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Everything You Need to Know About Cat Pee & Poop

Cat Poop and Pee
Written by Elizabeth Italia, UW-AAB
—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸

Okay, we’re going to talk about kitty bathroom habits: pee and poop.

It’s a gross topic for some, but knowing what’s normal and what’s not can help you monitor your cat’s health. And with some conditions, like a urinary blockage, early detection is crucial to a positive outcome.

#1 Cats & Pee

Quick Note About Hydration in Cats

Given that cats originated in desert areas where water is hard to come by, their bodies are used to getting moisture from prey instead of just water. That’s one of the reasons they aren’t the best water drinkers, and why you may not notice your cat drinking a ton of water. 

If you feed your cat wet food, they will probably drink less water because wet food has a high moisture content.

How Often Do Cats Normally Pee? 

Cats typically pee an average of twice a day, but this really depends on the individual. 

Things like heat and humidity, water consumed, medications like steroids, and medical conditions like chronic kidney disease can increase the number of times a cat visits the box. On the flip side, stress and illness can be reasons a cat doesn’t visit the box as frequently.

This makes it important to try to track how frequently your cat is peeing because peeing less or more than their norm is a bigger sign of a problem than the actual number of times they go. For some cats, peeing four times a day is normal—but for another, that amount could be excessive. Reach out to your vet to talk about any change you see.

Also, visiting the box frequently and peeing only a little could indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI). 

Straining and having no pee come out could indicate a serious medical condition like a urinary blockage (most common in male cats), and it will require immediate medical attention. When a cat is blocked, the toxins build up in their bodies and it’s fatal without treatment.

What Color Is Normal Cat Pee?

Typically, cat pee is pale yellow in color and clear. If you notice your cat’s pee is extremely yellow, cloudy, or has pink in it, you should talk to your vet. 

Pink could indicate blood that comes from inflammation and UTIs. At the same time, completely pale urine means the urine is dilute, which is one of the main symptoms of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

What Does Normal Cat Pee Smell Like?

Fresh cat pee (I know, I know, ew) from a spayed or neutered cat is slightly acidic and really doesn’t have much of a smell. As time passes, bacteria in the pee give off an ammonia-like smell, and then the urine emits mercaptans, which are organosulfur modules that give off a skunk-like smell. This is why if your cat has an accident, it’s important to clean it up as soon as you notice it before these chemical changes happen.

Cats that have a stronger pee smell include:

  • Unaltered cats, especially males, because their urine has high levels of testosterone in it to attract females and keep competing males away.
  • Older cats with kidney issues.
  • Dehydrated cats, because their pee has more waste in it than water, giving it an odor.
  • Cat with UTIs. Sometimes the bacteria can make the pee smell.
Why Do Cats Pee Outside the Box?

This is the million-dollar question, and the truth is, there are lots of reasons. 

Before we get into the types, make sure you’re using enzyme cleaner to clean up any accidents. It will eliminate the smell and help prevent your cat from going in the same spot again. 

Now, let’s look at the two types of urination outside the box.

Type 1: Marking

What It Is: 

Spraying a small amount of pee, typically (but not always) on a vertical surface. This tends to be territorial behavior, expressing the cat is insecure or stressed.

How to Address It: 

You’ll likely want to involve your vet to rule out medical issues first (some cats with crystals or other urinary issues may mark). 

Once medical issues are ruled out, you’ll need to work on calming your cat and making them feel more secure in the space. This may include extra playtime, clicker training, extra affection, incorporating food puzzles and foraging activities, or reintroducing cats that don’t get along.

Sometimes pheromone sprays, calming collars, behavior supplements, anti-anxiety meds, or even acupuncture can help lower stress levels. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is usually all cats in the home are stressed, even though only one is marking, so it’s not a bad idea to give all cats in the home a little extra attention.

Type 2: House Soiling

What It Is:

Complete bladder elimination, usually on a horizontal surface. 

Four Types of House soiling:

  1. Litter box aversion: Cat doesn’t like something about their box (size, depth of litter, etc.) or doesn’t want to use it because of a past bad experience or current physical ailment. 
    For example, it’s not uncommon for older cats to stop using the box, a likely result from joint pain. My cats prefer larger uncovered boxes with a low-level entry area.
  2. Substrate aversion: Cat doesn’t like the litter. Most cats prefer unscented clumping clay.
  3. Surface preference: Cat prefers another preference (a soft one, i.e. blankets, rugs, etc., or a smooth one, i.e. tile, hardwood floors, etc.).
  4. Location preference: Cat prefers another location. Cats like quiet, private locations with multiple exit points.

How to Address It: 

House soiling is surprisingly a little easier to address than marking. 

You can run trials with different boxes, litters, and locations to see what the cat likes. 

For surface preference, you’ll either:

  • Help cats that like soft surfaces by starting with a little litter and a large piece of fabric in the box, then decrease the fabric size every few days and increase the amount of litter until the fabric is gone and it’s just litter.
  • Help cats who like smooth surfaces by putting only a handful of litter in the box, and increasing the amount of litter every few days until you’re at a normal amount of litter in the box. 

Do your best when addressing surface preference issues to keep the preferred surface away from your cat. It’s much harder to work with them if they have access to it.

#2 Cats & Poop

How Often Do Cats Normally Poop?

Most cats poop once a day, but just like pee, it really depends on the individual cat. Factors like age, medications, diet, medical conditions, probiotics, and hydration can cause a cat to poop more or less. 

For example, older cats have slower metabolisms and eat less, so they may skip a day. Kittens may poop more frequently. A cat that consistently poops more than twice a day outside of kittens could indicate an issue. 

Again, monitor how frequently your cat poops and reach out to your vet if you notice it becoming more or less frequent and outside what’s normal for your cat.

What Color Is Normal Cat Poop?

Typically a medium to dark brown. Black could indicate internal bleeding or be from constipation. 

Pancreatic or liver issues may cause poop to be tan or light brown, however high fiber diets can also make poop a lighter color. 

It’s also a good idea to regularly look over your cat’s stool when you’re scooping to see if you see parasites or anything they shouldn’t be eating so you can remove it from the home. If it’s something like a string or some sort of bone, you may want to reach out to your vet. It’s possible there is more of it in their colon and if there is any sort of obstruction, you’ll want to address that ASAP.

Two things to definitely look out for include blood or a lot of mucus in the stool. Alone they don’t mean there’s an issue, but they are worth a call to the vet. 

Bloody stool can sometimes come from diarrhea or other digestive issues, and mucus could be the result of a chronic digestive disease, like IBD or colitis.

What Does Normal Cat Poop Smell Like?

You’re probably wondering if I really did just write that … and I did. 

Surprisingly, cat poop should have a mild poop smell. If it smells absolutely disgusting, it could indicate a parasite (once you smell giardia poop, you’ll never be the same), bad diet, digestive issue, or even bacteria.

Typically, really bad-smelling poop is only an issue if accompanied by another symptom, like vomiting or diarrhea, but if the poop smells metallic, you should definitely check with your vet because it could be the result of digested blood.

What Should Normal Cat Poop Consistency Be?

Cat poop should be medium firm. Not hard, not soft, but well-formed shapes. If your cat has diarrhea, hard stools, or is constipated, you’ll want to reach out to your vet.

Cat poop should be medium firm. Not hard, not soft, but well-formed shapes. If your cat has diarrhea, hard stools, or is constipated, you’ll want to reach out to your vet.

Diarrhea 

What It Is: 

Diarrhea is liquid or super-soft poop and doesn’t form a shape—forms more of a puddle. 

What It Could Be: 

Parasites, a virus, an infection, gastrointestinal (GI) disease, diet change, food allergy, pancreatic disease, or cancer. 

When to Reach Out to the Vet: 

A short bout of diarrhea unaccompanied by other symptoms is usually not cause for concern.

If your cat is eating, drinking, and otherwise acting normal, you can monitor for 24-48 hours before going to the vet. 

Always check and see if they’re hydrated by pinching the skin on the back of their neck—if it snaps back, they’re hydrated; if it slowly returns to normal, they may be dehydrated. Sometimes older cats have skin that naturally stays up, so you should feel their gums—if they are tacky, the cat is likely dehydrated. 

What You Can Do at Home: 

You can always keep pureed pumpkin on hand (make sure there is nothing else in it but pumpkin) and mix a little in with their food. 

Fiber powder is something else you can mix in their food (but only a little bit—about ⅛ of a teaspoon—and check with your vet). 

Another way to improve hydration (cats with diarrhea are at risk for dehydration) is to add water to wet food. There are also a number of probiotics on the market that can help your cat balance their gut flora.

Constipation/Hard Stools

What It Is: 

Cats with constipation issues will have super hard poop that almost has the consistency of a rock. They may also just strain to poop in the box and meow or howl. 

What It Could Be: 

Bowel obstruction, dehydration, GI disease, diet change, overgrooming, kidney disease, spine problems, or even a tumor. If constipation is left untreated, a cat can develop megacolon, where the colon’s muscles no longer squeeze and the colon is dilated.

When to Reach Out to a Vet: 

A one-time thing usually isn’t a concern, but if your cat has repeated hard stools, especially if accompanied with mucus or blood or if the cat is clearly in pain, call your vet.

What You Can Do at Home: 

Pureed pumpkin can again be useful, so simply stir it in with their food. You can also try hairball meds or food. 

Exercise is very important to keep things moving, as well as hydration. 

Consider getting a wet food that’s easy to digest and incorporating it into your cat’s diet. Probiotics are a great way to aid in digestion, and there are a number on the market.

Why Do Cats Poop Outside the Box?

Regardless of why this is happening, make sure you use an enzyme cleaner to clean up the area as soon as possible to decrease the chances of the cat going in the same spot again. 

More often than not, defecating outside the litter box indicates a medical or diet problem. Once you have ruled those out, it could be something with the litter box itself. Some things you can try to address this include:

  • Clean the litter box at least once a day.
  • Add another litter box.
  • Place the litter box in a different location; ensure the litter box is in a quiet place, is uncovered, and provides the cat with multiple avenues for an exit.
  • Get a bigger litter box.
  • Try a different type of litter.

If it isn’t the litter box, it could be stress-related. This tends to be from the addition of a new human or fury family member. 

In the case of a new human, have that person take over feeding and playing with the cat. They need to build a stronger bond to help the cat feel more secure. 

If it’s a furry family member, you may need to reintroduce the two as if they never met, especially if one cat is blocking the other cat’s access to the litter box. 

Conclusion

Now you have the 411 on cat peeing and pooping. 

The best thing you can do for your cat is monitor so you know their “normal” habits. Then, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, you can loop in your vet and address it as soon as possible.



Sources

Flowers, Amy. Fetch by WebMD, The Scoop on Cat Poop.
Gryzb, Katie. PetMD, The Ultimate Guide to Eliminating Cat Pee Smell.
Shojai, Amy. The Spruce Pets, How to Stop Your Cat From Pooping Outside the Litter Box.
Ward, Ernie. Pet Health Network, Cat Pee 101: Is My Cat’s Urine Normal?

 

Article by  🙋‍♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist