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How To Tell If Your Cat Needs To Pee: 5 Signs to Look For

cat pee in bed
Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Lorre Luther

Have you ever wondered if your cat needs to go to the bathroom? There might be several reasons why the question pops into your mind. You might be thinking of taking your kitty on a long-distance trip in the car and have questions about when your feline friend needs a potty break. Or you might have recently adopted a kitten that’s had a few accidents, motivating you to look for tips to help you figure out when your companion needs help making it to the bathroom. Below you’ll find a detailed guide you can use to figure out if your kitty needs to pee.

divider-catclaw1The Basics

Before getting started with our step-by-step discussion of how to tell if your cat has to urinate, it’s important to understand a few basics about cat urinary health.

How Often Are Cats Supposed To Pee?

male norwegian forest cat peeing outdoor
Image Credit: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock

Healthy cats pee anywhere from 2–4 times per day. If your cat takes 5 or 6 trips to the litter box in a day, it’s probably not an issue if it’s a regular pattern that’s been going on for quite some time and your cat is otherwise healthy. However, you might want to have your loved one seen by a veterinarian if there’s a sudden increase in the number of times it heads to the litter box.

If you’re planning a long-distance trip in the car or even on an airplane and are wondering how long your cat can hold their urine, you’ll be happy to know that most cats can safely go 24–48 hours without hitting the toilet, so a few hours away from a litter box won’t hurt them.

How Often Do Kittens Pee?

Kittens normally pee after they eat, at least for the first few weeks. They also tend to urinate right after waking up. Kittens will transition to using the litter box on their own when they’re around 3 or 4 weeks old.

Digging holes to bury waste is a deeply ingrained and instinctual behavior. Most kittens begin digging when they need to go to the bathroom, even if they haven’t seen their mom doing so. If you adopt a very young kitten that needs help learning to use the litter box, you might need to keep an eye out for these behaviors and be ready to pick your kitty up and put them in the litter box to help them out. Make sure to provide your kitten with lots of encouragement when they have to go to the bathroom and praise them lavishly when they use the litter box appropriately.

Male Cats & Urethral Blockages

cat pee in bed
Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

Male cats are particularly susceptible to developing struvites—crystal collections that make it difficult or impossible for the cat to urinate. Cats experiencing difficulty urinating because of struvite formation are often in extreme pain. At first, you’ll notice your kitty heading to the litter box more often than normal and squatting for longer.

Cats suffering from an active struvite blockade also gravitate towards cool smooth surfaces to pee— look for small urine puddles in places like showers, hardwood floors, and cool, tiled locations. If you see even a small amount of blood in your cat’s urine after you’ve watched it struggle to urinate for a few hours, it’s time to head to the veterinarian immediately. This is an emergency. If you catch it early enough, your kitty may be able to receive treatment and go home. Otherwise, your cat may need to be hospitalized if the condition has progressed too far. Failure to get your cat the health care they need in a timely fashion can result in kidney failure and death.

Male kitties with struvites can live long, happy and healthy lives once they get through the initial crisis. After the acute phase is controlled through catheterization and analgesics, your cat will probably be fine. However, they’ll need to eat a special diet and drink plenty of water to help prevent further struvite development.

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The 5 Signs that Your Cat Needs To Pee

Cats tend to hit use the bathroom at regular times, which, when combined with the behavioral indicators discussed above, can give you a pretty good idea of whether or not your cat needs to go to the litter box. It’s also normal for cats to take a trip to the bathroom after eating breakfast, dinner, or a sizable snack.

1. Digging Holes

All cats, not just kittens, instinctively dig holes before using the bathroom and then cover it up—it’s a way of protecting themselves from predators in the wild. Without being able to smell a cat’s waste, it’s harder for predators to know a cat’s around. Indoor cats mirror this behavior by “digging” in soft materials like blankets and carpets.

cat digging
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. Vocalizing

Cats will often meow if something is causing them physical discomfort or when they’re trying to get their human’s attention. When an outdoor cat stands by the door, meows, and looks at you with an intense stare, it’s signaling to you if it wants to go outside for a bathroom break.

3. Trying to Get Outside

If your indoor cat is standing impatiently by the door, it probably means they want to get some fresh air. On the other hand, if you see an indoor cat pawing at a door that provides access to the room where their litter box is located, it’s safe to assume they need access to their potty.

cat sitting near the door at home
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

4. Pacing & Being Hyper

Some cats will pace back and forth in front of the door if they really have to urinate. You’ll see this mostly in outdoor cats that have become restless, waiting for their turn to get out of the house. If your cat is pacing and going after your ankles, pawing at the door, or blocking your way, it’s safe to assume they want to go outside for a bathroom break.

5. Squatting

A cat that squats outside the litter box is almost always a sign they need to hit the toilet. If you’re in the process of toilet training your kitten, this is a sure-fire sign they need to relieve themselves, and it’s probably a good idea to pick them up and put them in the right place. If your older cat is exhibiting the same behavior, it’s a bit more concerning. Help them reach the litter box and take them to the veterinarian for a checkup.

black and white cat peeing outdoor
Image Credit: nanniezwawa, Shutterstock

divider-catclaw1Final Thoughts

Cats don’t pee outside the litter box to be difficult. It’s usually a sign, at least with fully grown kitties, that something is wrong. It could be that their litter box needs cleaning, they don’t feel well, or a fellow feline housemate is harassing them. With an enzymatic cleaner, you can clean up the mess and prevent your cat from urinating in the same spot.

Featured Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

About the Author

Lorre Luther
Lorre Luther
Lorre Luther is a writer who is firmly convinced that cats are smarter than humans. She left her law career in the United States and moved to the Netherlands to follow her dream of becoming a writer. Lorre currently lives in Rotterdam, she enjoys traveling and greatly appreciates the beauty of nature. Lorre has a spot for animals and admires the intelligence of cats.

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