As a cat parent, cleaning out the litter box may not be one of your favorite activities. But did you know that checking cat poop to ensure it's a normal color and shape is one of the most important things you can do to keep your feline friend healthy?

Most cats poop at least once a day, and cat stool is a great indicator of your kitty's state of health. It can tell you if they're experiencing a blockage or an underlying illness, or if their cat food isn't agreeing with them.

By familiarizing yourself with what "good poop" looks like, you can ensure that you're equipped to recognize when your cat's stool doesn't seem normal.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Cat Poop: What to Look For

Healthy poop is generally malleable (like modeling clay: not too soft, not too hard) and shaped like a Tootsie Roll. This is considered the gold standard for poop: your kitty is passing stool normally. Healthy stool is dark brown in color, but not too dark, as blackish poop can mean blood in the stool. Poop that is too light also may indicate a more serious issue like liver disease as it can be an indication that there is complete obstruction of the bile duct.

Small, hard balls of poop are considered abnormal and unhealthy because they can be an indicator of constipation. This is a serious issue for cats because it may indicate problematic health concerns like neurological or metabolic conditions or a colon obstruction, notes International Cat Care. According to Wag!, the fact that your cat is constipated may also indicate that they are dehydrated. You should definitely call your veterinarian if your cat passes small, hard balls of stool.

Preparing Cat Stool Samples

At each annual visit, your veterinarian will ask for a stool sample so the lab can perform tests on the fecal matter. Samples are best collected in approved plastic containers, which your veterinarian's office will provide. But you also can pick up a container at the office before your appointment, or purchase one online or at a pet supply store. Just remember: the lab will need a fresh sample, so it's important not to collect your treasure from the litter box until the day that you drop it off at the veterinarian. Once you scoop the fecal matter into the approved plastic sample container, refrigerate if possible and make sure to jot down the date and time of collection so the veterinarian's office has accurate information.

Multiple Cats, Multiple Checks

If you have more than one cat, you do not necessarily have to collect a sample from each individual animal unless your veterinarian specifically asks you to do so. If you find bloody stool, though, you'll probably have to be on litter box patrol to determine which cat may be experiencing a health issue. Of course, if one cat is ill, the others may be, too. If you notice an serious issue with one cat, isolate them with their own litter box and take to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Believe it or not, your cat's stool can tell you a lot about their well-being. By incorporating a stool check into your daily litter box maintenance routine, you can help to keep them in tip-top shape and provide your cat with a clean, healthy environment.

Christine O'Brien Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.