Contributors: Kathleen P Freeman, Kenneth Simpson

 Species: Feline   |   Classification: Lab Tests

Overview Sampling Tests Result Data Further Reading


  • Bacterial infections can cause severe diarrhea, especially in young animals.
  • Fecal culture identifies these bacteria and, with sensitivity testing, can suggest effective antimicrobial therapy.



  • Identification of bacterial causes of enteritis.
  • Identification of intestinal carriers of zoonotic bacteria, eg Salmonella spp Salmonella sppCampylobacter spp Campylobacter jejuniYersina spp and possisbly certain types of E. coli and Clostridia spp (pathogenicity not well established in cats for GI disease).


Source of Test Material

  • Rectal sample or freshly-voided feces.

Quality Control


  • Standard hygiene.

Sample storage

  • Transport medium swabs ( rectal swab) or sterile container (feces or diarrhea sample).
  • Refrigerate if sample is not being posted/processed immediately.

Sample transport



  • Growth on selective and nonselective media with identification of significant colonies.


  • Widely available.

Technique (Intrinsic) Limitations

  • May have false negative cultures when pathogens present.

Technician (Extrinsic) Limitations

  • Requires special knowledge and techniques for accurate isolation and identification of potential pathogens.

Result Data

Normal (Reference) Values

  •  Escherichia coli Escherichia coliCampylobacter spp Campylobacter jejuniSalmonella spp and Clostridium spp may be isolated from healthy cats.
  • Serotyping of  E. coli isolates may be necessary before a result is considered significant, especially in adult.
  • Unknown significance of enteric E. coli in cats, unless septicemia or neonatal colibacillosis in kittens.

Abnormal Values

  • Significant organisms include Campylobacter spp Campylobacter jejuniSalmonella spp   Salmonella spp and Yersinia spp (rare).
  • Unknown significance of E. coli and Clostridia spp in diarrheal diseases.

Errors and Artifacts

  • False negative culture results: if treatment with antimicrobials before sampling.
  • False negative culture results: if sample handled or transported inappropriately.

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from VetMedResource and PubMed.
  • Marks S L et al (1999) Evaluation of methods to diagnose Clostridium perfringens-associated diarrhea in dogs. JAVMA 214 (3), 357-360.