Most cat owners will often experience litter box problems at some point in their lives. Sometimes cats stop using their litter box, other times they keep going outside their litter box. But another less common problem can also arise: your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens.
If you are keeping on top of scooping your cat’s litter box daily, it will be pretty evident if this is happening. There will be no clumps of soiled litter or poop for your to pick up, even though you’ve seen your cat go to their litter box several times that day. Most healthy cats will pee a couple of times per day and poop at least once, so why is your cat not pooping or peeing at all?
The most likely answer to this question is that your cat is constipated and struggling to go to the toilet. However, it could also be that your cat feels safe in their litter box and is going there to hide. Alternatively, they may be dealing with litter box conflict with other cats in your home, or could simply still be sussing it out!
In this article, I will run through all the reasons why your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing is happening, and what you can do to help.
Why is My Cat Just Sitting in the Litter Box?
1. Your Cat is Constipated
The most likely reason your cat is sitting in the litter box doing nothing is that they are constipated. Your cat needs the toilet, which is why they have gone to their litter box in the first place, but they just cannot get anything out! This can be extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant.
What is Causing Constipation?
Constipation is fairly common in cats, and there could be several reasons why your cat is constipated. The most likely is dehydration. Cats are known for not drinking much, and many need extra encouragement from a water fountain, refusing to drink from their bowl! If they don’t get enough liquid, their stools will become hard and painful to push out.
Another reason is a lack or excess of fiber in their diet. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut to help increase the weight and size of your cat’s stools, but also softens them and makes it easier for them to pass. If you have changed your cat’s diet, it could be that their new one doesn’t have the right amount of fiber for them, causing them to be constipated.
However, constipation can also arise off the back of more serious or chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperactive thyroid. If you think your cat could be constipated, it’s always advisable to take them to the vet so that they can pinpoint the cause and provide the right treatment.
How is Constipation Treated?
Long-term constipation can cause permanent damage to your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, and so taking your cat to the vet for a checkup and treatment is non-negotiable.
If your cat is constipated, your vet will prescribe constipation relief medication to help manage the symptoms and make going to the toilet easier for your cat. This will work at loosening your cat’s stools so they can pass them easily. In some severe cases, they may also administer an enema.
If the constipation is caused due to a medical condition, your vet will also treat the underlying condition. This will help prevent constipation from returning, besides preventing any further complications from developing. Alternatively, they will be able to offer advice on increasing your cat’s fluid intake or changing their diet if either of these things is the cause.
How Can I Prevent Constipation?
There are also a few things you can also do at home to help prevent your cat from becoming constipated in the future.
The first is increasing your cat’s fluid intake. Your vet will likely offer advice on this, but having multiple water bowls in different locations, keeping them clean and the water fresh, or opting for a cat water fountain can go a long way. You can also try mixing water with a small amount of chicken stock or water drained from a tin of tuna to make it more appetizing and appealing to fussy felines.
You should also encourage exercise and play. When cats are active, the movement helps promote healthy digestion and naturally pushes their stools along their intestine. Plus, when cats are obese or overweight, their intestines often become inflamed and draw out more water from their stools, exacerbating their constipation. So, encouraging exercise will help them maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of hard stools.
2. Your Cat Has a Urinary Blockage
Instead of your cat being constipated, they may alternatively be suffering from a urinary blockage. While urinary blockages can occur in female cats, it is extremely rare. Males are much more likely to experience a blockage as their urethra is a lot narrower and longer, and so easier to occlude. So, this is a much more likely reason that your male cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens.
Often, this can be due to crystals that form and accumulate in the urethra, bladder, or elsewhere along the urinary tract. If enough form, they can block off the passage of urine, making it extremely hard for your cat to pee.
Another cause could be a bladder infection. The lining of the bladder can become severely inflamed and swell, blocking off the passage of urine. Alternatively, your cat could have bladder stones which are mineral deposits that form inside their bladder. These can vary in size, but large ones can cut off the passage of urine through the tract.
If your cat is unable to pass urine, this is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment. When left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure and heart issues. In worst cases, the bladder could burst which will be fatal. To fix the issue, your cat will need to have its bladder unblocked. Sometimes, vets will do this by inserting a tube up through the urethra, whereas other times surgical removal of the blockage is required.
3. Your Cat is Anxious & Stressed
Stress or anxiety is another possible explanation behind why your cat keeps going to the litter box every few minutes but isn’t pooping or peeing. When stressed, cats will often seek refuge and hide from their surroundings. They could choose to hide under your bed, on a high shelf in your home, or in a cat condo. Yet, their litter box is another small and safe space that they could run to.
Is My Cat Stressed?
Whether this is the reason your cat keeps going to the litter box depends on several things. Firstly, do you have an enclosed litter box? If so, your cat could well be trying to make themselves at ease. Cats are known for loving small spaces! However, if you have a large open litter box in an open place in your home, they’re probably not using their litterbox as a hideout.
Also, does your cat have reason to feel stressed? Sometimes, there may be obvious stressors. For example, if your cat keeps retreating to the litter box on bonfire night, they are probably scared of the fireworks. However, some sources of stress are less obvious. Cats are creatures of habit and even the smallest changes to their routine can make them feel anxious.
How Can I Alleviate Stress?
If you think your cat is stressed, don’t despair. While comforting your cat may seem like a good idea, it is best to let them hide and feel better in their own time. However, there are also a few things easy changes you can make which will help them to feel more at ease:
- Provide Hiding Places: The best thing you can do is offer them somewhere else to hide. You can purchase cat condos from pet stores which are a great option, but even an old cardboard box will work. With somewhere other than their litter box to hide, they’re less likely to camp out in their toilet.
- Offer an Easy Escape: Installing a cat flap is also know to help with stress as your cat can flee a stressful situation easily and return home when they are feeling calmer. If you have an indoor cat, don’t worry – ensuring they have free movement around your home and aren’t confined to one room will help too.
- Encourage Play: Physical exercise is a great alleviator of stress in both humans and cats! Try to put aside at least 15 minutes each day to spend playing with your cat. This will also help you form a closer bond with your pet, which too will help them to feel more at ease in your home, especially if you have just got a new kitty.
4. Your Kitten is Still Learning
Have you recently bought a little kitten? If so, they may keep going to the litter box as they are still trying to suss it out. Kittens need to learn where their litter box is, get used to the type of litter that is in use, and how to poop and cover up their excrement as adult cats do. If they keep going to their litter box, they’re likely just curious and still learning.
Kittens may also play in their litter box. To them, litter can seem like something fun to dig around in. Besides, they’ve probably seen their mom doing it but haven’t learned that she’s covering up her business – they probably think she is playing!
If this sounds like the situation you’re dealing with, the best advice I can give you is to let your kitten get on with it. As they get older, they’ll learn that their litter box is just for them to go to the toilet in and isn’t a super exciting new thing for them to play with. Be glad that your kitten is using the litter box – the contrary would be a lot worse!
5. Your Cat is Curious
Although kittens are perhaps more curious and fascinated by the world around them, cats of all ages are inquisitive creatures. The saying “curiosity killed the cat” didn’t come from nowhere! So, if your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens, they may simply be intrigued by it.
If you have been using the same litter box and cat litter throughout your cat’s entire life, this is less likely. They will already know all there is to know about it! But, have you recently bought a new litter tray? Have you switched to different cat litter? Have you moved the location of the litter tray in your home?
For anyone that has answered “yes” to any of these, curiosity is a high possibility. Cats are creatures of habit and a sudden change in their litter box, cat litter, or its location can confuse them. They may simply be familiarizing themselves with the new product or place. Once they feel content and that the change is nothing to be alarmed about, their old litter box behavior will likely return.
6. Your Cat is Asserting Dominance
Your cat could also be sitting in their litter box doing nothing as they are asserting dominance. This is only a possibility if you have more than one cat. Although your cats may all get along well, there will be a social hierarchy and each of your felines will want and appreciate their own space. By sitting in the litter box, your cat is communicating with your other kitties that this litter box is her territory.
This can cause a whole other issue entirely – your other cat or cats refuse to use the litter box! After all, where are they supposed to do their business if another cat is sat in their way? This can lead to your cats having accidents around your home and pooping and peeing on the carpet instead. For obvious reasons, this is a nightmare for pet parents to deal with, and it’s kind of gross.
Luckily there is an easy fix – simply provide more litter boxes. As a rule of thumb, you should have enough litter boxes in your home for each cat to have one each, plus one spare. For example, if you have two cats you should ideally have three litter boxes, if you have three cats you should have four litter boxes, and so on.
Also, try to position these litter boxes in separate areas around your home. This will help your cats to distinguish which litter box is “theirs” and avoid litter box confrontation between your felines.
7. Your Cat is in Labor
İf your pregnant female cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens, she could be going into labor and is planning on birthing her kittens in the litter tray. Your cat may have chosen the litter tray as their delivery place as it is private and enclosed.
However, you should never allow this to happen. Litter boxes contain bacteria – no matter how clean you keep it – and can increase the chance of disease for both the kittens and the mother. So, you will need to provide another peaceful nesting box for your cat to have her kittens in safely.
You can use a cardboard box that is big enough for your cat to lie down in and tall enough so her kittens cannot climb out of the side. Line it with newspaper and blankets and keep it in a warm place so that it is nice and cozy. Kittens are also at their most delicate when first born, and so the warmth will help to support them through their first few days of life.
İdeally, you should have this set up a few weeks before your cat is due to give birth. This will give your pregnant cat time to realize that this is where you want her to give birth, and will help to ensure that if the kittens are born early, they are not delivered in the litter tray!
The first thing to do is take your cat to the vet to check your cat is not suffering from constipation or a urinary blockage. However, if given the all-clear on these medical issues, there is little to worry about and plenty of ways in which you can help your cat at home.
Possible reasons your cat keeps going to the litter box are that they are stressed, learning or are curious, or are dealing with litter box conflict with other cats in your home. If you have a pregnant cat, she could also be preparing to birth there! Whatever the reason, this article should give you enough advice to find out the reason behind this behavior and all the things you can do to help.