Kitty is approaching the litter box, hesitantly steps in and suddenly yowls loudly - what could the problem be? What does a cat's meow really mean?
When a cat meows when going to the litter box, this could mean they are in pain. It could also be a sign of stress or just a habit that an exceptionally vocal cat got into. Because pain during urination can be a symptom of a medical condition, if your cat suddenly starts meowing when using the litter box - take it seriously and talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
In some cases, a male cat experience a blocked, or nearly-blocked, urethra. This is a life-threatening condition. Call your veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic immediately if you see you notice one of the following symptoms -
- Inability to pass urine.
- Only passing urine in very small quantities (drops).
- Blood in the urine.
Cats meow, or cry, as a method of communication. When your cat meows, when using the litter box, the pitch of the meow, as well as other symptoms, are a good indication of what they’re trying to tell you. We’re going to delve into the causes behind meowing when going to the litter box, and what to watch for which will help you know when there is cause for concern.
Table of Contents
- What can cause a cat to meow when going to the litter box?
- Medical reasons for a cat's vocalization
- Constipation and impacted Anal sacs
- Behavioral issues
- How to tell is something wrong?
What can cause a cat to meow when going to the litter box?
When a cat meows when using the litter box, this could be a sign of pain or distress, or it could be due to behavioral issues. If you believe your cat is in pain, you should seek medical care for your pet immediately. We'll go over the possible causes so you'll understand what the potential problems may be.
Medical reasons for a cat's vocalization
Generally speaking, pain during urination in cats means something is wrong with their urinary tract. This is called FLUTD, which stands for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder. FLUTD is an umbrella term which can cover crystals in the urine - up to the point of blockage or an infection.
Obstruction of the urethra
A full blockage of the urethra is a relatively rare condition that sometimes affects the male cat. Every cat owner should be aware of this because when it happens - it can be lethal. As the name suggests - the narrow pipe from the cat's bladder becomes blocked, so that urine cannot pass.
Can you imagine just how painful not being able to pee can be?
Urine contains toxins that the body needs to get rid of. When a cat can't pee, those substances can't leave the body and their levels begin to rise. This is a medical emergency, as it will kill a cat within hours in a slow and excruciating death.
If you suspect your cat may be blocked - call your vet immediately. If your vet isn't available, call an emergency clinic. Your cat is suffering and without immediate help, his body will suffer irrevocable damage to the point of death.
Crystals in urine
How to diagnose crystals
How are these crystals treated?
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline Urinary SO (Amazon link)
Bladder or Urinary Tract Inflammation or Infection
Sometimes, a cat's urinary tract or even bladder could be inflamed. You can't see it with your own eyes, but the tissue is red, sore and swollen. Most often, this is due to a bacterial infection. This infection can be painful for your feline friend and will cry out in pain during urination.
Your veterinarian will take a urine sample to test for bacteria and may start antibiotic treatment right away, just in case. Make sure Kitty gets the full course of medication to lower the risk for repeated infection.
Sometimes the inflammation isn't due to an infection. In a unique medical condition known as FIC - Feline Idiopathic Cystitis - cats develop inflammation of the bladder due to stress alone. This can be a tricky condition to diagnose, and when you do have the diagnosis, the treatment focuses on reducing stress.
Crystals and bacteria - it's not one or the other
Other symptoms of Urinary Issues
Constipation and impacted Anal sacs
Another set of medical conditions associated with litter box vocalization relates to passing poop. A constipated cat could be in pain when trying to defecate in the litter box, something that anyone who has even been constipated can relate to.
Even if the cat isn't constipated, if the anal sacs become infected or impacted, this can be painful for your pet and very serious. Indications of anal sac disease are a foul-smelling secretion from the anus. Sometimes, all an owner may notice is painful meowing when using the box.
Did we already mention that you should talk to your vet?
As you can see, there's a variety of medical conditions that can cause a cat to meow pitifully when using the litter box. We'll move on to other reasons, but please only consider them after the vet has thoroughly checked the cat and gave him or her the all-clear.
Surprisingly, when a cat meows at the litter box, it's not always because of pain. Some cats meow for behavioral reasons. However, since some of the possible medical reasons are so serious, if your cat suddenly begins to meow at the litter box, call your vet and ask for their advice.
Stress leading to excessive vocalization
Stress is a real issue with cats, just like it is with humans. And also like people, some cats are more sensitive to stress than others.
There are many possible causes of stress in cats. In fact, any change can cause stress, as can some ongoing situations. Here are some typical sources of stress in the life of a feline -
- Being attacked by another cat or household pet.
- A change in diet.
- Renovations (moving furniture around the homes).
- New people in the home.
- A loved caretaker leaving home.
- Loud noises.
- The smell of a strange cat on the porch.
- Seeing a strange cat through the window.
- Pain and illness.
The list goes on.
Stress can be manifested in many ways. For some cats, meowing when using the litter box is one.
Assuming you know that your cat is 100% healthy, keep an eye out for other signs of stress. These include -
- Seeming alert at all times.
- Wide-open eyes with enlarged pupils.
- A tendency to hide more than usual.
- Aggressive behavior (towards people or cats).
- Litter box avoidance.
- Excessive vocalization in general.
Keep an eye on them and watch for any signs they may be upset. Reevaluate any changes you’ve made to their lives and remember, cats prefer gradual change and anything drastic or sudden can cause stress. Look for help online or contact a professional feline behaviorist to see how you can reduce stress levels in Kitty's life.
Make sure the litter box is set up properly
Since we suspect vocalization as a symptom of stress, it makes sense to look into how the litter box is set up.
Some cat may stress over having a litter box that isn't big enough, or one that's too dirty. Make sure you choose the right litter, the right box and that you have enough boxes around your home, especially if you have more than one cat. A common litter box may be ok, as long as it's big enough.
Here are more posts that will help you set up the perfect litter box for your cat -
Your cat may be trying to get your attention by meowing when going to the bathroom. If you’ve ruled out all medical issues, your cat might be trying to tell you something else. You know your cat and their cries best, if it’s a higher pitch than usual, something might be wrong.
However, if it’s a gentle meow while looking at you, the cat might simply be playful or telling you they are lonely. Or your cat might be looking for praise for a job well done. Hey, who doesn’t like a pat on the back every now and again. Your cat could be trying to get your attention the best way they know how - meowing!
A talkative cat
Some cats just tend to be more vocal than others. Siamese cats are notorious for being talkative but the truth this trait isn't limited to a particular breed or coat pattern. Some felines just love blabbing on... And there's not much you can do about it.
How to tell is something wrong?
You know your cat best. If something looks - or sounds - unusual, or if your cat seems upset, you need to address the problem. Monitoring our cats' behavior is crucial when it comes to spotting changes that may suggest a medical problem, or a behavior one.
If you notice your cat is meowing and you are unsure if it's attention-seeking behavior or a severe medical issue at hand, it's best to do your due diligence and contact your veterinarian for professional medical advice. We know your cat's health is paramount and ensuring your best feline friend isn't in any pain is just as important to you as is their happiness.