The Top Three Reasons that Your Cat is Suddenly Spending More Time in the Litter Box


You know your cat and their daily habits pretty well. Whenever your cat has a change in his/her daily routine it is worth a little extra attention.  It could be no big deal, but it could be a serious medical condition.  If you have noticed that your cat is suddenly spending lots of time in the litter box, there are three common medical conditions to consider.



1 - Urethral Obstruction.  This condition, which occurs primarily in males, is commonly referred to as being “blocked.”  A urethral obstruction occurs when debris (usually consisting of mucus and crystals) accumulates in the bladder and comes together to form a plug.  This plug becomes lodged in the urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder) and the cat is unable to pass urine.  This starts as an uncomfortable condition with the cat straining in the litter box, unable to produce urine.  Without treatment, urethral obstruction will progress to a life-threatening emergency and death.  Once treated your vet will likely recommend a prescription diet to prevent crystal formation and give suggestions to increase water consumption.



2 - Pandora's Syndrome. Years ago, we referred to this problem as a urinary tract infection, because the symptoms resembled that of a human urinary tract infection, like straining to urinate, passing very small amounts of urine and often having blood in the urine.  However, researchers have found that in cats, this condition is very rarely caused by a bacterial infection.  Pandora’s syndrome, like the name implies, has no single cause. It has been associated with obesity, inactivity, but most importantly, STRESS!  Pandora’s syndrome is painful for your cat.  The acute episode is most commonly treated by your veterinarian with pain medication.  However, the long term management and prevention of Pandora’s Syndrome is not via medical treatment but rather achieved by addressing the associated causes of obesity, inactivity and stress through environmental enrichment.


3 - Constipation. Yep, cats get constipated too.  The average cat defecates at least one time every 24-36 hours.  A healthy cat bowel movement should be well-formed and moist enough that litter will stick to it.  If you are seeing small pieces of dry stool, or stool less frequently than every 36 hours, your cat may be constipated.  In addition, constipated cats may strain in the litter box and may even vomit as a result of straining.  Constipation in cats is common, and may be simple or may be a symptom of a more complicated problem.  It is best to have your cat seen by your veterinarian.  If the problem is uncomplicated, your vet might recommend some home remedies.



  • Try increasing water consumption.  This is a good idea in addition to any home remedy. Cats prefer to have their water source in a different location than their food. Have multiple fresh water sources available. You can try a dripping faucet, a continuous flow water fountain, or ice cubes. In addition, you can flavor water with tuna juice or clam juice to encourage a reluctant cat to drink.  



  • Laxatone is an over-the-counter hairball prevention and cat laxative that can be used as directed.



  • Metamucil (psyllium; 1–4 tsp mixed with food q 12–24 h)


  • Wheat bran (1–2 Tbsp. mixed with food q 12–24 h)


Canned pumpkin is a popular choice for insoluble fiber and it is not unusual for cats to ingest it voluntarily, but it does not actually provide as much fiber content as either of the other 2 choices. You can add 1-2 TBSP to each meal.


While these home remedies might do the trick, if your cat continues to have constipation issues she/he might require prescription therapy to manage their symptoms.  


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