parasite to cause white dots is the tapeworm. As the tapeworm matures, it sheds segments into the cat’s poop. These segments typically look like rice grains and are generally found around the cat’s anus and in the surrounding fur and bedding.
The good news is your veterinarian can quickly treat most intestinal parasites. They may also want to do a fecal test to check for other parasites and eggs.
Keep in mind that one of the most common ways your cat is infected with tapeworms is by ingesting an infected flea. This transmission makes flea prevention a crucial step in controlling tapeworms as well.
While it isn’t always glamorous, noticing changes in your cat’s litterbox habits can help you catch health problems like urinary issues, parasites, or even some liver and gallbladder issues.
Talk to your vet about what diet is most appropriate for your cat’s age and lifestyle as well. Diet is a huge factor in overall health.