For some kittens or cats and their owners, visiting the litter box is a noisy process.
Some cats meow, some yowl and some cry. Either before, during or after going to the toilet.
There are various reasons for these behaviours. Some are natural and nothing, others are telltale signs of medical issues like UTI’s, Cystitis or bowel blockages.
In this article, we’ll cover;
- Medical reasons why cats meow while using the litter tray
- Behavioural reason for cats meowing while using the litter box
- How to tell if something is wrong
Medical Reasons Why Cats Meow While Using Their Litter Box
For most cats, meowing before, during, or after going to the litter box is normal behaviour. That said, yowling, howling or crying can be signs of medical issues, some of which can be serious, even fatal.
If you suspect your cat has any of the following issues, call your vet.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder (FLUTD)
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder (FLUTD) is a term that covers several urinary problems. These include;
Inflammation of the Bladder or Urinary Tract
A bacterial infection can cause an inflamed bladder or urinary tract. It can be painful so you might hear your cat crying in their litter box while trying to pee.
Your vet should take a urine sample to confirm a bacterial infection. If your cat has an infection, chances are your vet will prescribe antibiotics.
Sometimes though, inflammation isn’t caused by infection, but stress. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) is inflammation of the bladder, only caused by stress. This could be from moving their litter box, the introduction of a new pet, or any number of other things.
In the same way that some humans get an upset stomach when they get stressed, some cats get an upset bladder.
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis can be tricky to diagnose. There are no markers in blood or urine samples so your vet might do further tests to rule out any other conditions. Treatment focuses on reducing stress.
Crystals in Urine
Also known as Struvite Crystals, it’s normal to find low levels in cat urine. That said, they can build up if;
- Your cats’ diet is too acidic or alkaline
- Your cat doesn’t drink enough water, or
- They’re prone to crystals
Problems start when they come together to form tiny stones within the urinary tract. They can scratch the internal surface of the urethra. This can cause a painful burning sensation when your cat urinates.
In some cases, these crystals can cause blockages in the urinary tract.
If your vet suspects that your cat has crystals in its urine, they will take a urine sample. First to determine how acidic or alkaline it is. They might also look under a microscope to see if crystals are present. Chances are, they will also see red blood cells.
Treatment involves a course of pain killers to help your cat go to the toilet without pain. Your vet will also prescribe a special diet to alter the pH of your cat’s urine and dissolve any crystals.
In severe cases, a cat might need a surgical procedure called a Cystotomy to remove bladder stones.
Blockage of the Urethra
A full obstriction of the urethra is pretty rare and often only affects male cats. That said, it’s very dangerous and can be fatal.
If your cat has a blocked urethra, he won’t be able to pass urine. As a result, his bladder will swell and become very painful. If it’s not treated, a blocked urethra can cause acute kidney failure within 2-3 days.
If you suspect your cat has a blocked urethra, call your vet immediately. If your vet isn’t available, call an emergency veterinary clinic.
Constipation is most common in mature or middle-aged cats. That said, it can occur at any time as a result of:
- Ingesion of foreign bodies (eating cat litter, for example)
- Hairballs, most common with long-haired cats
- Pelvic injuries
- Obesity and/or lack of exercise
- Weak colon mucles that are unable to propel fecal matter from the colon
Constipation can be painful for your cat and cause them to meow or cry in their litter tray.
Treatment for constipation in cats depends on the cause. Initial treatment might include an anema and/or manual extraction of faecal matter by a vet. This often involves sedation or anaesthetic.
Your vet might also administer an intravenous drip to fix fluid imbalances.
Other treatments include;
- Surgery to remove blockages
- Specialist diets to prevent recurring issues, or
- Medication to soften fecal matter and promote regular bowel movement
Behavioural Reasons For Kittens Meowing in the Litter Tray
Cats meowing in the litter box isn’t always a sign of pain or medical issue. There are also behavioural reasons for it. Some of which are natural instincts, others might be a cause for concern.
Kittens Asking For Protection
If your kitten meows before pooping, they might be asking for protection.
When they were with mum, she would have watched over her kitten while they were toileting. Since mum is no longer around and you’re responsible for teaching your kitten how to use the litter box, it’s your job to offer that protection.
Warning Off Rivals or Predators
Some cats yowl before getting into the litter box. This is a survival instinct to warn off rivals or predators before they put themselves in a vulnerable position.
It’s noisy (especially when they do it at night!) but natural behaviour.
Stress is a real issue in cats and it any number of issues can bring it on, including;
- Moving their litter box
- Change in diet
- The addition of a baby in the family
- Not cleaning their litter box often enough
- The litter box smelling of ammonia
- Finding bugs in the litter box
- The addition of a new pet
- Deciding they no longer want to share a litter box
- Changing the type of cat litter
- Running out of cat litter and using something else in its place
- Someone leaving the home
- Replacing their old litter box with a new one
Stress can show in different ways. For some cats, it can show when using their litter box.
Stress can lead to urinary tract problems like Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. So if you think stress is an issue, look out for other signs, like;
- Always being on high alert
- Litter box avoidance
- Excessive meowing or yowling
- Hiding more than usual
- Being wide-eyed with large pupils
- Unusual aggressive behaviour
- Laying in their litter box
Try to figure out what is causing your cats stress. It might be a good idea to have your vet check your cat over to rule out any health issues. Also, consider hiring a feline behaviourist to see how you can reduce their stress levels.
A Vocal Cat
Some cats are just talkative and like to tell you when they’re going to the toilet and that they’ve been.
Breeds like Siamese and Bengals are notorious talkers. That said, this trait isn’t limited to particular breeds. Different cats have different personalities. Some are quiet and some never seem to stop talking, it’s who they are.
How to Tell if Something is Wrong
If your cat always meows in their litter box, then chances are, there’s nothing to worry about.
That said, if meowing or crying in the litter box is a new behaviour you should keep an eye on them.
When do they meow, yowl or cry? Is it before, during or after going to the toilet?
Do they keep going to the toilet and are they able to pee or poop while they’re there?
Or do they avoid the litter box altogether?
No one knows your cat like you do. If something sounds or looks unusual, or if you have a gut feeling, call your vet as soon as you can.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Cats meow in their litter box for several reasons.
In most cases, it’s normal behaviour and nothing to worry about. But it can highlight medical problems, some of which can be serious, sometimes fatal.
If you notice changes in your cat’s behaviour around their litter box, speak to your vet as soon as possible and get them checked.