What Litter Box Use Says About Cat Health

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Kitten in litter box, what litter box use says about cat health
Cats are particular about many things, including their bathroom behaviors. When all is well, most pet parents follow a daily scoop and weekly clean schedule for the litter box. But sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Pet parents who notice changes should take another look to find out what litter box use says about cat health. Because something may be afoot.

‌What's a Normal Litter Box Routine?

Most cats poop once a day and pee two to four times a day. And most cats immediately cover their waste to hide the scent and keep their bathroom area tidy. When cats head to the box to do their business, they may squat or stand. Some cats do a bit of both.

Litter Box Use: 5 Signs That Something Is Wrong

Pet parents may need to take action if they notice any of these five signs. 


1. Too Much or Too Little Urination

Cats may have a medical condition like a urinary tract infection (UTI), feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), or urinary stones. Even if they’re visiting the box more often, they may not pee much at all. In older cats, frequent urination could point to diabetes or kidney disease.

2. Blood in the Litter Box

Blood or reddish-tinged urine is also from a medical condition, typically from FIC or a UTI. Cat digestive issues or urinary crystals can also cause blood in the urine. Often, pet parents notice bloody spots outside the litter box, such as on the rug or a pile of clothes.

3. Excessive Digging 

Excessive digging could signal unhappiness or stress. The litter box may be dirty or isn’t cleaned often enough, or it may have the wrong type of litter. Cats have sensitive noses and dislike strong or new scents, so they can become stressed when something changes. Excessive digging could also be a territorial display. Here, cats dig to leave behind a scent pheromone from their paw pads, signaling they have claimed the box.

4. Going Outside the Litter Box

This can be a medical issue, where cats just don’t make it to the box in time. It could also show a dislike for the litter box location. If this is the case, pet parents should move the box closer to the elimination areas. Peeing elsewhere may also show conflict in a multi-cat household, where one cat prevents others from using the box.

5. Not Covering Waste

Not covering waste may be a cat’s way to show dominance as the head cat. It could also show that the litter box is too full, the box is too small, or the cat is feeling pain in their paws. Finally, this behavior may be because the kitten didn’t learn from his or her mother. While burying waste is a survival behavior, it is a learned cat behavior. Kittens who don’t have a role model may not know it is important.‌

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