My Cat is Straining at the Litter Box. What Should I Do?

A cat straining to go to the bathroom is pretty hard to miss. Where they’ll usually exit quietly, use the potty and return without you noticing, a straining cat will often present its behavior up front — crying out and acting agitated or stressed and passing only a tiny amount of urine. If this is happening to your cat, it’s time to take action.

Feline lower urinary tract symptoms (FLUTD) — a primary component of which is inflammation in the bladder or urinary tract — is a serious condition that should be considered an emergency.

FLUTD can be caused by a number of things:

  • Bladder stones
  • Urethral plugs (usually a mixture of crystals or small stones)
  • A bacterial infection
  • Neoplasia (a tumor)
  • Individual anatomical abnormalities

Typical signs of FLUTD include:

  • Increased frequency of urination (cat going back to the box almost constantly)
  • Difficulty urinating (straining; persistent effort)
  • Bloody urine (often showing up as reddish-pink
  • Foul-smelling urine (it may be clouded)
  • Complete obstruction (inability to urinate at all — not even a drop)

With a urinary tract obstruction like this, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention for your pet. A true blockage to the flow of urine can be life-threatening in a matter of hours. Your veterinarian may recommend a combination of the following diagnostics and treatment options.


Diagnostic tests:

  • Lab analysis of a urine sample
  • Bacterial culture of a urine sample (if lab analysis turns up negative)
  • Blood samples to seek out evidence of disease
  • X-rays or ultrasound examination of the bladder and urethra

Treatment options:

  • Should the cause be bacterial, your vet may recommend a round of antibiotics
  • Should the cause be a blockage, your vet will be given quick-acting anesthesia and the urethra will be catheterized and flushed (common in male cats)
  • Should the cause be a bladder stone or crystal, they will have to be surgically removed.

Keep in mind that FLUTD is most common in cats that are male, chronically dehydrated and inactive or indoors. Obesity is also a factor that should not be ignored. Seeing urine in weird places? Your cat acting agitated, whining or straining on hard surfaces? Pay close attention and react as soon as you’re sure something isn’t right. Go with your gut!


Chad A
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Thank you.

Paula A
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Anna R
Anna R6 months ago

thanks for sharing

HEIKKI R6 months ago

thank you

Catherine Z
Catherine Z7 months ago

ty for information

Thomas M
Past Member 7 months ago

Thank you

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney7 months ago

Very helfull Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney7 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney7 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Whitney7 months ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing