How long can a cat go without going to the bathroom?

Cats are mysterious creatures with strange, undecipherable behaviours. From sticking out their tongues in an adorable way to hissing at you (and making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in the process), cats take some time to get accustomed to. But once you have an inkling to how your pet’s mind works, you’ve won a friend for life! 

Your cat’s toilet habits are another aspect that takes some time to understand. This Waldo’s Friends guide will help you determine:

What is considered normal peeing and pooping for cats?

When it comes to toilet habits, every cat is different. Normal peeing may range from two to six times a day depending on your cat’s age, water intake, and diet, as well as other factors such as existing medical conditions, medication, heat, humidity, and stress. Pooping, on the other hand, is done by most cats at least once a day.

How long can my cat go without peeing or pooping?

Even if your cat eats or drinks normally, she can go without peeing for 24 to 48 hours. Some cats that undergo neutering or surgery might not pee for 72 hours. Meanwhile, a younger kitten usually pees 4 to 6 times a day, so if she doesn’t do so within 24 hours, take her to the veterinarian. As for pooping, a cat can safely hold it in for 24 to 36 hours. If it goes over 48 to 72 hours, schedule a visit to her vet. 

Failure to urinate or defecate creates a risk of injury due to the toxin buildup in your cat’s system. Increase in toxins can make your cat sick and may lead to damage in her vital organs. Worse, it may cause death. 

Why can’t my cat pee or poop?

If you’ve noticed your cat lingering in her litter box but not being able to expel anything, there are some possible reasons why she’s having trouble doing so:

Stress

Stress is one of the main reasons why your cat can’t pee or poop. It may be caused by changes in your routine, a new pet, separation anxiety, or even traveling. Find ways to relieve your cat’s stress by gradually introducing changes to her life. When you decide to bring home a foster or adopted pet, do not rush the introduction between your cat and the dog or kitten. If you’re going on a road trip with your cat, make sure to take her out of her crate every 6 hours so she can relieve herself.  

Injury

An accidental fall may affect your cat’s pelvic nerves and damage her bladder and urethra, leading to urination complications.  

Dehydration

Lack of water in your cat’s body can cause constipation, making it difficult for her to poop regularly.  

Illness

Undiagnosed or chronic health problems may prevent your cat from peeing or pooping. If your cat has a hard time peeing, she may be suffering from any of these problems: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), urethritis, and cystitis. Peeing with these illnesses would most likely cause pain to your cat, so she tries to avoid the process.

  • FLUTD is commonly linked with crystals or stones that form in your cat’s urinary tract.
  • Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra, which may come from injury, infection, or even cancer. 
  • An inflammation in the urinary bladder, cystitis may be caused by a mineral imbalance, a bacterial infection, and/or an abnormality in your cat’s pH levels. 

If your cat has a hard time pooping, she may be suffering from these sicknesses: arthritis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, megacolon, and ruptured/impacted anal sacs. 

  • If your cat suffers from arthritis, it’ll be difficult for her to do the squatting position.
  • Similar to humans, diabetes in cats is caused by insufficient or ineffective insulin levels from eating human food, prolonged corticosteroid use, and/or obesity. 
  • Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid nodules produce excess hormones. It can be triggered by advanced age, fish-flavoured canned food, flame-retardant chemicals, or thyroid cancer.
  • Kidney disease may be caused by viral and bacterial infections, toxins, immune disorders, or even old age. 
  • Megacolon refers to the colon becoming abnormally enlarged due to chronic or severe constipation.
  • Anal sac disorders usually involve the impaction of anal sac fluid, sac inflammation, and/or sac abscess, which can lead to anal gland rupture. 

What do I do when my cat can’t pee or poop?

Observe your cat whenever she tries to pee or poop. There is something most likely wrong if nothing comes out after multiple attempts, she cries out in pain, or her pee or poop is tinged with blood. Schedule an appointment with her veterinarian as soon as possible, monitoring your cat and making sure she doesn’t go beyond the 48-hour mark without urinating or defecating. 

Also, do not attempt to self-diagnose your cat and cure the so-called symptoms with home remedies. You might cause more harm to your cat or conceal the real reason why she’s having a difficult time excreting. Instead, let your vet run tests to determine the cause of the problem and provide the necessary treatment to assist your cat. Depending on the gravity of the situation, your vet may prescribe medication or suggest changes in her diet. 

Read up on more cat-related articles in our blog! Learn useful tricks such as preventing your cat from peeing everywhere or entering a room.

About the Author:

A freelance editor based in the Philippines, Mimi Tiu is a proud paw aunt to a family of Terriers and a Ragdoll-Persian cat. When she isn’t creating meaningful content for Waldo’s Friends, she finds pleasure in chronicling her ice cream discoveries and coming up with meticulously detailed plans for her next getaway. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nicetomitiu.
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