Why Does My Cat Meow When Going to the Litter Box?

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?

Why Does My Cat Meow When Going To the Litter Box?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 – 

  1. Inability to pass urine.
  2. Only passing urine in very small quantities (drops).
  3. 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.

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

If you’re still reading this, we can assume you don’t suspect your cat is actually blocked right now. So we can go on and review other potential issues which might cause him or her to meow constantly when doing their business.
Next on the agenda are crystals in the urine. When the urine is either too acidic or too alkaline, tiny crystals may form in the liquid. These can then scratch the gentle surface of the urethra, or they can stay in the urinary tract and begin to grow into bladder stones.
There are three contributing factors to crystals in a cat’s urine –
1. A diet that is too acidic or too alkaline.
2. Not consuming enough water – whether through food or by drinking.
3. A predisposition towards developing crystals.
Whatever the cause, crystals in the urine can be painful and also put your pet at risk for bladder stones and even blockage.

How to diagnose crystals

Since the cat has been crying when using the litter box, your veterinarian is going to take a urine sample and test it. He or she will be checking the sample’s PH levels to determine acidity levels and also take a look under the microscope to look for crystals. This is what they might see –
Crystals in cat's urine sample
These tiny shards are enough to cause a cat a great deal of discomfort and even pain when urinating, often resulting in vocal complaints.

How are these crystals treated?

Your veterinarian will probably help mask the pain right away using pain medication. However, the long term solution is switching to an appropriate diet. There are special cat food formulas that were created specifically to get a cat’s urine acidity levels balanced.
That cat food may be expensive but it’s very important to follow your vet’s instructions on that. The good news is that these foods are usually very palatable, so Kitty is likely to enjoy the switch. Start by mixing equal parts of the cat’s old food with the new medical food but don’t delay the change too much – your cat’s bladder needs this.
Typical prescription diets for these cats include –
Hill’s Science Diet Prescription C/D diet (Amazon link)

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline Urinary SO (Amazon link)

Sometimes, the culprit isn’t crystals, or at least not only crystals, so let’s move on to the next possible medical reason.

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

Finally, it’s worth noting that many cats get the “worst of both worlds”. Crystals can cause microscopic scratches in the urinary tract, which in turn set the ground for existing bacteria to take hold and multiply. These opportunistic infections need to be addressed by both antibiotics and a change of diet.

Other symptoms of Urinary Issues

Hopefully, you can see why excessive vocalization associated with peeing is a great reason for a vet visit.
While we’re on the topic, it’s worth mentioning that litter box meowing or yowling is not the only symptom. In fact, some cats may never express their distress like that.
In fact, the most common telltale sign of FLUTD and bladder issues in cats is litter box avoidance. If your cat begins to pee on your bed, on the carpet or anywhere that isn’t the litter box, there’s a good chance he or she is experiencing one of the medical issues discussed above. That’s why your first step should always be to talk to your vet.

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.

Veterinarian with cat
Always rule out health problems before looking into behavioral issues

Behavioral issues

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.

Stressed catStress 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 –

  1. Being attacked by another cat or household pet.
  2. A change in diet.
  3. Renovations (moving furniture around the homes).
  4. New people in the home.
  5. A loved caretaker leaving home.
  6. Loud noises.
  7. The smell of a strange cat on the porch.
  8. Seeing a strange cat through the window.
  9. 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 –

How to Choose a Litter Box for Your Cat

How Often Should You Clean a Litter Box

How Many Litter Boxes per Cat Should You Have?

Attention-seeking behavior

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.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. great article

  2. My kitten is 8wks ,I think she may be younger, she crys in the litterbox , she also plays in it so I think

  3. My male cat used to cry before using the litter. I watched him and the urine and stool were normal with no evidence of any distress during elimination.
    I discussed this with the vet along with a noticeable weight loss, but the vet felt there was no problem because all else was good. Eyes, teeth, no lethargy or other worrying signs.
    I lost my boy 2 days ago now, turned out he had pneumonia. He was too far gone by the time he started to display the classic pneumonia symptoms.
    I only wish I had insisted on further tests when I reported the weight loss and crying before using the litter.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu